South Africa is certainly a country with contradictions. Most obviously, there is the fact that part of the population lives in a first world situation while another part lives in a third world situation but, beneath that, there is also the sharp contrast between people’s views. For example when I spoke about the good parts of my home city, I mentioned that South Africa was the fifth country in the world, and first in Africa, to legalise gay marriage. In fact such a tolerant legal attitude was in stark contrast to many other African countries.
It’s also in opposition to the views of many of our own politicians such as Jon Qwelane who was our ambassador to Uganda when he was found guilty of hate speech for writing a homophobic article. I should also say while I disagree with what he had to say I do think he should have been free to say it without being charged and having to pay a fine. It goes against the views of our Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Mogeoeng Mogoeng, who was a pastoral assistant at a church where he tried to cure homosexuality through prayers and counselling. And it goes against the views of our President, Jacob Zuma, who said, before South Africa legalised gay marriage, that gay marriage was a disgrace and that, when he was growing up, he would have knocked out any gay man that stood in front of him.
Despite all that hatred we had a constitution that was progressive and enshrined the rights of everyone. Despite attacks on gays we had a thriving gay community and, earlier this year, became the first African country to host Mr Gay World. But it seems that time has come to an end and, as Jon Qwelane wished, some politicians have decided it’s time to try rewrite the constitution. The House of Traditional Leaders has proposed amending the bill of rights to remove the protection against discrimination due to sexual orientation. Somehow this proposal has been sent for discussion rather than, like most changes, being thrown out immediately.
Considering the homophobic attitudes of a great number of senior politicians in the country it could actually be possible that we might see South Africa sliding backwards and loosing it’s ability to brag about it’s constitution. When someone starts saying that we should be free to discriminate according to sexual orientation you know it’s not a good sign, and there are so few of them as it is.