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Investigation Launches Into Death of LGBT Sex Worker in Police Custody

Elma Robyn Montsumi is yet another Black South African to die in the wake of continued police brutality during the country's national lockdown.

South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has reportedly launched an investigation into the death of LGBT sex worker, Elma Robyn Montsumi, who was being held in custody at Cape Town's Mowbray police station. Montsumi had been arrested for alleged drug possession in April. IPID's investigation comes after advocacy groups including the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Sisonke, the National Movement of Sex Workers and Triangle Project all raised concerns over the circumstances surrounding Montsumi's death, News24 reports.

READ: From 'Star Wars' to the War on Racism: John Boyega's Speech at a Recent London Protest Moved Masses

According to several reports, Montsumi was supposed to be released on bail according to the South Africa's ongoing lockdown regulations. However, she was never released and allegedly went on to commit suicide. In a joint statement by the advocacy organisations involved, they write the following:

"Robin's partner reported that he and some of her friends from the area were able to communicate with her by shouting from the outside and she would call back on how she was doing. They reported she said on the Saturday [11 April] that she felt ill and was vomiting," the organisations said on Friday. According to her friends, she did not respond [on the] Sunday morning [12 April] when they tried to call on her and when her partner got to the police station, there was an ambulance and bystanders told him that it was Robyn inside and that she [hanged] herself."

The statement goes on to add: "Our lobbying officer went inside the police station to inquire and she was simply told that Robyn had been taken to Groote Schuur hospital. Robyn's family... went to Mowbray police station and was told that the detective who came to the station just before noon to book Robyn found her body in the cells."

Police brutality towards Black people particularly during the national lockdown continues to anger many South Africans. In the just the first few weeks of the lockdown, more Black people died at the hands of police and SANDF officials than from the coronavirus. As protests against police brutality sweep across America, France, England, Australia and New Zealand, the anti-Black and racist nature of many police systems is being thrust into the spotlight.

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Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images.

How a Global Pandemic Has Failed to Stop South Africa's Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Crisis

We speak to women in key positions about the state of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa during the continued national lockdown.

Recently, South African women were outraged by the horrific murder of 28-year-old Tshego Pule. She was found hanging from a tree with stab wounds to her chest after she went missing at the beginning of June. Pule was also reportedly heavily pregnant at the time of her death. And while her perpetrator, 31 year-old Mzikayise Malephane, was charged with pre-meditated murder not long afterwards, this is not the universal experience of South African women when it comes to obtaining justice.

There is no other subject, save for governmental corruption and state capture perhaps, that receives as much attention in the media as gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide in South Africa. And despite the alarming statistics which are well above the global average and frighteningly so, there is a glaring lack of political will by the ANC-led government to bring about any actual change. President Cyril Ramaphosa has made promises about perpetrators of violence against women being charged with harsher sentences. This has still not come to fruition. There is radio silence from the numerous task forces set up to develop various approaches in addressing the crisis. And still, women continue to die, the daily online hashtags demanding justice for them falling on deaf ears.

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Photo: Shawn Theodore via Schure Media Group/Roc Nation

Interview: Buju Banton Is a Lyrical Purveyor of African Truth

A candid conversation with the Jamaican icon about his new album, Upside Down 2020, his influence on afrobeats, and the new generation of dancehall.

Devout fans of reggae music have been longing for new musical offerings from Mark Anthony Myrie, widely-known as the iconic reggae superstar Buju Banton. A shining son of Jamaican soil, with humble beginnings as one of 15 siblings in the close-knit community of Salt Lane, Kingston, the 46-year-old musician is now a legend in his own right.

Buju Banton has 12 albums under his belt, one Grammy Award win for Best Reggae Album, numerous classic hits and a 30-year domination of the industry. His larger-than-life persona, however, is more than just the string of accolades that follow in the shadows of his career. It is his dutiful, authentic style of Caribbean storytelling that has captured the minds and hearts of those who have joined him on this long career ride.

The current socio-economic climate of uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrusted onto the world, coupled with the intensified fight against racism throughout the diaspora, have taken centre stage within the last few months. Indubitably, this makes Buju—and by extension, his new album—a timely and familiar voice of reason in a revolution that has called for creative evolution.

With his highly-anticipated album, Upside Down 2020, the stage is set for Gargamel. The title of this latest discography feels nothing short of serendipitous, and with tracks such as "Memories" featuring John Legend and the follow-up dancehall single "Blessed," it's clear that this latest body of work is a rare gem that speaks truth to vision and celebrates our polylithic African heritage in its rich fullness and complexities.

Having had an exclusive listen to some other tracks on the album back in April, our candid one-on-one conversation with Buju Banton journeys through his inspiration, collaboration and direction for Upside Down 2020, African cultural linkages and the next generational wave of dancehall and reggae.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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[Op-Ed] Speeka: “‘Dankie San’ brought me closer to kasi rap”

A personal reflection on one of South Africa's most influential hip-hop albums, 'Dankie San' by PRO.