Gay and lesbian organisations have issued an angry statement – through the Joint Working Group (JWG) – asserting that they “are appalled” by the recent homophobic comments by the ANC Deputy President, Jacob Zuma.

Zuma made the comments at a Heritage Day event in KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday. He was quoted as saying that, “Same-sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God…”, adding that, “When I was growing up unqingili [homosexuals] could not stand in front of me”. Zuma said that he was speaking in his personal capacity on the matter and “as a man”.

The JWG statement says that:

“While he is entitled to his opinion, we would like to argue that his speech on Heritage Day was a form of hate speech, and an attitude that seem to suggest that gays and lesbians are not part of the proudly South African heritage. A stance a number of politicians and religious leaders have been using for political favour.

Has Zuma forgotten South Africa’s recent past; the state institutionalized discrimination, stigmatization and segregation? We had it prescribed in law where to live, how to live, who can work, where to work, who to love and who not to marry. Since 1994, we have been doing our bit to make everyday a better life for all – to make human rights – equal rights for all. So too is the freedom to marry a spouse of your choice.

Zuma’s comments display the manipulation rather than the understanding of Zulu culture and identity. Such homophobic comments display his ignorance of lesbian and gay identities and our nation’s diversity. How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?

It would seem Jacob Zuma still has a lot to learn about leadership. A true leader leads with intellect and wisdom – not popularity or favour. [He shows] blatant ignorance of fundamental rights of people as enshrined in our South Africa Constitution and a total disrespect of it.”

The JWG is an alliance of registered non-profit organisations, providing services to Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex (LGBTI) people in South Africa.

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