Mayor James Mthethwa
The ANC Mayor of the Umzinyathi District in KwaZulu-Natal has blamed gay men for spreading HIV and has vowed to “clamp down” on homosexuality.
According to a report in the Sowetan, Mayor James Mthethwa cited dubious statistics about the high rate of infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) to vilify and condemn this vulnerable group.
“We are concerned about homosexuality and we are against it because it brings shame to our communities,” he was quoted as saying at the launch of a community health workers training project in Dundee. “This needs to stop before spreading to other places,” he insisted.
Mthethwa went on to reveal that community workers in the area would be conducting a door-to-door campaign to educate locals about “the dangers of homosexuality.”
He later justified his views to the newspaper, stating that “the HIV prevalence rate among homosexuals has reached 33%” and that “this is why we are leading the campaign to train [community health workers] to educate communities about the dangers of sexual intercourse between men.”
LGBTI groups lashed out at Mthethwa’s comments. The LGBTI Community and Health Centre in KZN said that they reflect how “ignorant and homoprejudiced Cllr Mthethwa is as an individual and senior official.”
The centre added that his views “are out of order, irresponsible and [are] a real shame to progressive and responsible provincial and national government stances promoting equality for all, and ensuring the implementation of a multisectoral response to HIV, AIDS, STIs and TB.”
The organisation demanded a public apology from Mthethwa and called on the KZN Minister of Health to intervene in ensuring that district departments of health and their respective mayors, “are educated about HIV, AIDS and SITs.”
Access Chapter 2 (AC2) said it was also deeply concerned about the incident, describing Mthethwa’s statements as “hate speech”. It noted that the mayor cited findings “that cannot be validated,” which it said is unethical and damaging to efforts to tackle HIV.
“It is clear that as South Africa we will take some time to get to the point where we are all tolerant and accepting of diversity. It is unacceptable for the mayor to speak extremely carelessly and irresponsibly like that,” said AC2 Director Steve Letsike.
“This kind of behaviour and statement should be condemned and actions should be taken to address this. It is clear the mayor is homophobic and this could result in attacks towards the LGBTI community,” added Letsike.
AC2 also demanded that Mthethwa issue a public apology and a withdrawal of his homophobic statements and that he halt his “proposed homophobic door-to-door campaign”.
The organisation further called on national and local government to “condemn such barbaric statements” and take action to sensitise senior officials on LGBTI and gender issues.