With the Oscar Pistorius conviction and sentencing now under appeal and the Shrien Dewani murder trial well under way, the focus now shifts to another high profile trial: that of Zwelethu Mthethwa accused of the murder of Nokuphila Kumalo.
They lived vastly different lives: Mthethwa, the internationally celebrated artist, Kumalo, the marginalised sex worker. He consorted with the cultural elite, she with pimps and drug dealers. He basked in the limelight; she skulked in the shadows.
Normally, they would never have met.
Yet through an act of unspeakable violence their contrasting worlds have collided…
At 2am on the 14th April 2013, twenty three year-old Kumalo was assaulted and literally stomped to death on a side street in Cape Town. Her alleged murderer: Zwelethu Mthethwa, South African artist and cultural celebrity.
Mthethwa’s trial commences on 10th November, 18 months after the horrific murder and a few weeks before the world commemorates 16 Days of Activism against the Abuse of Women and Children. He has the constitutional right to defend himself in court and should not be judged beforehand by a sensationalist-seeking media or a scandal loving society.
But what about his alleged victim? Will her voice be smothered by sordid headlines and stereotypes?
Unlike Reeva Steenkamp and Anni Dewani – two of the most high profile victims of gender-based violence – very little is known about Nokuphila Kumalo.
Other than she was a sex worker, of course.
And without even a photograph of her, it is difficult to put a face to her name. Access to the fragments of her life prior to her murder is also hindered by the stigma associated with sex work. Although the oldest profession in the world (apart from politics) it remains shrouded in secrecy and shame, criminalised in most countries and regarded with contempt by mainstream society.
This makes sex workers all the more vulnerable to abuse and violent crimes. They operate along the frontline of fear in the unrelenting war against women.
“The Frontline of Fear” is produced by Hazel Friedman. It will be broadcast on Special Assignment – aired Sundays on SABC 3 at 20:00PM. Repeats are on Mondays at 23:30PM.