JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has elected the country’s first openly gay, black Member of Parliament (MP).
Zakhele Mbhele, 29, was sworn in last week as part of South Africa’s fifth democratic Parliament, and is thought to be the first gay black MP on the African continent, reports Mamba Online.
Mbhele said that becoming an MP had been a goal of his for about six years, “So realizing it now is literally a dream come true.”
He admitted that the impact of his achievement as a gay man hasn’t been at the front of his mind. “I know what it means as a historical milestone but I’m not walking around thinking of myself as the first openly gay black MP in Africa or singularly defining myself by it.”
Mbhele, a former LGBT activist, previously led the University of Witwatersrand’s LGBT campus group when he studied there and served on the board of Joburg Pride for a number of years.
Article continues belowHe then moved into politics, becoming the Media Liaison Officer for Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, before entering Parliament.
Mbhele said he hopes that his new high profile position will inspire LGBT youth to believe in themselves and to have confidence in their ability to realize their goals.
“One of the most damaging things about homophobia is its destructive effect on a young LGBT person’s self-esteem,” he said. “That was certainly one of the issues I grappled with when I was coming to terms with my sexuality in my teen years.”
Mbhele’s racial background is significant and groundbreaking in Africa, reports Mamba Online, where many still labour under the belief that homosexuality is not natural to the African soil.