Wester Cape Premier Helen Zille

The Joint Working Group (JWG), a network of LGBTI organisations throughout South Africa, has issued a statement expressing its disgust at a homophobic comment made by the President of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) about Helen Zille.

Wesley Kgang stated that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille was “not a woman but suspected of being a lesbian”. According to the JWG’s press release, “his assertion that lesbians are not women is deeply homophobic and heterosexist.”

Ironically, the comment was made at a rally in Cape Town on Thursday to protest Zille’s appointment of an all-male cabinet in the Western Cape; a cabinet which the ANC Youth League had earlier said consisted of her “boyfriends”. While the JWG said it was also disturbed by Zille’s cabinet, this “does not however justify the use of brutal and violent hate speech.”

According to the JWG, “The comments made by Kgang represent exactly this kind of hate speech and are entirely irrelevant to the composition of the cabinet.”

“His assertion that lesbians are not women is deeply homophobic and heterosexist and we fail utterly to see the connection between the Premier’s sexual orientation and her decision to appoint an all male cabinet. At a time when LGBTI people generally and lesbian women specifically are facing ever increasing levels of homophobic hate crime throughout the country and in the Western Cape, comments such as these only serve to fuel the crisis,” the network said.

According to City Press, Kgang was unwilling to explain why he thought Zille was a lesbian.

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