9th May 2012

Have they not heard? The people shall govern!


Statement of the Joint Working Group: The Congress of Traditional Leaders challenge of the clause in the South African Constitution that protects sexual orientation

The Joint Working Group, which represents the formal sector of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Community in South Africa, writes in protest of the suggested changes to the Constitution as proposed by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa). The JWG also calls on the ANC to do more than just distance itself from the statements of ANC MP Patekile Holomisa who, coincidentally, not only chairs Contralesa, but is also the Chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, which considers all public proposals for amendments to the Constitution.

In 2011, the House of Traditional Leaders submitted a proposal to the Constitutional Review Committee of the National Assembly to amend Section 9 of the Constitution, which protects many minorities from unfair discrimination, specifically targeting the clause that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Why now has this committee considered a proposal that will erode the rights of a significant percentage of the population? And referred it to the political parties for review? This has never happened before. A recent Die Burger report notes that Holomisa has confirmed that in 17 years the Constitutional Review Committee has rejected all public proposals for amendments to the Constitution.

This is not the only assault planned on the Constitution by Conrtralesa using the vague arguments of ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’.  The proposed Traditional Courts Bill too, is an unconscionable effort to erode the rights of South African citizens, particularly women. This Bill would centralise executive, administrative and judicial powers in one person. The constitutionality of certain sections of this proposed Bill are already being challenged by civil society.

The Daily Dispatch reports that the Contralesa leader in the Eastern Cape, Xolile Ndevu, has denied the existence of LGBTIQ people. In his jumbled defence of the Traditional Courts Bill he has said that gays and lesbians have nothing to fear from the traditional courts as traditional leaders want nothing to do with homosexuality.

Where is the sense in this when increasing levels of gender-based violence, particularly against black lesbians and transgender people, has resulted in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development setting up a government-led task team to investigate these crimes and how they are dealt within the criminal justice system.

In the first instance, Holomisa should have recused himself from the Constitutional Review Committee. As he did not, the process is already flawed. Regardless, it continues apace. We are dealing with Conservatives, who resist change, and use the excuse of culture and tradition to perpetuate their sexist, misogynist, classist, and patriarchal agenda.

We call on the Government to immediately intervene and put an end to this process

For further enquiries contact:

Jayne Arnott

Triangle Project

021 448 3812


On behalf of the JWG

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