“South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation,” said President Jacob Zuma, in response to a parliamentary question seeking clarification of the country’s policy towards Uganda’s recently enacted anti-gay law.
“In this regard, through diplomatic channels South Africa engages with Uganda on areas of mutual concern bearing in mind Uganda’s sovereignty,” he said.
A harsh Anti-Homosexuality law was signed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on February 24, and punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.
South Africa’s Human Rights Commission has previously called upon Zuma’s government to condemn the law.
Zuma’s statement, however, makes it clear that South Africa will not join Western nations in taking action against Uganda for having passed the legislation.
Zuma has previously made several anti-gay remarks. In 2006 during his tenure as the Deputy President, Jacob Zuma told an audience: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a gay person) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”
Junior Mayema of the South African advocacy group, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) told LGBTQ Nation: “What is worrying is that Zuma isn’t even condemning the law, let alone taking any action.”
“It’s a backdrop in his campaign towards South Africa’s elections in May, and this makes me worried about Zuma’s complicity with homophobia,” said Mayema. “He has also been silent when Contralesa (the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa) has demanded a Constitutional Review to drop LGBT rights from the country’s constitution, which still is a present danger.”
“Far from following Mandela’s legacy of the Rainbow Nation, I fear he is leading South Africa towards a different, less tolerant path,” said Mayema.