The first Friday of October was a warm summer day in Galeshewe, Northern Cape. The kind of day when one wants to sit their loved ones. It was on this day that 34-year-old Tankiso Tawanyane from Lethabo Park, Roodepan went to visits her siblings at their family home.
Later that evening as she walked back home to her girlfriend whom she stayed with, she met three men who raped her, dosed paraffin on her and set her on fire.
The men left Tankiso to burn to death. She managed to take off the t-shirt the paraffin had been dosed on, and walked to the nearest shack, where she screamed in agony until another woman came to her rescue.
She was able to explain to the woman what had just happened to her. She died in hospital the next day.
This horrific story has left Tankiso’s family and the Galeshewe community reeling in pain and shock. Taunyane’s brother, Palesa Musa, said the family is struggling to cope with his sister’s death and how she died.
“As a family we are deeply saddened about how our sister died, she died a very painful death. It is very hard to come in terms with the manner that she was killed we expected a lot from her as she was still very young” said Musa.
He said faith and hope that justice will prevail is keeping them going.
“As a praying family, we place everything in the hands of God to fight for us. We also want to thank all the people who have been supportive to us during this difficult time,” said Musa.
Tankiso was buried a week later at the Phuthanang cemeteries. Hundreds of community member came to say their last goodbye to someone they had known as kind and passionate about rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Tankiso, a lesbian affirming woman, was gang raped and set alight with paraffin. We join the family and send out a call for justice. We raise our voices in outrage for lives lost because of homophobic hate. We affirm the value of queer lives and assert our right to life and equal protection," said Patys Alley, from the D’gayle Diamonds, an organisation that represent the community.
She said the death of Tawanyane should not be taken lightly and more should be done to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ+ communities are protected at all times.
“It is very sad that we continue to see our people being killed like this. We call on our people to stop attacking us due to our sexual orientation. We think this was not just an ordinary crime, but an attack on us as gays and lesbian. This could be one of what we call ‘corrective rape’ but the people who did this are very evil and cruel. She died a very painful death. We are hopeful that one day we will get the answers on what happened on that night. Our police should continue to do whatever possible to make sure that the perpetrators are arrested,” said Alley.
The police are offering a R50 000 reward to anyone who can avail information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators who raped and killed Tankiso. Anyone with information can contact Detective/Warrant Officer Lesego Oliphant at 082 495 4605 or Captain Sebata Tsiu at 082 874 4613.