Thami Dish on Gauteng Premier Makhura’s broken promises on LGBTIQ+ equality

Thami Kotlolo (aka Thami Dish)

Feather Awards founder Thami Kotlolo has called out Premier David Makhura for failing to deliver a long-promised LGBTIQ+ Desk in Gauteng and the South African government for not taking action on queer rights.

In a scathing open letter to Makhura, Kotlolo, who is popularly known as Thami Dish, said that since 2014, the premier had repeatedly committed to creating the LGBTIQ+ Desk to promote and secure the equality of LGBTIQ+ people in the province.

To date, Kotlolo said, “nothing has happened.” The disillusioned activist noted that LGBTIQ+ people continue to be killed and attacked in hate crimes around the country and said that the province and the government have done little to secure their safety or to provide safe spaces and opportunities for them.

“So, Premier David Makhura, I am personally very disappointed. I trusted you and so did the community I belong to. I believed that you understood how important these issues were. I believed that you understood how many people were suffering and I hoped that you were committed to addressing the problems,” wrote Kotlolo.

Kotlolo is also the founder of the Thami Dish Foundation, which supports LGBTIQ+ youth, and in 2018 organised the first Global LGBTIQ+ Network Conference in Johannesburg.

The letter, which was issued at the start of Pride Month in Gauteng, is published in full below.

Dear Premier Makhura,

In October 2014 when you promised to establish an LGBTIQ+ Desk in your office specifically tasked to respond to the multiple (and serious) issues faced by LGBTIQ+ people in the province, we felt joyful and hopeful that this would be the beginning of a new trajectory by the South African Government.

To this day, nothing has happened.

In 2015 again, at the Feather Awards, you as the Premier committed to furthering the rights of LGBTIQ+ people.  

To this day, nothing has happened.

On the 9th of December 2016, I was excited when you as the Premier announced an LGBTIQ+ Ntirhisano. 

We mobilised the community and met with multiple government departments to discuss the needs of the LGBTIQ+ Community. 

You again committed the entire province to action, and again to having a dedicated LGBTIQ+ Desk in his office.

To this day, nothing has happened

In 2017, in your speech at the State of the Province Address, you reiterated the importance of having a dedicated LGBTIQ+ Desk in your office.   

And nothing happened.

In 2018 the Department of Community Safety spear-headed a series of LGBTIQ+ Training Workshops for Law Enforcement Agents. The under-funded “transformation” office at the Department of Education ran a few workshops for teachers.  

And at our Global LGBTIQ+ Network Conference in October 2018, Premier you again announced that you wanted Gauteng to be a “heaven” for gay people.

And still no LGBTIQ+ Desk … and still no budget … and still no consistent implementation or solid commitment.

It has been a trail of unfulfilled and broken promises.

Meanwhile Premier…

  • Gay teens are still committing suicide … and we don’t know how many.  
  • Lesbian women are still being raped … and not enough awareness is raised.
  • Transgender Women face abuse in their communities, are excluded from shelters around the province … and have none of their own.  
  • Our community still … still struggles to find respectful, informed care at clinics.
  • Our teens are still… still are bullied, harassed and intimidated at school … even by teachers and principals.

To paint a more vivid picture…

  • Nare Mphela: According to reports, the 27-year-old had been repeatedly stabbed and her body was burned and decomposing in her rented room in Makopane.
  • Simangaliso Dyasi: Dyasi’s body was found on 7 September 2020 in his room after reportedly being shot several times.
  • Theshen Naicker: better known as alter ego “Aunty Sheila”, was the victim of an alleged homophobic attack (verbal and physical) at a hotel. He opened a case and lost.
  • Sisonke Yafele: he was beaten with a stick, punched, kicked and hacked with an axe, leaving him hospitalised with cuts, bruises and a deep gash in his leg. 
  • Ayanda Gwentse: A transgender woman from Eastern Cape who was verbally assaulted by a street vendor at a shopping mall. The Vendor even tried to pull up her skirt in an effort to embarrass her.
  • Ayanda Mpanza and Thandeka Phewa: mercilessly beaten and verbally abused for being lesbian, and further victimised by the police when they went to report the case.

This is but a drop in the ocean to what my foundation encounters on a daily basis. We could do so much more if the government adhered to all commitments made to the LGBTIQ+ community.

LGBTIQ+ rights have been recognised in the South African Constitution for nearly 25 years and yet we are still arguing for the protection of those rights … for they are not protected in schools, in health clinics, in housing, in Social Development.

  • We are being abused, we are being excluded, we are being left out at every level. 
  • And still no funding. Still no proper research. Still no dedicated programmes.  
  • And still no consistent, compulsory awareness training for all health-care workers, teachers, ECD practitioners, Home Affairs officials and police officers.
  • Still no dedicated help line for teens, support for families, shelters for victims of hate crimes.  
  • Still no, pro-active, progressive action from this government.
  • Still not living up to their responsibilities or pronounced commitments.

So, Premier David Makhura, I am personally very disappointed. I trusted you and so did the community I belong to. I believed that you understood how important these issues were. I believed that you understood how many people were suffering and I hoped that you were committed to addressing the problems.  

As we enter Pride Month 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the LGBTIQ+ Community of Gauteng is struggling because there has been no dedicated support for them, no psycho-social support as they are isolated in unsympathetic communities and there are no LGBTIQ+ programmes in all of the GBV campaigns.

The abuse of the LGBTIQ+ community is systemic, heteronormativity and homophobia are systemic. 

Our Constitution demands equality, our responsibility is inclusion.

Time for promises is over! Time for inaction is over! The ball is in your court!

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