Zuma is seen as condoning the new homophobic laws of Uganda, while assaulting the principles of South Africa’s Constitution.
By Melanie Nathan, April 17, 2014.
Today a group of American activists targeted the South African Embassy in Washington D.C., to protest President Jacob Zuma’s recent comments that he supports the Ugandan Governments sovereign right to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Act, now known as the “Jail the Gays Bill,” which was gazetted on March 10, 2014. In making this statement Zuma failed to express that he disagreed with the contents of the law, as first written about in our article here.
President Zuma of South Africa is now under local and global scrutiny for his failure to append his support to the principles of South Africa’s all inclusive Constitution, which is one of the most progressive in the world, placing upon him, as many believe, an obligation to stand up for sexual orientation and gender identity rights, within his own country, on the continent of Africa and around the world.
The protest poignantly reminds of the failures of a Zuma led ANC, as South Africa celebrates its 20th year since the recently deceased former President Nelson Mandela led its way to the ‘New South Africa’ and a democratic fully inclusive Constitution, noting in his inaugural speech:
“….Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
Zuma is now seen as condoning the new homophobic laws of Uganda, and while doing so is assaulting the principles of South Africa’s rebirth.
Zuma’s comments and failure to speak out against the Ugandan anti gay law is tantamount to agreeing with the law, which mandates that those having same-sex relations, must receive life in prison if convicted of so called “aggravated” homosexuality. Terms range from 14 years for a first time offense of homosexuality and includes years in prison for those who are found guilty of the so called act of “promoting” homosexuality, a term which makes no sense at all.
The protest took place at the foot of the newly erected Mandela Statue, at the U.S. Embassy in D.C., and provides a well deserved slap in the face to Zuma, as its stark visual, reflecting the popular clothe of the ANC, which depicts the face of Mandela, is used to drive the point home. This is not the ANC of Mandela. The demonstrators made it clear that Zuma has failed the LGBTI community of South Africa and all those abroad who once held its human rights significance in the highest of esteem.
After standing by the Mandela statue with the signs, the posters were attached to the fence of the Embassy and demonstrators, Cathy Kristofferson and Ellen Sturtz left peacefully after a brief discussion with local law enforcement.
One can only imagine Madiba would have spoken out against Uganda’s oppressive laws. But Zuma has failed and the message is clear.
The signage reads:
President Zuma assaults
the South African Constitution.
The ANC of Mandela Dies
Jail the Gays for life Legislation”
One can only wonder if President Zuma, of the ruling ANC party, is pandering to the anti-gay elements of South Africa, including certain traditional chiefs, as he seeks votes in the upcoming election, in an increasingly homophobic environment that seems to be veering off the course of a Mandela inspired Constitution. It is no surprise that there has been a spike in gay murder hate crimes in South Africa and it is no surprise that lesbians continue to be raped in the townships, and it is no surprise that the Zuma Government has done little to ensure that officials in Port Elizabeth follow the law by not refusing couples the right to marry.
President Zuma and his homophobic ambassador to Uganda, Jon Qwelane, are well aware that Uganda’s LGBTI community is suffering severe persecution as a result of this law. Many have been persecuted through assaults, banishings from homes and villages, firings from jobs, expulsions from schools and universities, denied HIV/Aids and other medical services based purely on their sexuality or gender identity, with many forced currently into hiding.
Here is an article depicting my recent trip to South Africa where I spoke at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University a mere day after Zuma made his insulting remarks. I told students, faculty and public that I believed Zuma was in fact “shitting” on the South African Constitution. My sentiments were more politely endorsed by DA Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who in a recent Editorial in the Herald, South Africa, was quoted as saying that “Zuma’s acceptance of the Draconian anti gay law in Uganda, which will send anyone who is gay to jail, is an insult to our constitution and to Mandela’s human rights inspired foreign policy.”
One demonstrator, Ellen Sturtz noted:
“Voices from the African continent are so much more powerful than anything coming from the West. Zuma and others need to standup for what’s right. Melanie, you aren’t alone in saying this, as Omar Daair, First Secretary for Africa from the British Embassy in DC, expressed his concern that South Africa seemed unwilling to standup for the LGBTIQ community, at an SAIS Pride event “Global LGBT Rights:Repression and Promise,” April 16th. Mr. Daair’s panel followed one which included Victor Mukasa from the Kuchu Diaspora Alliance.”
CONTACT MELANIE: [email protected]