KZN Health MEC’s wife says young gay people possessed by evil spirits

MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo

As activists work to reduce LGBT stigma in the health sector, the wife of KZN’s MEC for Health has unbelievably used the launch of an HIV youth programme to say that gay people are possessed.

According to a 9 June report by Berea Mail, Mrs Nono Dhlomo earlier this month attended the launch of the Cato Manor Clinic’s Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services programme.

The programme aims to reduce HIV infection, teen pregnancy and drug and substance abuse. Dhlomo, who is the wife of Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, used the opportunity to “address the youth” and speak out about homosexuality.

“Homosexuality is just evil spirits and I urge government to bring back religious studies to our schools,” she was quoted as saying. “All these problems that are facing our children is the devil’s work, our kids need prayers to be protected from all the negative energies facing them.”

Steve Letsike, Chairperson of the Civil Society Forum at the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), slammed Dhlomo’s comments.

“It is unacceptable that Mrs Dhlomo used the public space and worse the public health space to spread hate and discrimination,” Letsike told Mambaonline. “She must account for that.”

Letsike said the views smacked of “religious fundamentalism” and called on Dhlomo to apologise for her statements as they “contribute to the hate crimes that target the LGBT community”.

Letsike noted that SANAC last week launched the National Strategic LGBT HIV Plan to ensure that LGBT people have access to competent services and are not treated as second-class citizens.

Damaging to young LGBT people

Johan Meyer, Health Manager at OUT LGBT Well-being in Pretoria, accused Dhlomo of demonising LGBT people. “A clinic should be a safe space for young people, not one espousing fear, hatred and ignorance,” he said.

Meyer noted that her views are “in direct conflict with attempts by the health authorities to reduce stigma around sexual minorities. This stigma leads to discrimination, violence and the denial of public services, including health.

“It also affects the self-esteem and well-being of young LGBT people, who are disproportionately affected by bullying and suicide,” he added.

The KZN Department of Health has refused to condemn the remarks. In a statement sent to Mambaonline, the MEC’s Spokesperson, Desmond Motha, affirmed the department’s adherence to the country’s constitutional principles.

He also insisted that it does not discriminate against anyone in its provision of services. “Specifically, [the department] has identified the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community as one of the key population groups that it targets having recognised that they require specific health services,” said Motha.

He added that, “Mrs Dhlomo is not employed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health nor was she representing the department when she attended the event in question.”

However, when pressed by Mambaonline, the department refused to specifically condemn Mrs Dhlomo’s views on homosexuality. It also refused to issue an apology on the MEC’s behalf for any harm caused or to explain why Mrs Dhlomo was at the launch.

“Mrs Dhlomo and her husband, MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, should be ashamed of themselves,” said Meyer. “They should both immediately apologise and she should retract the statement.”

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