'Right-wing' gay party cancels Cape congress

By Peter Dickson Time of article published Jan 23, 2003

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Less than 48 hours after the Sizzlers gay massage parlour massacre in Sea Point left eight men dead, the controversial Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA) has cancelled its fifth national congress which was due to start in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The GLA says it is registered with the Independent Electoral Commission as "the political voice of lesbigay South Africa". However, it has been rejected by most gay and lesbian groups.

In a statement faxed to the Cape Times on Wednesday, the GLA said that all members of its national executive "are leaving the Western Cape with immediate effect".

A new date, as well as a possible alternative host city, would be announced "in due course".

The executive, which held a telephone conference at 1am on Wednesday, "also ordered a total blackout on all press statements regarding all matters".

"We reserve the right not to disclose any reason for the above. Press releases will be issued when circumstances allow, where reasons for today's actions will be made public," the statement said.

It added that GLA first vice-president Joe Chauke would serve as acting president of the party "till further notice". Party president Juan-Duval Uys could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

In reaction on Wednesday, the move revealed the deep political divisions in the gay and lesbian community's campaigns for equality and partnership rights in South Africa.

Dawn Betteridge, director of Cape Town's Triangle Project, which has as its motto "Challenging Homophobia, Appreciating Sexual Diversity", said the GLA deserved "as little publicity as possible".

"In August we distanced ourselves from them as they are not representative of all of us," Betteridge said on Wednesday.

South Africa's most prominent gay and lesbian bodies publicly put the boot into the "right-wing" GLA in a joint statement on the Internet on August 19 by the Johannesburg-based Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, formerly the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality.

The organisation issued the statement with the Triangle Project, the KwaZulu-Natal Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality, Durban's Gay Health Centre, Pretoria's OUT Wellaway, and Johannesburg's Q.co.za, Womyn Magazine and Behind the Mask.

The GLA was accused of having "no proven track record of representing the interests of the lesbian and gay community" and "no record of political struggle for lesbian and gay equality and they certainly do not have any record of activism for democracy in our country".

The bodies said the GLA's attempts to form a gay political party were "misguided and against the interests of lesbian and gay people".

The statement added that the GLA, whose leaders "have not... contributed to the campaigns for partnership rights in the workplace and in society" but had "attempted to benefit from the reputation gained by our respective organisations", could not claim support "from any of the prominent lesbian or gay organisations" in South Africa.

"We jointly disassociate ourselves from any statements and actions by the GLA," it said.

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