Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has hit out at Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s anti-gay Bill, telling a public audience in Kampala that what two consenting adults do in private “is really not the matter of law.”
by Melanie Nathan
Mr. Mbeki, a guest of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), issued the comments during a three-hour public question and answer session on Thursday evening debating post-cold war Africa and why the continent is reliant on external interventions in dealing with local issues.
The visiting former head of state’s comments on the issue of homosexuality should have been made a long time ago, and and should have been expressed by current President Jacob Zuma, who, despite governing under an all inclusive South African Constitution, has failed to show leadership on issues pertaining to homosexuality and its criminalization on the continent of Africa. These comments by Mbeki come as a significant boost for LGBTI rights as human rights in Africa.
Mr Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first tabled in the 8th Parliament, is currently collecting dust on the shelves of the 9th Parliament following wide international uproar in large part for a clause that seeks to hand down the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality, including the spreading of HIV/Aids.
The Ugandan Monitor is reporting that Mbeki’s stand on gay rights followed a question by Sylvia Tamale, a strong proponent “of sexual parity,” who asked what the former leader would “say to Mr Bahati about the plight of a lesbian woman seeking recognition of her divergent sexual orientation.” (Note: the word divergent is quoted and considered a politcally incorrect description in the West and South Africa.)
“I would say to the MP; sexual preferences are a private matter,” said Mr Mbeki. “I don’t think it is a matter of the state to intervene.” Mr Mbeki said he was certain that Mr Bahati would disagree with his stand and argue that African culture does not permit same sex relations, a reason at the heart of the continent’s wide spread antipathy towards homosexuals.
Mr Mbeki said apartheid South Africa prohibited sexual relations “across the colour line” aided by The Immorality Act which handed the police legal ground to raid “people’s bedrooms” before dragging them to court for prosecution.
“I mean what would you want? It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law,” he said.
Mr Mbeki also responded to a series of questions about the failure of Africa’s present day intellectuals to cultivate ideas for progressive movement of change on the continent and the weakness of the African Union in defending and promoting the interests of Africans.
He said a weak and selfish political class, responsible for collaborating with Western imperialists to lead external intervention for selfish end on the continent, had played a leading role in clamping down progressive intellectuals since viewed as opposition to their hold on power.
Mr Bahati responded with his usual depth of misunderstanding on the issue of criminalization per se and said the Bill was brought to curb several issues including inducement, recruitment and funding homosexuality.
“His excellency (Mr Mbeki) needs to read the Bill and understand the spirit in which it was brought and the context in which we are talking about,” Mr Bahati said.
The minister’s response is really nonsensical as I am sure Mbeki has read the Bill and even if he has not, none of the reasons outlined by Bahati in this response justify criminalizing private consensual behavior, which the bill in effect does.
Mbeki has tapped into the South African post apartheid ideal that no group or minority would ever be discriminated against in South Africa again. Immediately after apartheid, under the leadership of Madibe, former President Nelson Mandela sought to fulfill that ideal ; and so sexual orientation and gender identity equality was specifically included in the New South African Constitution.
Unfortunately the current South African leadership has failed to make its mark on the rest of Africa and the 37 countries which criminalize homosexuality. President Jacob Zuma has yet to speak out against the Anti-homosexuality Bill in Uganda and made matters worse by sending Jon Qwelane the indicted homophobic envoy to Uganda as South Africa’s ambassador.
Gay rights activsts applaud the words of Mbeki on center stage and as one unnamed South African source informed me: “I wish our current President had the balls of Mbeki, after all our Constitution would expect such leadership!”
by Melanie Nathan
Original Source for information -Uganda Monitor