A queer fear in the ANC

Suntosh_Pillay_Jan2014SUNTOSH R PILLAY feels the ANC has not done enough to ensure the basic rights of the LGBTQ community on the rest of the continent.

“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against… race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.” – Constitution of South Africa, Section 9(3), 1998

“Same sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God. When I was growing up, ‘ungqingili’ [homosexuals in isiZulu] could not stand in front of me, I would knock him out.” – Jacob Zuma, September 2006, KwaZulu-Natal

“There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten… I don’t care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same-sex is not acceptable.” – King Goodwill Zwelithini, January 2012, KwaZulu-Natal

Everybody makes mistakes.

Somewhere in a manic rush to sign in a fresh and sparkling Constitution for Mandela’s newborn State, the right to love and lust whomever you wanted landed up being legally lekker.

Overcompensation, perhaps, after decades of having to deal with the ghastly, nonsensical Immorality Act, so ironically named for its purposes of being voyeurs in other people’s sex lives.

And there we had it – officially since 8 May 1996 – the constitutional right for a man to have sex with a man and women with each other, across other previously taboo divides (black, white and ‘other’), provided there was consent. Your plain old heterosexual, missionary style on a Friday evening with the missus was still alright, but at least you now had options.

The removal of government from our bedrooms was, no doubt, one of the best mistakes the ANC ever made. Thank God,whoever she is, for the euphoria of new democracies.

I say mistake because I don’t really believe that the African National Congress (ANC) leader supports human rights.

He refuses to loudly condemn our African neighbours who are grossly, insanely, and flippantly abusing the rights of their gay citizens, as seen in government’s lacklustre response to homophobia and its rejection of the DA’s Parliamentary motion against Uganda’s human rights abuses.

People are dying! Uganda and Nigeria, specifically, are killing its LGBTI community. Literally, killing them. Activists like David Kato are dead. Criminalizing a biological predisposition is unscientific, unethical and invites other abuses. A former liberation movement refuses to act decisively on an impending genocide.

WTF, JZ?! That’s right, why the fear, Jacob Zuma?

The ANC, and Zuma in particular, is probably afraid of three things.

First, is the fear of emasculating the image of the President as your uber-macho woman’s man who beats up anyone who’s gender-nonconforming. This image bodes well for sections of South Africa’s melting pot of patriarchal violence and homophobia,all royally-endorsed of course.

Secondly, the ANC is afraid of being seen as a neo-colonial apologist, under the grip of Western powers. The accusation of being “too Western” is the go-to insult in the darkening continent,often hurled by Armani-wearing dictators whose wives shop in Paris and New York. The absurd notion that gay rights is a Western invention is such a historical joke that is warrants no further attention, suffice to say that it is homophobia, and not fluid sexualities, that is a product of Western, Christian, colonial missionaries who were trying civilise us wild Africans. The irony smacks you so hard I would laugh if this were not so sad.

Lastly, it is an election year and the ANC is afraid that Churches will not use the pulpit to endorse their politics. Heaven forbid if the Pastors perceives the ANC to be sympathetic to the plight of the sinners. With a seventy percent Christian nation who seem conservative in their attitudes (but harbour kinky fantasies or are secretly gay), Sunday mass might be the make-or-break factor for the ANC’s decreasing two-thirds majority. This, despite Desmond Tutu, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Bishops of SA publicly showing support for LGBTI individuals.

One would also think that the violation of personal dignity that Zuma has suffered, by having his own sex life come under scrutiny, be wildly exposed, probed, and publicly broadcasted in the run-up to his first erection, ugh, I mean election; in addition to his nude artistic debut, would sensitize him to the embarrassment felt by LGBTI groups.

These people’s private love lives and sexual escapades are being publicised by a pervy Big Brother media who, for some unresolved Freudian reason, deems it necessary to know who’s shagging who. You’d think JZ would call for restraint. No. Instead of proudly using our beautifully crafted, world-class Constitution as the moral high ground, heopts for the shameful cop-out of quiet diplomacy. Shame on you, Mr President, shame on you.

In a GroundUp interview, Paul Semugoma, who fled for his safety, urged that “one of the most powerful actions that the South African government and civil society can take… is to openly stand in solidarity with gay Africans in places like Uganda. When the US or EU criticises an African country, they are easily rubbished… However, when an African stands up for the rights of other Africans that resonates across the continent; there’s a power there”.

The ANC will not get my vote.

It lacks gumption in supporting gay rights in Africa. It is clear that the protection of sexuality in our Constitution was not a principled, ethical position on equality for all. There is no evidence that the current ANC cares about the impending genocide our African brothers and sisters are facing. It fails Mandela’s test that “the purpose of freedom is to create it for others”.

Messages from Agang SA, the Democractic Alliance, and even the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have strongly and publicly condemned Uganda. My vote will swing somewhere there.

Suntosh R Pillay is a clinical psychologist in a public hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, who writes independent social commentary.

Tweet @suntoshpillay or visit the website Thoughtleader.