DoJ assigns Sewpaul to lead task team tackling concerns of LGBTQI+ community

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told Eyewitness News that his department had put new plans in place to address the concerns of the queer community.

FILE: A small rainbow flag, representing equality for members of the LGBTI community. Picture: Stock.XCHNG

CAPE TOWN - The Justice and Constitutional Department has assigned one of its advocate to head up the national task team for the protection and promotion for the LGBTQI+ community.

This comes after queer activists demanded government's intervention in the recent spike in homophobic killings in the country.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told Eyewitness News that his department had put new plans in place to address the concerns of the queer community.

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At least 10 members of the LGBTIQ+ community have been killed since the start of the year in what activists believed were hate crimes.

This culminated in a march to Parliament and the Union Buildings in April where community members demanded government act.

Four weeks later, Minister Lamola said that the interventions were under way.

"Most of the issues that they've raised, including to advertise posts that relate to the LGBTQI community in the department for a person who will be full-time coordinating and working on that," Lamola said.

That person was Advocate Ooshara Sewpaul. Advocate Sewpaul, who has been working with the department, was reassigned to head up the task team.

But activists like Kamva Gwana, with the group Hashtag Queer Lives Matter, were skeptical - this was not the first time they'd heard promises of action from government.

"Our government has chosen to put our community on mute, has chosen to put the LGBTIQ community and the lives of these people on mute," Gwana said.

Back in 2014, government published a comprehensive national strategy, including multiple action points and timelines.

But to date, almost none of those plans had been implemented, a fact that Lamola said they were now trying to rectify.

"The task team has not been functioning optimally. The department is responding to those issues, including engaging our sister departments so that we bring everyone on board," Lamola said.

Activists have told Eyewitness News that they'd had enough of plans and promises. They were now looking to government for clear, decisive and sustained action.

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