Jacob Zuma vows to reverse same-sex marriage rights in South Africa

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Former President Jacob Zuma says same-sex marriage is repressive and undemocratic (Photo: uMkhonto weSizwe / Facebook)

Disgraced former President Jacob Zuma has raised alarms within the LGBTIQ+ community by seemingly spearheading a campaign to undermine the hard-won rights of same-sex couples in South Africa.

A recent report by the Sunday Times shed light on Zuma’s remarks during a campaign rally in Pietermaritzburg earlier this month, where he addressed over 3,000 supporters of his uMkhonto weSizwe party, set to participate in this year’s elections.

Zuma told the crowd that he was sympathetic to concerns from traditional leaders on the issue of same-sex marriage and that he believes this was legislated undemocratically and lacked support from the majority of South Africans.

“That is why I was being called by the tribal authority. If we win as a party, we would change the repressive laws which are anti-democratic. If this law was brought before people, do you think it would have passed?” he was quoted as saying.

This isn’t the first time Zuma has expressed opposition to marriage equality. Dating back to 2006, he labelled same-sex marriage as “a disgrace to the nation and to God,” revealing a perspective rooted in discriminatory views.

He also infamously stated: “When I was growing up, unqingili [‘homosexuals’] could not stand in front of me. I would have knocked him out.”

While Zuma later claimed his comments were misinterpreted and apologised, his recent alleged remarks cast doubt on the sincerity of that apology.

Dawie Nel, Executive Director of OUT LGBT Well-being, voiced his unease, stating, “It is truly troubling that a South African leader who fought against the oppression of the apartheid state is now campaigning to erase the rights of some of its citizens.”

“If he’s been quoted correctly, Jacob Zuma’s comments suggest that his understanding of our democracy and Constitution leaves much to be desired. We urge him to stand by the words of his 2006 apology in which he stated that ‘Our Constitution clearly states that nobody should be discriminated against on many grounds including sexual orientation, and I uphold and abide by the Constitution of our land,'” said Nel.

The organisation called on political parties that are participating in the upcoming 2024 elections, including uMkhonto weSizwe, to embrace the equal rights and dignity of all South Africans and refrain from exploiting and targeting vulnerable minorities, such as the LGBTIQ+ community, for cheap political gain.

South Africa’s remarkable journey towards LGBTIQ+ inclusivity since 1994 includes the legalisation of same-sex marriage with the enactment of the Civil Union Act in 2006.

This achievement was prompted by a unanimous judgment of the Constitutional Court that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. It marked the country as a pioneer in recognising the rights of same-sex couples in Africa.

Zuma’s comments underscore the importance of a united front against any attempts to erode these hard-fought rights.

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