CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMITTEE BACKS GAY EQUALITY

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Patekile Holomisa on the cover of his 2009 book
‘According to Tradition’

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee has issued a statement affirming that it will “not entertain” efforts to remove sexual orientation protection from the Bill of Rights.

On Friday, the committee refuted claims that it had “agreed to a proposal to weaken or amend rights relating to sexual orientation contained in the Constitution”.

In a snub to its own Co-chairperson, ANC MP Patekile Holomisa, it stated that “statements made outside the committee cannot and should not be attributed to the JCRC”.

The proposal to remove the sexual orientation protection submitted to the committee by the National House of Traditional Leaders was in May publicly backed by Holomisa, in his other role as the President of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa.

The committee went on to say that it “regards all the discriminatory grounds listed in our Bill of Rights to be of critical importance for the country’s democracy, which is based on a human rights culture”.

It concluded by stating:  “The committee will not entertain efforts to remove or weaken any of these critical human rights and ask of all South Africans to work together in building a non-racial, non-sexist society where discrimination on the prohibited grounds, including sexual orientation, has no place.”

Speaking to Mambaonline, MP Andre Gaum, who is the ANC’s Chief Whip on the committee, said that although the committee is opposed to the proposal, it is still obliged to process it.

“Although we need to process the thing, we have made our position very clear as a committee. We are strongly opposed to any efforts to diminish protection around discrimination,” he said. “The underlying message in the statement is very clear,” he insisted.

He clarifed that the proposal is yet to be dealt with by the committee, which has the power to reject it. Gaum said that he expected the matter to come before the committee by the end of year. “Based on our statement you can imply what our position will most probably be,” he said.

Mambaonline asked him how it can be appropriate for Holomisa to remain as co-chair under these circumstances; in which the committee is in direct conflict with his publicly stated views.

Gaum refused to comment on this, insisting that Holomisa’s personal views were not those of the committee. “I don’t want to entertain that question. You can make your own conclusions,” he said.

When asked if Holomisa had supported the committee’s statement, Gaum replied that he could not speak for him but he confirmed that Holomisa remains in the position of co-chair.

Meanwhile, it’s come to light that the speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, last month wrote a letter to Holomisa calling for him to recuse himself from his position on the Joint Constitutional Review Committee when it considers the anti-gay submission from the traditional leaders.

“You will appreciate that your membership of the National House of Traditional Leaders could be perceived as a conflict of interest. Consideration could therefore be given to your recusal when the matter serves before the committee,” said Sisulu.

Holomisa denied being a member of the National House of Traditional Leaders although he has thus far not backed away from his support for the call to remove the sexual orientation clause.

Holomisa’s co-chair on the Joint Constitutional Review Committee, Bafumani Aaron Mnguni also commented that “It was wrong of the gay community; they jumped the gun to say Nkosi Holomisa, [and] the committee have accepted that they are going to change the sexual orientation clause”.

He said that the submission to exclude the clause “was merely an administrative exercise”.

Although the ANC has previously distanced itself from Holomisa’s anti-gay stance, which is contrary to the party’s policies, it has refused to heed calls for it to fire him as an MP.

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