Durban - When President Cyril Ramaphosa took office six months ago there was hope that he would advocate for the rights of the LGBTQI+ community in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, according to the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) little has in practice been done to protect the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. This has been exacerbated by deputy president David Mabuza who this week told the National Council of Provinces (NCoP) that the South African government could not interfere in affairs of Uganda, which treats homosexuality as a crime.
Ugandans convicted under the country's draconian laws could face life imprisonment and there is currently a push to pass a new law which would allow judges to impose the death sentence.
IRR analyst Gerbrandt van Heerden said Ramaphosa had made a number of public statements in support of LGBTQI+ rights since he assumed power.
“So there had been a lot of expectations when Ramaphosa came into power. However, not much from his side had been done because Mabuza is able to make these comments and we don’t really see Ramaphosa stepping forward to encourage Mabuza and other politicians to adopt a more principled stance, which is based on our constitution. This is disappointing,” said van Heerden.
Responding to DA MP Tim Brauteseth on Thursday on the issue of Uganda, Mabuza said South Africa would maintain a principle of non-interference in other states’ affairs.
“We are talking about a matter that is still on the table of the people of Uganda that they are discussing. I am sure we must be decent enough to keep our mouth shut,” Mabuza was reported to have said.
This drew criticism from the DA, which had issued a statement calling for Ramaphosa to reprimand his deputy.
Van Heerden said although South Africa had the most progressive constitution in the world, which also protects the rights of LGBTQI+ citizens , this only remained on paper as it “doesn't always trickle down to the ground”.
He said in reality LGBTQI+ people still faced discrimination in rural areas and work places while law enforcement authorities also refused to provide protection for them.
“A study brought out a few years ago showed that less than a third of the Department of Home Affairs offices has marriage officials willing to marry same sex couples.
“Government officials and public officials from state institutions should have the responsibility to enact the protection that is afforded in our constitution,” said Van Heerden.