DA MP Manny de Freitas
DA MP and Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Manny de Freitas has been lambasted for saying that South Africa’s LGBTI community has no issues left to fight for.
In an open letter sent to the media, de Freitas suggested that recent LGBTI protests against a proposal by the House of Traditional Leaders to amend the Constitution to remove sexually orientation protections were pointless as “there are enough voices of reason in all parties to oppose [it].”
While ANC MP and Chief Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, head of the Constitutional Review Committee, approved the proposal to be debated, the DA and ANC have said that they will not consider it.
De Freitas went on to say in his letter: “It was easy before the birth of our democracy. Just like apartheid – you were either for or against – you either believed in LGTBI rights or not. That fight is now over. Pride parades are no longer opportunities for protest and the demanding equal rights for all.”
De Freitas added: “Perhaps it is time that the LGBTI community find something worth fighting for.”
Some LGBTI activists have reacted with outrage to de Freitas’s comments. Christina Engela from SAGLAAD responded that “this fight is FAR from over, Mr de Freitas.”
She pointed out that the protests were not organised out of fear that the proposal would be adopted but rather due to “the insult to our dignity posed by the very fact that such a Constitutional watchdog body [as the Constitutional Review Committee] is actually debating this issue, giving the impression that our rights as human beings are up for grabs.”
Engela also went on to cite examples of serious issues facing the LGBTI community in South Africa today such as continued attacks on the community by conservatives and religious fundamentalists, government failures to implement its constitutional obligations towards LGBTI people, and the scourge of hate-crime violence and so-called “corrective” rape.
“Mr de Freitas’s patronizing comments which portray our concerns as frivolous or hysterical, demonstrate both an insensitivity to the cause of our very real fears in facing very real threats, based upon past experiences – and also suggest that he is out of touch with our reality,” she said.
Melanie Nathan, a South African-born LGBTI activist now based in U.S., also responded to De Freitas’s comments in her own letter to the MP.
“There should be no legitimate procedure available, under any circumstances, for Members of Parliament, Committees, Traditional Leaders, etc. to ever review rights of any of South Africa’s groups, if they are indeed, as you intimate, fully entrenched [in] the Constitution,” she said.
“Until such process is eradicated as an option, the well being of all minorities remain, in essence, unprotected and anyone who cannot see that is not deserving of a seat in Parliament,” she added.
“Your comments do nothing more than attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the larger South African community, when you could have used this as an opportunity to focus on and correct the rampant homophobia experienced by LGBTI people in South Africa,” said Nathan.
In his letter, de Freitas suggested that a worthwhile endeavour for the LGBTI community is to help “explain and educate those that we refer to as bigots” to “change their perception and to get them to start thinking logically”.
Below is de Freitas’s full letter.
A new cause is needed by the LGBTI community to fight for.
Over a week ago the social media was aflutter with claims that Parliament wanted to amend our constitution to remove the sexual orientation clause. I was puzzled at the time considering that I have the privilege of being a member of the national Assembly. This was the first that I’d heard about this.
Over the weekend someone tried to convince me that the proposals by the Middle Age Style house of Traditional Leaders was completely formal. He simply wouldn’t accept my more luke-warm attitude to these ludicrous amendments. Even if the proposals by traditional kings (and queens) were taken up, there are enough voices of reason in all parties to oppose them.
It was easy before the birth of our democracy. Just like apartheid – you were either for or against – you either believed in LGTBI rights or not. That fight is now over. Pride parades are no longer opportunities for protest and the demanding equal rights for all.
For a while in the 1990’s the new HIV/AIDS pandemic appeared to replace the gay rights fight of old. That fizzled away as medical advances ensured that infected people can live a pretty normal life.
Perhaps it is time that the LGBTI community find something worth fighting for. Allow me to provide a suggestion.
Very few people; irrespective of which side of the tiara you stand on, have even asked why kings and chiefs of the various royal houses have a problem with gays and their rights? Why are some people who are perfectly logical in all matters excepting for when it comes to matters of homosexuality?
I dare say it is because of a lack of education – this is not formal education I am referring to. I refer to the lack of understanding of what homosexuality is. Why homosexuals exist. That they pose no danger to society or children. No, children do not “learn to become gay” or “suddenly decide” to become gay.
It is everyone’s duty, irrespective of one’s sexual orientation to explain and educate those that we refer to as bigots. Often all it takes is a detailed discussion to start the process of getting a person to change their perception and to get them to start thinking logically
This is our duty – a campaign and concrete action that you and I can do today and in the future.
Manny de Freitas MP
Member of Parliament
Shadow Minister of Home Affairs
Member of Parliament for Johannesburg South