An LGBTI political party has been launched in South Africa, the first in Africa. While critics say it may have good intentions, they question if it can work or even secure a single seat in parliament.
It’s not a world first; a handful of LGBTI political parties have been touted internationally and have had limited success.
In 2007, plans were announced to launch the Magi, or “Gay Party” in Israel but it failed to materialise due to lack of support from established LGBTI groups. In the Philippines, after years of opposition, the Ladlad party was allowed to register and actually contested the 2010 elections but failed to earn sufficient votes to make it to parliament.
Here in South Africa, between 1999 and 2005, a dubious organisation called the Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GLA) was run by the notorious Juan Duval Uys and claimed to be the “political voice of lesbigay South Africa”. After immense controversy and damage to the LGBTI community, the organisation – described by many as “one man and a fax machine” – was soundly discredited by LGBTI groups around the country. It also failed to register to contest any elections, despite promises to do so.
Created in May by Nicholas Gregory, a marketing and design executive from Bloemfontein, the GLBTI Party of South Africa certainly seems to be more genuine in its intentions. It aims to represent the interests of the LGBTI community and plans to take part in the 2014 elections on a national level.
The party was borne out of frustration with the apparent lack of action by existing LGBTI groups when it comes to ongoing hate crimes against the community and, more recently, proposals to reverse the constitutional protection of LGBTI people.
Gregory has begun to assemble a team (most of whom, it must be noted, appear to not be involved with mainstream LGBTI groups), has launched a website, and is in the process of registering the fledgling party with the Independent Electoral Commission.
He mentions that there are plans to change the name of the party from GLBTI to LGBTI “to place specific emphasis on the driving power of our nation – the woman”.
Mambaonline asked him why he thinks his party can succeed where others have failed.
Why did you feel it was important to start an LGBTI party?
As many may be well aware, our constitutional rights as LGBTI citizens in South Africa are under threat due to the Traditional Marriages bill. We want to take a stand and secure our democratic freedom and the very constitutional rights that we as the LGBTI have worked so hard to achieve. We feel that by launching a party, a political platform will provide us with the necessary power we require to secure our rights. In addition to this, we also intend on focussing on other areas that affect LGBTI persons on a daily basis, such as the horrific increase in hate crimes, social inequality and discrimination in the workplace.
Why do you think you have the skills or experience to take on this challenge?
I have been an active follower in all spheres of the LGBTI community for several years. I have had a first-hand experience when it comes to the social inequality and discrimination we as LGBTI citizens face in South Africa, and I feel I have the passion and dedication to make a change. I hope to unite the LGBTI community in a common effort to secure our rights.
Some might say that the party’s ambitions are unrealistic. How would you respond?
We feel that with the support of the LGBTI community and the full dedication of our team, we can achieve our objectives. We need to stand together as a community in this dire hour of need.
Do you think you can get sufficient votes to get any seats in parliament?
Based on the previous national elections, where 17.9 million voters participated, in order to get one seat out of the 400 in the National Assembly we require only around 45000 votes. We feel we can do that – and so much more.
So what will be accomplished by just having a seat or two in parliament?
One seat in parliament is one voice to be heard. A dedicated voice to the LGBTI community. One that will stand up for our rights and give the community its undivided attention. No party to date has exclusively done this for our community, for our cause.
How do you anticipate that the party will be funded?
As with most political parties we will rely heavily on public funding by means of donations and fundraising in order to follow out the party’s objectives.
Does the GLBTI Party have a manifesto yet? Does it or will it include all areas of political life or is the GLBTI Party a single issue party?
We are currently in the process of setting up a manifesto that addresses hate crimes. We hope that this will speed up the creation of a hate crimes legislation whereby these crimes can be punishable to the full extent of the law. With regards to the GLBTI Party being a single issue party, the definition of a single issue party remains a relatively grey area. Although our primary focus will be on securing LGBTI rights and equality, we will also focus on other areas such as education, labour and sports.
Do you not think that LGBTI people will prefer to vote for larger sympathetic parties that actually have some power in parliament?
Indeed there will be many LGBTI people who would prefer to vote for larger parties who garner a higher level of power. However, we have an ever-growing support base of LGBTI people, and those who support our cause, and we foresee a bright future for the LGBTI community in South Africa.
What do you think of the ANC and DA’s position on and support for LGBTI issues and concerns?
Although a lot of progress has been made, we feel that if we as a community had the full support from the ANC and DA, our very constitutional rights would never have come under threat. With regards to the Hate Crimes Task Team, which was a bold move in its creation, we would like to see results and action in combating these hate crimes. The incidents of hate crimes continue to rise; just this weekend a lesbian youth, Phumeza Nkolonzi, lost her life in a Cape Town township, many believe that this was due to her being a lesbian. Just last month we saw the loss of young Thapelo Makutle who was brutally murdered in his home in Kuruman. We can no longer stand and watch as these spates of hate crimes increase. We need to put our foot down!
Do you think that the GLBTI Party can attract broader support other than just members of the LGBTI community?
Indeed this is something that we would like, and we hope to see a strong following of not only the LGBTI community, but also of LGBTI supporters. In addition to that, when one part of the constitution comes under fire, there’s nothing saying that this cannot broaden to other areas of our constitution. We as South Africans have worked so hard in creating a free and fair land for all. We simply cannot sit back and watch as we are stripped of these rights.
How representative is the party and are the currently predominantly white faces of the representatives of concern to you?
The party is still in its early stages of formation. We would like to see that we are equally represented, and we hope to achieve this with our representatives nomination campaign which will begin in the next month. We have a large group of multi-racial ground crew who have been responsible for spreading the word of the party, gaining supporters and obtaining signatures for our official Deed of Foundation. In addition to this, the current team of provincial representatives, namely Rudi Holtzhausen, Monique Walker, Aubrey le Roux and Robert Collins, have the drive and ambition to lay the foundation stones in our party’s formation. They believe that they can make a change in the LGBTI community, and by acting in good faith they work together in promoting the party on a national level.
How much experience does the current team have in politics?
We have an ever growing team that have experience in all spheres of politics and LGBTI activism. Of course experience does not equal results without dedication and passion. We feel that the current team of provincial representatives are dedicated to laying the ground work and foundation for the party and its success to come, and we welcome the support of volunteers who share the same vision as us that can contribute into establishing the party.
Recent elections have shown that niche political parties have been dramatically losing support from the electorate…
If one looks at the objectives of these niche parties, you will notice that their spheres of action are very limited, mostly to minority groups and causes that indeed have a great deal of support by the already dominant larger parties. As previously mentioned our cause has been to a great extent put on the back-burner by these larger parties and we feel we can gain support through our entire dedication.
Have you gotten the support/backing of any LGBTI organisations?
We have received an overwhelming amount of support from many key members in several LGBTI organisations throughout South Africa and the world. However, because the political beliefs of the members of these organisations remains divided, we cannot say that any organisation supports us fully. This is up to the individual members of these said organisations. We all have our own democratic freedom to choose which political party we are to align with, and therefore the organisations cannot speak on behalf of all of its members. We have, however, received a lot of negative publicity and flack from a certain gay organisation. We will not let this drop of negativity in an ocean of positivity support crush our spirit.
Do you believe that an LGBTI party can make a real impact in the political sphere? Would you vote for the GLBTI Party of South Africa? Tell us what you think below. (Note: abusive comments will be removed)