(Barney van Heerden and Siphiwe Nhalpo, two victims of what South African police is an anti-gay gang.)
After dismantling the racist apartheid government in 1990, South African lawmakers, including Nelson Mandela, wrote the world's first constitution to include sexual orientation as an inalienable right. It was a watershed moment, yes, but we know now that constitutional theory doesn't always translate into practice: South Africa has been marred by anti-gay violence, particularly so-called "corrective rapes" against lesbians. Now, in another grim reminder that all is not rosy in the Rainbow Nation, police are investigating what appears to be a string of serial murders against gay men, the Independent reports.
According to police, a seemingly organized gang lured at least 8 men from Johannesburg's Gauteng province, as well an unspecified number from Cape Town, to their apartments and then beat and strangled them to death and doused their bodies in acid. The earliest murder in this gruesome string dates back to April of 2010.
One man, Nhlanhla Msimango, will appear in court Monday for his alleged role in the September 2011 death of Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo (above, right) near Johannesburg. Three other men will go on trial next month for murder of Barney van Heerden, who also died in September 2011. But even with these trials, there are still many other unsolved deaths, and, police fear, more killers on the loose.
These trials begin as lawmakers in South Africa are looking to explicitly expand hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, a move that will be symbolic and, one hopes, something more.