Internationally recognised LGBTIQ+ advocate Steve Letsike was nominated but not elected to the ANC’s NEC
The ANC has been accused of sidelining South Africa’s LGBTIQ+ community after failing to elect a single openly queer member to its National Executive Committee (NEC).
Thousands of delegates at the party’s 55th Elective Conference in Johannesburg this week were tasked with electing the 87-member NEC, the ANC’s highest decision-making body.
There were high hopes that Steve Letsike, the internationally recognised LGBTIQ+ advocate and dedicated ANC member, would be one of the nominees chosen for inclusion in the NEC. This, however, failed to materialise, despite considerable lobbying of branches and delegates.
In a statement, the ANC-aligned Embrace Diversity Political Movement (EDPM) said the ANC’s membership had “missed an opportunity to chart a defining moment in the history of gender politics in South Africa, and it is an embarrassing moment to say the least”.
It added that was “a reminder that the LGBTIQ+ still has a mountain to climb until the day it shall find expression in the leadership of the congress movement”.
EDPM Secretary General, Duncan Swarts described Letsike’s snub as “a spit on the face of the work and existence of LGBTIQ organising in the Mass Democratic Movement.”
A deliberate erasure and marginalisation of the LGBTIQ+ voice in key decision making
The group noted that Letsike “has dedicated her life not only to the advancement of marginalised communities but has also played a central role in supporting this gigantic movement with her skills and expertise on the approach to safeguarding the community and its human rights.”
Swarts said that Letsike’s rejection indicated an “endemic conservative and anti-queer” stance and showed a lack of political will to affirm the party’s commitment to queer inclusion and representation in its racks.
“We believe that it is now apparent that the LGBTIQ+ will remain on the sidelines and our struggle led and represented by those without our lived experiences,” said Swarts. “We view this lack of support as a deliberate erasure and marginalisation of the LGBTIQ+ voice in key decision making.”
Although disappointed by the lack of LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the election, the EDPM nevertheless urged the incoming NEC to ensure that issues affecting the LGBTIQ+ community are represented and addressed by all of the ANC’s structures.
The group also called on the NEC to set up an “LGBTIQ+ Desk” under the office of the newly elected First Deputy Secretary General, Nomvula Mokonyane. The desk, it said, should be a forum to ensure that LGBTIQ+ matters are included in policy discussions, organisational programmes and “participation in the life of the organisation”.
While congratulating the newly elected NEC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the EDPM expressed its hope that Ramaphosa will further expand his support for the protection of LGBTIQ+ human rights in his second term of office.