South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) is urging President Jacob Zuma to tell Nigerian President Jonathan Goodluck to oppose an anti-gay bill in Nigeria’s parliament.
Kenneth Mubu, DA Spokesperson on International Relations and Co-operation, said:
President Jacob Zuma is set to visit Nigeria on Saturday. He must use this as an opportunity to urge his Nigerian counterpart to veto the bill on the grounds that it violates fundamental human rights.
The protection and promotion of human rights is officially a guiding principle of South Africa’s foreign policy.
It is incumbent on President Zuma to use his position as leader of an influential African nation to promote human rights on the African continent. However, he has thus far repeatedly failed to do so.
Mubu pointed out that South Africa has not condemned the reintroduction of the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill into Uganda’s parliament. It has also appointed an anti-gay journalist, Jon Qwelane, as South African ambassador to Uganda. South Africa is the the only African country that boasts a fully LGBT inclusive constitution.
Says diaspora South African writer Melanie Nathan of the Qwelane appointment:
Despite the fact that [Qwelane] may be “aware” of the Constitution, as the Minister Nkoana-Mashabane suggests, failing a renunciation of his article, which still stands on the record despite the years, reveals the plain fact that the emissary Qwelane, who represents an all inclusive country, remains on the record as the homophobic ambassador to a homophobic country. Nothing alters that picture; and so DIRCO [Department of International Relations and Cooperation], Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, President Jacob Zuma are complicit in what is clearly Qwelane’s contempt for the South African Constitution.
In September, Jerry Matjila, the newly appointed DIRCO director-general, told The Independent that South Africa’s approach to human rights in Africa would change.
“The president and the minister have told every one of our diplomats that ‘the Bill of Rights is your Bible’,” he said.
“We have a vision to create a better world with more justice and more human rights.”
In June, Matjila sponsored and persuaded the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to adopt a resolution to establish a working group to discuss how human rights law could be used to protect gays.
Many African countries opposed the move but he told them:
Our constitution enjoins us to tackle this issue. Can we keep quiet or not lead? No. We had to. Of course you lose friends and allies, but as a country we feel we have to defend them because it’s the right thing to do.
The Nigerian anti-gay bill, which has passed its first reading in the House of Representatives, would make it a punishable offense — of up to 14-years in prison — for anybody to go to a gay bar, to work for or be involved with LGBT organizations, or to be in an openly gay relationship.
Anyone who doesn’t report men or women living together — a ‘gay marriage’ in this bill — would also be punished. The bill appears to punish anyone supporting LGBT human rights, or even writing about gay people.