Sonke welcomes conviction in David Olyn hate murder case

On the 21st of January 2016, nearly 20 months after the brutal hate murder of David Olyn, and following no less than 35 court appearances, State Prosecutor Advocate Ntsoaki Mabilietse convicted Christo Oncker of murder. Sentencing takes place on the 22nd of February 2016 in the Ceres Circuit Court following the accused’s referral for a psychological assessment by the Honourable Judge Siraj Desai.

David Olyn, an openly gay male from the rural town of Williston in the Northern Cape was barely 20 years old when he decided to pack what little belongings he had and moved to Bella Vista near Ceres in search of employment and the hope of building a better life for himself and his family. The court found that on the evening of the 22nd of March 2014 in a derelict and dirty pump station structure in Bella Vista, David was repeatedly assaulted, his body bound in a hogtie knot and set alight in the presence of a crowd of young men who did nothing to intervene to save David’s life – even when the accused, 28 year-old Christo Oncker, said he intended to kill a “moffie”, a derogatory term for gay men used by the accused.

Community members and LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersexed and asexual) persons have revealed that homophobia in the small town of Ceres is rife and that these incidents of violence and discrimination are not reported for fear of secondary victimisation from police officials and community members. Indeed, community members have reported as many as four additional hate murders in the Ceres area over the last few years. This existence of a climate of ongoing homophobia became tragically clear in late December 2015, when Phoebe Titus, a transgender woman from the small town of Wolseley – only 10 kilometers from Ceres – was viciously attacked and stabbed to death by a 15 year-old male in yet another hate murder.

Sonke Gender Justice, Triangle Project, Witzenberg Rural Development Centre, Gender Development Network, and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) all followed the case and worked together in the small community following the gruesome murder – dedicating months of work, resources and engaging in various community dialogue initiatives to educate community members on LGBTQIA people’s issues and human rights.

Together we aimed to accomplish five interrelated goals: 1) to demand justice for David Olyn and his family, 2) to strengthen community capacity and commitment to engage in ongoing human rights education in and around Ceres, including especially on LGBTQI rights, 3) to mobilise and coordinate community driven events and workshops which would have the effect of holding the South African Police Services (SAPS) and officials within the criminal justice system accountable for non-performance and lacklustre investigation methods, 4) to engage the media to raise the visibility of LGBTI hate crimes and 5) to use the case to keep the pressure on government to launch national hate crimes legislation.

Through joint community engagements in Bella Vista and Ceres the following challenges were identified by the community participants and Sonke:

  • Homophobia/hate crime was never raised by the prosecutor as the motive for David’s murder.
  • The investigation was poor, resulting in the docket remaining dormant for 6 months before additional statements were taken from witnesses one year after the incident; video footage of David’s ordeal was deleted and this was never followed up/retrieved by the investigating officer.
  • Community members who had personal knowledge of the events that took place were fearful and reluctant to come forward and provide the SAPS with a statement.
  • Our attempts to engage and speak with the prosecutor and investigating officer were met with resistance and we were deemed a nuisance, regardless of the pivotal information we presented to them.

Sonke wishes to extend its appreciation to its partners and the community of Bella Vista and Ceres for embracing our efforts to ensure that David’s murderer was prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Sonke remains confident that this judgement will serve as a strong deterrent to future perpetrators, but given the current case in Wolseley, the long struggle to realising gender equality and non-discrimination is far from a reality. Sonke calls upon the SAPS, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and government to urgently implement measures that would advance LGBTQIA rights by way of promulgating hate crimes legislation and rolling out public education initiatives to curtail and deter similar homophobic incidences and hate crimes which go unpunished.


Keegan Lakay
Community Education & Mobilisation Manager
Sonke Gender Justice: Cape Town
Tel: 021 423 7088