The Mayor of George has lashed out at a planned performance by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus as part of his town’s first LGBTQ Pride event next week, despite it being promoted by the city.
On Tuesday, in a remarkable move, Mayor Melvin Naik went on to local Christian radio station Heartbeat FM to publicly distance himself from the event and his own municipality in the Western Cape.
“It is high time that we take a stand [for] what is right,” he said on air. “This afternoon I am here in my capacity as Mayor of the City of George. This is about the planned Boston Gay Men’s Chorus that is going to take place on the 19th of June.
“I heard that it will go out under the banner of the George Municipality but as the Mayor of George Municipality I want to make this statement. This all due to my Christian conviction and belief system… it does not carry my approval, this concert.”
Naik continued: “I am saying this without any judgment against anyone… no discrimination against anyone. This is only out of my Christian conviction and belief system that I am saying that I am not giving my approval to this concert here. All of us are equally made by God. All that I will do is bless these men and I will keep on praying for them.”
The mayor is no stranger to controversy. The Democratic Alliance (DA) recently moved to suspend Naik as a member of the party in the wake of an investigation into alleged corruption and fraud.
In a statement, the DA in the Western Cape condemned “in the strongest terms” the mayor’s anti-gay comments. “His utterances do not represent the views of the party,” said Bonginkosi Madikizela, DA Western Cape Provincial Leader. “Therefore, the Federal Executive Chairperson, James Selfe, will be referring this matter to the Party’s Federal Legal Commission for further investigation.”
Madikizela added: “Concerts like the Boston Gay Choir is good for the local economy as it provides people with jobs. The DA is a party for all people irrespective of one’s sexual orientation. We reject unfair discrimination on any grounds and show solidarity with the LGBTI community.”
Jonathan Fortuin from the municipality’s department of community development told Mambaonline on Wednesday that the mayor’s homophobic stance will not affect the concert itself.
“It’s just the mayor is distancing himself but we will proceed with the event,” he said. “We do have the support of the other council members, and the deputy mayor is also part of it.”
The event has been promoted both on the city’s website and its Facebook page. The free concert by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, which is in the midst of a national tour of South Africa, will take place at the Conville Community Hall in George at 6pm.
The city will also for the first time hold an LGBTQ Pride march earlier in the day, starting at the Victoria Street intersection in York Street, at 12pm. The march will move down to Unity Park where the choir will sing and the George Municipality Deputy Mayor, Charlotte Clarke, will officially welcome the visitors.
“We are very excited to visit George, meet Georgians and sing for them, and to also participate in their first-ever LGBTQ celebration of Pride,” said Craig Coogan, the choir’s Executive Director, in a statement to Mambaonline.
He noted that on the night before the group left for South Africa, they had performed for the US Conference of Mayors, hosted by Boston’s Mayor, Marty Walsh, who had proclaimed this week “Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Week.”
“We hope that the [George] mayor, local government officials, business people and people of all colours and faiths come out for this festive event and then join us that night for a free concert for the community,” said Coogan.
Mambaonline attempted to contact Mayor Naik on his cell phone and left a message with his office, which was not returned. For more details of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus tour of South Africa, click here.