South Africa’s LGBTI community has reacted strongly against a statement made by ANC MP and Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) president Patekile Holomisa on the rights of gays and lesbians.
Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) questioned whether the National House of Traditional Leaders knew that their comments constitute hate speech.
In a press release FEW added, ‘As the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community we are enraged that traditional leaders are making such careless statements. It is such a betrayal when a body that is supposed to protect the rights of people turns around and proposes an amendment of those very rights to exclude people from the constitution. We have a constitution to protect the rights of everyone, not just those of the majority.’
FEW added, ‘We demand that the National House of Traditional Leaders apologises to the LGBTI community and take back what they said, because it is an infringement of people’s rights. Our bill of rights in section 16(2) says even though we have the freedom of expression, but freedom of expression does not extend to (b) incitement of imminent violence, (c) Advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.’
OUT, the Pretoria-based LGBT well-being group, congratulated the ruling ANC for not entertaining the constitutional amendment proposal but also condemned Holomisa’s views and the actions taken by Contralesa.
Speaking to Mambaonline, Dawie Nel, Director of OUT said, “The use of culture to hide prejudice is nothing new and not unique to Africa.”
He added, “The Constitution’s Bill of Rights is precisely there to protect all of our rights, especially minorities, regardless of the views of the majority.”
Mambaonline also reported that in an e-mail to SA GLAAD’s Cobus Jesse Fourie, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) said that it was “implacably opposed to any tinkering with the Equality clause in the Bill of Rights and will collaborate with like-minded organisations to resist such amendment of a founding principle of the South African Constitution.”
Meanwhile according to the Daily News, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed what it called ‘the firm stand’taken by ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga against Holomisa.
On Monday the ANC distanced itself from Holomisa’s comments, with Motshekga saying he had noted ‘with great concern’Holomisa’s remarks, and that he would meet him to discuss them.
Asked to comment by the Daily News on Monday night, Holomisa said: ‘I was speaking as chairman of the constitutional review committee, not in my personal capacity. In fact I kept telling the journalists to speak to the people who make the submission.
‘Because I am the head of the Congress of Traditional Leaders, they insist on me speaking on these matters.’
He told the newspaper that while the position of the Congress of Traditional Leaders was ‘not dissimilar’ to that of the House of Traditional Leaders, this did not mean he personally shared the views.
For his part, according to a post on themarketingsite.com, Lance Weyer, Mr Gay South Africa 2011 has spoken with various parliamentarians, regarding the matter of the statements attributed to the House of Traditional Leaders about the constitution.
He said ‘It is all politics – dangerous politics, but mere noise and no action.’
Weyer said after speaking to parliamentarians ‘Some have claimed that this has already reached parliament, which in fact it has not and likely never will. Firstly I need to set everyone’s mind at ease – absolutely nothing is going to happen to sexual orientation rights.’
He explained, ‘In our democracy, anyone had the right to make a proposal to amend the constitution, and indeed many proposals have been made to the Constitutional Review Committee over the last 17 years. Few have made it past the Committee for further discussion. What makes this proposal of particular significance is that it seeks to amend an aspect of Section 9, the Bill of Rights.”