Why has South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who visited Uganda for a few days this past week, not denounced the Ugandan genocide bill?

The bill in question, if passed, will condemn millions of innocent Ugandans to death simply for being born gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex – and simply for being a favourite scapegoat and target for the hatred of an increasingly virulent homophobic agenda in Uganda. This legislation will also effectively turn heterosexual people into criminals if they do not report the existence of GLBTI colleagues, parishioners, neighbours, clients, family and friends to the authorities.

This bill has over the past six months drawn the ire and outright condemnation of churches, companies, advocacy groups, the UN, and governments from countries all over the world. Everywhere, that is, except the most prosperous and “progressive” country in Africa. A country, whose government has completely ignored all requests from advocacy groups to speak out on the issue.

I checked all the newspaper reports on Zuma’s visit to Uganda that I could find, including coverage of his speech, and there was nothing about the bill. Not a word. I did notice a great deal of commentary about the South African government’s involvement in supporting the Ugandan regime and about increasing future investments in Uganda. I also saw a list of some South African companies and role-players investing and doing business in Uganda which include MTN, Shoprite, Game and Stanbic Bank Uganda, a subsidiary of Standard Bank.

I, and others, have been asking for months why South Africa’s government has been ignoring our questions and requests to speak out on the Ugandan issue. Email and fax campaigns by SA GLAAD and others have gone unanswered and unacknowledged.

Why? Why have they stonewalled us? Why have they failed GLBTIQ South Africans and Ugandans alike? Why have they forsaken the commitment in our Constitution to equality, dignity and human rights?

Read between the lines: investment; business opportunities; repaying Uganda’s president for helping liberation movements during the struggle years; uniting against former colonial powers; and last, but not least, the sticky and enticing promise of cheap oil. It is about many things but, I think, it is mainly about greed.

“I will never support any company that I discover to be complicit in imposing misery and oppression on people like me…”

Is the world watching this – as our president trades his silence for a bag of coins? More than just the opportunity to speak out against Uganda’s proposed crimes against humanity has just gone down the tubes. Care to guess what else has? South Africa’s human rights record…

Mr Zuma, because of your actions – and your lack of moral character as President of South Africa – I am well and truly ashamed of my country and your government. You have failed to defend the Constitution of this country and the mandate it places upon you to protect the lives, dignity and rights of ALL your citizens and those of countries which you deal with on our behalf.

I will never support any company that I discover to be complicit in imposing misery and oppression on people like me. And neither should you. I don’t want oil from Uganda – or anything else that costs the dignity, freedom and human rights of people and which causes those behind the terror, oppression and destruction of innocent lives to profit in any way.

I am repulsed by our government’s mentality. One which can claim to want to “boost moral regeneration” by considering lewd propositions from fundamentalist groups of the same ilk that influenced Uganda to table murderous laws, but which refuses to speak out against horrendous crimes against ordinary people.

I am outraged by a government which calls works of art pornographic and which seeks to limit freedom of expression with the excuse of “morality” and yet, when an opportunity to prove how “moral” they are arises, they side with abusers of human rights. I am utterly and profoundly shocked by the sheer hypocrisy of those who claim a moral high ground yet forsake the downtrodden in return for power and wealth.

If you live in South Africa, you need to ask yourself what all this – the ANC’s new “morality vote”, Zuma’s homophobic stance, the government’s failure to live up to its claims of “morality” and failure to speak out in defence of human rights – may mean for the future of our rights in our country. It is a question I have been pondering deeply for some time now. And it something you too should be considering.

This lapse in humanity is eating away at the illusion I had only just started believing in, called “ubuntu” – an intrinsic part of what we have come to call “the South African Dream”. Well, the shocking truth is that the dream is hanging on by a thread – it is rapidly morphing into a blood-soaked nightmare.

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