Deputy President David Mabuza refused to condemn human rights violations against members of the LGBTQ+ community across Africa during a question session in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday.
The initial question from KwaZulu-Natal DA MP Tim Brauteseth was “how the South African constitutional imperatives to protect marginalised persons and communities are aligned with the silence on the part of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation on the developments in Uganda whose parliament is considering an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that intends to impose sentences ranging from seven years in prison to death for either being gay or supporting anyone who is”.
Mabuza, however, outlined the human rights protection in South Africa’s Bill of Rights.
“This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of our democracy and individual rights. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.”
He read Section 9(3) of the Bill of Rights which states: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
“Notwithstanding our constitutional provisions, the honourable member should note that our laws should not be in violation of international law that we are signatories to,” Mabuza said.
He added international law guaranteed states’ sovereignty and their right to exercise their independence including making their own laws without the interference of other states.
“In this regard, our government upholds the international principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. South Africa only intervenes in situations where parties in conflict officially request her assistance and or intervention.
“Similarly, South Africa, therefore, respects the sovereignty of the Republic of Uganda, and any other nation.
“In line with our constitutional provisions, we condemn any form of human rights violations and abuses, especially when perpetrated by any state, including those directed at lesbian, gay and transgender persons, otherwise known as LGBTQ+.”
He said the government adopted a comprehensive human rights approach to same-sex or LGBTQIA-related rights and in 2011 mandated a national task team to develop a national intervention strategy to address corrective rape.
In his follow-up question, Brauteseth said South Africa was a beacon on the African continent for the protection of LGBTQ+ rights, adding there were 34 African countries with anti-gay laws, the irony being that many were remnants of the colonial era.
“I’m asking you to take a principled stand and condemn human rights abuses across Africa,” Brauteseth said.
“It is not as easy as you say,” Mabuza responded.
He said his position was the same as that of Brauteseth.
“We must respect the sovereignty of other states,” he said, adding that the African Union or Southern African Development Community would be appropriate forums to discuss the matter.
“You can’t put yourself to be morally above others,” Mabuza said, adding South Africa should not impose its beliefs. “Let us not be arrogant.”
EFF MP Mmabatho Mokause said: “What is happening in Uganda is bad. It should not happen anywhere in the world. The silence of South Africa is questionable. Is this driven by fear or cowardice?”
“Malibongwe!” cheered Brauteseth. “Well done, my sister!”
Mabuza said: “We always respect the sovereignty of Uganda.”