Protestors outside Urban Brew Studios on Sunday.

Around 30 people turned out to protest against the author of Uganda’s gay-death bill at an emotional television debate on homosexuality in Africa, taped in Johannesburg for the BBC on Sunday.

The five-member studio discussion panel included David Bahati, the MP behind the Ugandan bill which seeks to impose the death penalty in certain cases of homosexuality, the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, as well as South African writer Eusebius Mckaiser.

Studio audience members were seemingly evenly split, representing various LGBT activist groups as well as anti-gay organisations including the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP).

Mambaonline was not allowed access to the studio by security, but according to Coenie Kukkuk, the Director of Operations of Mr. Gay South Africa, who was a member of the audience, the debate was “very emotional”.

Kukkuk said: “The shouting from both sides in the audience was so loud that you couldn’t hear the people speak. It nearly came to blows.”

A key issue in the debate was the question of whether homosexuality is “un-African”, a position vigorously defended by Bahati, who is a born-again Christian.

He also claimed in the debate that children were being “recruited” by gays in Uganda and that gays and lesbians were placing the family under threat.

During the discussion, Mogae said that he supported the legalisation of homosexually and revealed that during his ten year tenure as president he ordered police not prosecute gays and lesbians under his country’s anti-gay laws.

When asked why he had not worked to decriminalise homosexuality while president, Mogae reportedly replied that “I did not want to lose an election just for gays”. He advocated gentle persuasion, debate and discussion to bring people around.

According to Kukkuk, Bahati was shocked to be faced with a lesbian couple from the audience proudly kissing.

“He said that he was offended [by the kiss] and later said that the debate had only made him more determined to push through his Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament,” said Kukkuk.

Despite a poor turnout by members of the LGBT community, protesters stood outside Urban Brew Studios during the debate holding placards accusing Bahati of having blood on his hands.

Mazibuko Jara, the Chairperson of The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, told Mambaonline that the protest aimed to send a message to Bahati that he “must take responsibility for the death of David Kato,” the recently slain Ugandan LGBT activist.

“Next time we will not be so kind to [Bahati] and allow him to speak. He should be handed over to the criminal justice system,” added Jara. Other activists slammed the South African government for allowing Bahati to enter the country.

The BBC World debate on homosexuality in Africa will be broadcast on BBC World on 12 and 13 March. Check local schedules for more details.

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