Sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo murdered by Zwelethu Mthethwa 'just wanted to put bread on the table'

Murdered sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo was “just the girl next door who wanted to provide for her family”.

That is what her friend‚ transgender sex worker Gulam Petersen‚ recalled of Kumalo on Thursday‚ moments after artist Zwelethu Mthethwa was convicted of murdering her.

“She was a very down-to-earth girl‚” said Petersen after Judge Patricia Goliath handed down her ruling at the High Court in Cape Town.

“She was like the girl next door because she was working for her family. She had one son and she wanted to support him.

“We don’t do things that suit our lifestyles‚ we do things that put bread on our tables.”

Painter and photographer Mthethwa beat Kumalo‚ 23‚ to death in Woodstock in 2013. She died of cardiac arrest after suffering a liver injury from blunt force trauma.

The incident was captured on CCTV and Mthethwa’s Porsche was identified at the scene. The artist’s defence team tried to discredit the footage‚ but Goliath said in her judgment she was satisfied with its authenticity.

Goliath also said the similarities between Mthethwa and the man in the footage “are remarkable”‚ and Mthethwa’s lack of a plausible alibi had left the court “convinced [he] was both the driver and the attacker”.

Goliath denied Mthethwa extended bail‚ and Lesego Tlhwale from women’s rights group Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) said they were hoping for a life sentence. The artist is being held at Pollsmoor prison until sentencing on March 29.

Tlhwale said that the verdict sent a message that sex workers do matter. “This is a landmark case considering Mthethwa is an internationally acclaimed artist‚” she said.

“Money has been thrown‚ bail was set at R100 000. He was even able to hire one of the top defence lawyers in the country.”

Mthethwa’s works have been exhibited at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York‚ but in December Sweat successfully petitioned the Iziko South African National Gallery to remove his art from an exhibition. — TMG Digital/The Times


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