Historic victory as Durban’s eThekwini Council passes LGBTI+ motion


After years of refusing to be silenced, a councillor in the eThekwini Municipality has finally succeeded in having the city approve its first pro-LGBTI+ motion.

The motion, introduced by DA councilors Martin Meyer and Caelee Laing, was passed unanimously by all parties present at a council meeting on Tuesday (a lone ACDP councilor was absent at the time).

It was an emotional moment for Meyer, who has been unrelenting in his demand that the city acknowledge and support its often marginalised LGBTI+ citizens. “I’m so excited,” Meyer told MambaOnline after the vote. “Finally we’ve had this victory. I’m actually almost in tears.”

The historic motion notes that, “24 years into our democracy the LGBTI+ community still face many challenges in our city.” It then resolves that the Community Services Committee investigates and reports back to the council on “a formal engagement that shall be hosted by the municipality with relevant stakeholders of the LGBTI+ community in eThekwini focusing on challenges and needs of the LGBTI+ community of this city.”

Meyer says this is the first time “any type of LGBTI motion” has been passed by the council. (It’s also believed to be the first time since 2014 that the ANC has supported any motion proposed by a DA councillor in the city.)

“The time of our community being ignored is now over. Now the ANC led eThekwini municipality has to acknowledge and engage with our community,” said Meyer.

He added: “The fact that something as small as an engagement between our community and the city is seen as something big shows how far behind this city is in recognising and accommodating our community.”

Meyer first introduced a motion for the city to support Durban Pride back in 2011 and in 2014, without success (and also had to face homophobic taunts from other councillors at the time).

In June of this year, EThekwini Municipality Council Speaker William Mapena rejected a new motion by Meyer calling on the city to recognise Pride Month, to fly the Pride flag outside City Hall and to engage in a programme of sensitivity training with the Metro Police. When Meyer and a group of supporters went ahead and defiantly flew the rainbow flag outside the Durban City Hall, security personnel forced him to take it down.

In August and September, Mapena again rejected another motion, almost identical to the one passed on Tuesday. Mapena told Mambaonline that the motions had been refused because they were submitted unprocedurally and “in violation of the rules.”

Councillor Martin Meyer

Finally, after months of criticism and public pressure Mapena met with Meyer last week and agreed to allow a slightly amended version of the motion to be debated in council, resulting in its unanimous approval.

Writing on Facebook after the victory, Meyer cited an example of the kind of discrimination and stigma faced by LGBTI+ people in Durban.

“Like the young man that told a nurse at a city clinic that he was gay and wanted assistance with PrEP [HIV prevention medication]. A few days later, when he got home after school, his dad attacked him with a sjambok, because this nurse went to church with his parents and she told his parents that their son is gay. He now lives with his grandmother.”

Meyer has already engaged with the DA representative on the Community Services Committee to ensure that it will implement the motion. “I don’t want the motion to get lost in the paperwork. Now the real work starts in making sure they follow through on this decision of council,” he said.

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