Thabo Mbeki

In an important development, South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, has come out against Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Mbeki took a stand against the Bill at a Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) discussion in Kampala, Uganda, about “The Architecture of Post-Cold War Africa”.

Doctor Sylvia Tamale, Dean of Law at Makerere University, asked Mbeki what he would say “politician to politician” to the author of the Bill, MP David Bahati.

“I would say to the MP that in my mind, sexual preferences are a private matter. I don’t think it is a matter for the state to intervene,” Mbeki said.

“It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law,” he added.

Mbeki further equated the criminalisation of homosexuality with the ban on interracial relationships and marriages during the apartheid era in South Africa.

Responding to Mbeki’s comments, Bahati later told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper: “His Excellency (Mr Mbeki) needs to read the Bill and understand the spirit in which it was brought and the context in which we are talking about.”

While the Bill has been condemned by a number of Western countries, African leaders have largely remained silent on the subject.

Originally introduced in October 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill allows for the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality” and includes various criminal penalties for anyone who fails to turn over gay people to the police or anyone who “promotes” homosexuality.

Uganda’s ambassador to the United States, Perezi K. Kamunanwire, recently claimed that the Bill will not be taken further by his country’s parliament.

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