Representatives from only two political parties turned out for a poorly attended LGBT election forum hosted by the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Friday night in Johannesburg.
The event was intended to provide a platform for members of the LGBT community to engage with political parties in the run-up to the April 22 election.
According to Emily Craven from the JWG, the ANC, DA, IFP, Cope and ID were each invited to send a representative to the forum. She revealed that only the ANC, DA and Cope agreed to do so – “the other two never got back to us”.
On the night, however, the confirmed Cope representative failed to show up for the event with no explanation.
Openly gay Joburg Councillor, and Parliamentary Candidate, Ian Ollis arrived to represent the DA, while Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nozizwe Madlala- Routledge, represented the ANC at the forum.
The 14-or-so-strong audience, composed primarily of activists, focused largely on the ruling party’s failure to show its support for LGBT issues.
Past homophobic comments by Presidential candidate Jacob Zuma and ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema were slammed and the party was attacked for its lack of support for human rights and LGBT rights internationally and in the United Nations.
A number of the audience members, who claimed that they were life-long supporters of the ANC, said that they could not in good conscience vote for the party in these elections and would instead abstain.
Ollis and the DA were accused of not doing enough to support LGBT causes, despite him having come out publicly and naming a number of other openly gay DA parliamentary candidates – the only party to have done so.
Craven said that the debate was an interesting exercise but expressed her disappointment that so few people took part.
While a frustrated Ollis suggested that the event had not been well publicised, Craven said: “We could have done more, but within our membership it was well publicised.”
She said the poor turnout was also related to the fact that the forum was held on a Friday evening and that “a lot of LGBT people are disengaged from the process and feel that no party really supports them.”
She added: “Despite the turnout, the forum was very valuable. We now need to find ways of taking Friday’s conversation out to the community.”