In a remarkable incident, President Jacob Zuma has disagreed with King Goodwill Zwelithini’s anti-gay comments at a ceremony in KwaZulu-Natal, reports The Times.
The two men shared the stage at an event on Sunday marking the 133rd anniversary of the Battle of Isandlwana, in which British soldiers were defeated by Zulu forces.
“Traditionally, there were no people who engaged in same sex-relationships,” said Zwelithini.
“There was nothing like that and if you do it, you must know that you are rotten. I don’t care how you feel about it. If you do it, you must know that it is wrong and you are rotten. Same sex is not acceptable.”
Zuma, in response, indirectly rebuked the king’s the comments.
“Today, we are faced with different challenges,” said Zuma. “Challenges of reconciliation and of building a nation that does not discriminate against other people because of their colour or sexual orientation.”
Lance Weyer, Mr Gay South Africa 2011, slammed Zwelithini’s statements, accusing him of inciting homophobia that could lead to hate crimes against LGBT people.
“We have to note the devastating effect deeply rooted homophobia by leaders is having on communities. How can someone who is being paid a salary by the South African government, i.e. taxpayers, have such a blatantly unconstitutional view?” Weyer asked.
In recent years, South Africa has been grappling with brutal and at-times-deadly attacks against black, lesbian women; a phenomenon that has been dubbed “corrective rape”.
“Violent homophobia is real, and as much as I respect your right to practice and live your Zulu culture, I think it’s about time that we started being as passionate about the dignity and wellbeing of ALL our citizens,” Weyer added.
In 2006, before he became president, Zuma himself came under fire for saying that “same-sex marriage is a disgrace to the nation and to God…” He later apologised unreservedly.