A 14-year-old South African boy has died by suicide after alleged homophobic bullying.
Mpho Falinthenjwa was a a student at Leshata Secondary School, in South Johannesburg.
Mpho’s sister, Thando Kutumela, told PinkNews that their parents found the teenager unconscious at 9pm on 2 June. They rushed him to the hospital, but he died later that night. Kutumela said that Mpho left behind a note saying his final goodbyes to his family.
Kutumela says before the tragedy, their family life had seemed normal.
“My parents said that Mpho was very happy,” she said. “Nothing seemed suspicious in their eyes, Mpho even cooked for them that day.”
However, Kutumela said that Mpho was being subjected to constant bullying and homophobic name-calling at school and even in the street.
She said that in one incident at school, other pupils called him isitabane, which is a derogatory Zulu word for gay.
Mpho Falithenjwa cooked a meal for his family. Supplied)
Kutumela said that her brother had not come out to the family, but on his Facebook profile described himself as “certified gay”.
A few days before Mpho took his life, on 28 May, he posted a Facebook update that said: “Def At My Lowest R.n But I’ll Surely Bounce Back.”
Describing her younger brother, Kutumela said: “Mpho was fun to be around. He brought smiles and laughter inside the home. He was reserved and bubbly and at times loud. He enjoyed singing and dancing a lot.”
Kutumela says she is still in shock over losing her brother.
“I’m heartbroken and torn apart,” she said, adding that if she could see him one more time she would tell him “he was my everything and I did not want to lose him and that I love him so much”.
“May his innocent soul rest in peace,” she added.
There are no laws against being LGBTQ+ in South Africa and there are some laws protecting queer people from discrimination.
However, homophobic attitudes remain, often driven by religion.
In 2016 a OUT survey found the 56 per cent of South Africans experienced discrimination based on their sexuality in school.
Kutumela vehemently denounced people who did not accept LGBTQ+ people, adding: “I think it’s wrong to not accept other people because we don’t choose how we are born. We are all God’s creation and we should be accepted for who we are.”
Leshata Secondary School did not respond to a request for comment.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
In South Africa, the South African Depression and Anxiety group can be reached on 0800 21 22 23 between 8am and 8pm.