Activists call for SA to condemn Tanzania anti-queer witch-hunt

More activists are calling for President Cyril Ramaphosa to publicly condemn the Governor of Dar es Salaam’s assault on the civil liberties of queer people in Tanzania.

Members of the amandla.mobi community advocacy organisation are also asking the president to offer asylum to those who are facing arrest for being who they are.

The group is holding a public protest on Friday outside the High Commission of Tanzania in Pretoria to voice their condemnation of the country’s anti-queer actions.

South Africans are also urged to add their names to the online petition demanding Ramaphosa take a public stand on the issue.

“The situation in Tanzania has reached a crisis point. Queers fear for their freedom. South Africans cannot sit back and allow this anti-queer witch-hunt to continue,” commented amandla.mobi campaign fellow Clio Koopman.

President Ramaphosa has acknowledged that the LGBTI+ community are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised. In November 2017, at the Feather Awards he spoke about the need to stop the suffering, discrimination, violence and abuse of the queer community.

“We must hold the president accountable for his commitments to queer rights by demanding he stand in solidarity with queer people in Tanzania, by condemning anti-queer action and offering safety for Tanzanians facing arrest,” said Koopman.

Paul Makonda, the governor of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, recently deployed a surveillance squad to track down queer people on social media. Homosexuality is illegal in Tanzania and anti-gay actions have escalated since President John Magufuli’s inauguration in 2015.

Queer people have been forced to hide their identities and sexuality. Makonda made a statement saying: “I prefer to anger those countries than to anger God”, in reference to other countries’ protest at the current anti-queer persecution.

There have been reports that 18 000 people’s names have been handed to government on suspicion of being queer. Ten men have been arrested so far on suspicion of being homosexual. HIV clinics have also been shut down on the basis of promoting homosexuality.

“We understand how hard it is to be queer,” said Koopman. “We understand the pain of not being able to be ourselves. We are telling the South African government that it is their responsibility to stand up against the blatant abuse of human dignity.”

You can sign the petition here or join the protest on Friday, 7 December outside the High Commission of Tanzania in Pretoria (822 George St, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0001) at 10am.

Earlier this month, around 300 people took part in a DA-organised march on the embassies of Tanzania and Uganda in Pretoria to protest the persecution of LGBTIQ people. Johannesburg Pride has also called for President Ramaphosa to speak out on the issue.

 

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