A collective of LGBTIQ supporters of the ANC has applauded the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s new president.
On Thursday, following Jacob Zuma’s long-awaited resignation, Ramaphosa – the head of the ANC – was voted into office by Parliament as the country’s leader.
This was seen as a positive move by the Embrace Diversity Political Movement (EDPM), which describes itself as a “voice and advocate for LGBTI individuals within the broader Mass Democratic Movement.” The group has its genesis in efforts last year to establish an ANC LGBTIQ league.
In a statement, the EDPM said it “welcomes the ANC decision to deploy ANC President Ramaphosa for the election to be the President of the Republic of South Africa”.
It expressed its hope that the decision will “pave the way to an in-depth reflection, decisive course-correction and greater ANC and bring about unity to revitalise democratic approach and greater respect for the rule of law, and most importantly building an incredible South Africa.”
It further urged the President, the ANC and the Government to embrace “diversity amongst South Africans” and for the ANC in particular “to also become a vocal partner in our fight against the murder and victimisation of sexual minorities”.
The government recently came under fire for failing to follow through on a draft bill that would make much-needed hate crimes legislation a reality in South Africa.
While Jacob Zuma will be remembered for opposing same-sex marriage and famously stating in 2006 that if a gay person stood in front of him he “would knock him out”, Ramaphosa has been historically supportive of the LGBTIQ community.
As chairperson of Parliament’s Constitutional Assembly he played a key role in drafting the country’s Constitution, which specifically included the protection of LGBTIQ people – then a world first. He’s also played a prominent role in the fight against HIV as chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), which has embraced pro- LGBTIQ policies.
It was recently, however, that he made his strongest and most direct comments affirming sexual and gender minorities.
In a video recorded in November last year for the annual LGBTIQ Feather Awards, Ramaphosa said: “It is a sad truth that in our nation the LGBTI community are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised. They suffer discrimination, violence and abuse. We must as a nation do better than what we are now.
“We are all born the way we are. We need to support, embrace and respect each other. When we treat each other with dignity, we are all more dignified. When we treat each other with respect, we are all more respected. It is upon us all to contribute to the creation of a more just, equal and safe society,” said Ramaphosa.
He concluded by urging the audience to “affirm yourselves and your identities as well as your various diversities and celebrate your wonderful, beautiful, outstanding humanity.”