SA LGBTIQ+ Rights Watch: May 2023

OUT LGBT Well-being and MambaOnline publish a monthly overview of reported LGBTIQ+ rights violations in South Africa, including hate speech. We also look at the status of cases making their way through the criminal justice system. Here is our summary for May 2023.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) determined that a man’s homophobic religious rant on Facebook does not qualify as hate speech. Tiaan Van Graan’s post, which went viral in October 2020, condemned the LGBTIQ+ community as the work of the devil. The SAHRC concluded that the post, while potentially hurtful and offensive, did not incite hatred or harm and was protected by freedom of expression. The decision has sparked debate over the balance between free speech and protecting vulnerable communities from harm, especially considering recent actions taken by the SAHRC against singer Steve Hofmeyr for his anti-LGBTIQ+ comments.

The recent election of a mayor from the queerphobic Al Jama-ah party in Johannesburg by a coalition comprising the ANC, EFF, and PA has seen some question their stated allyship to the LGBTIQ+ community as political posturing. The appointment of Kabelo Gwamanda, a councillor from the Al Jama-ah party raises concerns given the party’s open homophobia, unconstitutional values and promotion of Islamic religious law. Gwamanda is the second Al Jama-ah party councillor voted into the mayoral role in Johannesburg by the coalition in recent months.

A pastor in Groblershoop, Northern Cape, faced backlash for his prayers claiming to exorcise demons that he believes cause autism, depression, and homosexuality. Rooies Strauss, who is also a crocodile farmer, attracted attention with his controversial practices, including praying for a young man with autism and attributing homosexuality to the devil. His comments were condemned as dangerous, with critics highlighting the harmful effects of conversion therapy, which attempts to change or “cure” someone’s sexuality through prayer or exorcism. Conversion therapy has been discredited and associated with negative mental health outcomes.

Khumbulani Pride, an event in Cape Town aimed at raising awareness about queer rights in townships and commemorating victims of hate crime, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a march to the Harare police station in Khayelitsha. Over 100 people marched, waving rainbow flags and singing, before heading to Seek Lounge where the names and pictures of deceased victims were displayed on the walls. The event serves as a platform for remembering those who have lost their lives and highlighting the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, including discrimination in churches. The occasion was marked by emotional speeches and candlelight tributes to victims.

The murder of Ntokozo Zuke, a 24-year-old gay man, caused grief and shock in KwaZulu-Natal. Zuke, who went missing on 8 May after attending a funeral, was found dead two weeks later in a mortuary. The circumstances surrounding his murder remain unclear, and it is unknown whether it was a hate crime related to his sexual orientation. Friends and community members expressed their sorrow and called for justice, emphasising Zuke’s positive and vibrant personality. A vigil was held to celebrate his life.

Deputy President Paul Mashatile addressed the South African government’s position on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in Parliament. In response to questions, Mashatile emphasised the need for engagement rather than imposing South Africa’s will. He refused to the condemn the oppressive law but stated that the government will continue to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights nationally and internationally. While some MPs called for more direct action, Mashatile again restated the importance of constructive engagement.

The case against Sizwe Buthelezi, the 36-year-old individual suspected of murdering lesbian Nomvula Chenene, has been repeatedly postponed. Chenene, the sister of former soccer star Bennett Chenene, went missing on 10 December 2022. Her remains were discovered buried underneath Buthelezi‚Äôs shack on 25 March in Lakeside, near Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg. According to Vaal LGBTI and Daily Sun, Chenene’s traumatised family have been unable to bury her remains until DNA tests confirm her identity. Buthelezi has made several appearances in the Vereeniging Magistrates Court, most recently on 8 June, where he was again remanded in custody pending the pathology results.

  • Have you experienced or witnessed an LGBTIQ+ rights violation such as a hate crime, hate speech or any other kind of LGBTIQ+ discrimination in South Africa? If you’d like to bring it to the attention of the LGBTIQ+ community, email info@mambaonline.com.
  • Access LGBTQI+ health, legal and other support services, and get information about your rights, gender and sexuality by dialing *120*72524# on any cellphone. *60c a minute.
  • If you need free support and/or legal advice on your LGBTIQ+ rights, please email OUT at report@out.org.za.