South African spouses Joey van Niekerk, 32, and Anisha van Niekerk, 30, went missing on December 10, after leaving home for a funeral.
But they never arrived at the funeral in Pretoria, and a search was launched after they didn’t come back to their home in Mooinooi, in the north-east of the country.
Their burned-out car was found six days after they left home – and on December 28, what are thought to be their bones were discovered along a road near the couple’s home town.
The young couple had been married for three years. Wynand van Niekerk, Anisha’s brother, wrote on Facebook that the last few weeks had been “a nightmare”.
Eight suspects have been charged with two counts of murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, unlawful possession of firearm and defeating the course of justice, the IOT and African News Agency have reported.
Going to trial on Thursday are Aaron Sithole, 23, Koos Strydom, 53, Jack Mokotedi, 18, Alex Mudau, 36, Moses Rakubu, 33, Vincent Strydom, 29, Maruschka Opperman, 18, and Mercia Witney Van Rooi, 21.
In April last year, lesbian Nonkie Smous was raped, murdered and set on fire in a case which shocked the country.
Cindy Maotoana, who chairs an LGBT group in Limpopo, says her community is being targeted – especially lesbians, with murder and so-called ‘corrective rape’. She said “LGBTI [people] are hiding because they are scared of being raped and being brutally burned…so we are here asking support from the province.”
Speaking in May, Maotoana added: “Nothing is wrong with us. We do not need to be killed. She pleaded that her sexuality “does not mean someone has to rape and kill me or even burn me … Can you imagine someone being burned alive? It is not good what they are doing to us.”
Smous’s friend Nthabiseng Mokanyane said in December that “Since Nonkie’s death, people feel they can get away with everything.
Women presenting as butch or more masculine are particularly singled out – being harassed for thinking they are ‘men’ and being threatened about the need to be ‘taught they are women’.”
Earlier this month, 23-year-old lesbian Noxolo Xakeka was also murdered in a homophobic attack.