South African police Thursday were investigating the murder of a gay man in the rural Northern Cape province who was killed in an attack activists said left him partially beheaded.
Thapelo Makutle, a 23-year-old transgender man, was found dead Saturday in his rented room in the town of Kuruman with deep wounds to his neck that left his head nearly severed, said Jabu Pereira, a gender activist from the town.
"This is the most gruesome killing I have ever seen. His throat was cut."
"We are convinced that Thapelo was killed because of his sexuality, as nothing was stolen from his room," said Pereira.
According to the police, the attack happened after the man left a local pub.
"The motive at this stage is unknown. No arrests have been made. Investigations are continuing," police spokeswoman Ntombi Manie said in a statement.
The nation's largest labour body Cosatu condemned the attack as a hate crime against "a young, brilliant and educated soul whose head was chopped off."
Makutle become well known in his small town after being crowned Miss Gay Kuruman earlier this year.
Gays in South Africa live in fear of attack and women are often victims of "corrective rape", a phenomenon in which men rape lesbian women in order to "convert" them to heterosexuality..
South Africa is the only country in the continent that recognises gay marriage, but that has not changed the level of acceptance, particularly in the poor black communities.
In February, a court sentenced four men to 18 years for killing a Cape Town lesbian.