By Melanie Nathan, April 14, 2013.
The ANC South African government on Saturday condemned all forms of violence against homosexuals following the assault of a gay man in a Cape Town township. However one incident used to spark the warnings involved aspects of custom that may without education continue to be the root cause of the violence itself.
“Government condemns in the strongest terms possible and reiterates its commitment to fight all forms of hate crimes perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and inter-sex people in South Africa,” said acting Cabinet spokeperson Phumla Williams.
The Times reported on Friday that Lunga Voko was beaten and left unconscious in an area near Khayelitsha by a group of men because he was gay .
Voko’s attackers allegedly inspected his penis to verify if he had been circumcised. Why did they do this. It is assumed because it is a tribal Xhosa tradition, that requires circumcision as the initiation of a young man into manhood. The rite usually occurs when a young man is around 18 years of age. After being Circumcised he is sent into the “bush” and expected to nurse himself and survive for weeks. The thinking of the attackers was that if he had in fact been subject to the rite, then he should be living his life in a heterosexual fashion, according to what tradition requires of him. The assumption being that homosexuality does not quite fit in. They were enraged after finding that he was in fact so circumcised and beat him up. A clash of custom and the inability to reconcile it with the constitution and the right of the gay man to his freedom of sexuality.
Voko celebrated his 23rd birthday on Easter Sunday and was attacked while walking home with his friends. He was allegedly beaten with an iron rod and was unconscious. While down, one person fired a gun, and a piece of Vuko’s right ear was torn off, the newspaper reported. According to News 24, Voko was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital and later discharged.
Marrying tribal or customary law and civil law can be quite a challenge in South Africa. However there is no excuse for the violence and homophobia. The ANC, while commenting against violence, will have a great deal more to do, to find a way to educate people to understand that the systems can in fact coexist.
The rhetoric of tribal royalty cannot be seen to helping the violence and a dialogue between the ANC and tribal authorities must take place.
For example, another clash of tradition and constitution occurred with the traditional marriage of a Zulu Man to a Tsawna man in a tradition African Zulu ceremony. Our story “Breaking ground in South Africa with a traditional Zulu gay wedding” received much attention.
Cameron Modisane and Thobajane Sithole, both 27, made headlines when they tied the knot last week dressed in traditional attire. A spokesperson for the Zulu Royal house Prince Mbonisi Zulu described the union as “unholy”.
In support of South Africa’s constitution and the rights of LGBTI people,Williams said that every citizen had an “inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected, as enshrined in the Constitution.”
“As government we are committed to fight all forms of crime, including violence against gay and lesbian people. The South African Police Service are currently investigating the case and we are confident that justice shall prevail,” Williams said.