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Rights group says gay pageant organizer murdered, mutilated in South Africa

A young gay man was killed and his body mutilated in South Africa, according to a gay rights group that on Thursday called the murder a hate crime.

Thapelo Makutle was found with his throat cut Saturday morning in a room he rented in Kuruman, a town in northwestern South Africa, police said in a statement. The motive of the killing is unknown and the case is being investigated as a murder, police said.

However, Jabu Pereira, the spokeswoman of the local gay rights group LEGBO, said Thursday that the perpetrators didn't steal anything from Makutle and his body was mutilated in a way that indicates the murder was a hate crime, an extra charge that leads to greater punishment. Makutle's body was found under a blanket with his throat cut and tongue removed, Pereira said. His genitals were also cut off and put in his mouth, witnesses told Pereira.

"The community is in a state of trauma, they are shocked," Pereira said. "The community gathered last night and we just stood with the family."

Makutle was a leader in the local gay community and open about his sexuality, Pereira said. Among other things, she said, he organized the Miss Gay Kuruman pageant.

The police report said he was 23, while a spokeswoman for the local gay rights group said Makutle was 24.

A memorial service is planned for Friday afternoon in Kuruman. The local gay rights group is organizing a protest before the service.

South Africa's constitution bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but gays here still face discrimination and violence.