Monday, March 30, 2009

COPE Lied To Us!

Late last year I was part of a group that lobbied the new party COPE to include GLBT rights in its policies and manifesto. COPE was then making all the right human rights noises and astonishingly even invited GLBT to the table. It seems in hindsight, that it may well have been just another ploy to win as much support as they could, at almost any cost. Almost.

The two page long list of matters affecting GLBT submitted to COPE were initially well recieved, talked about and the small group of activists I was a part of were praised as 'human rights champions' - and then at the Bloemfontein Conference the list was tossed in file 13 and only a tiny mention of "sexual orientation" went into the COPE policy document, with "gender identity" being inexplicably left out altogether - and no mention of either being made in the election manifesto. To date no explanation for this strange behavior was ever offered, just excuses, despite rigorous questioning on our part. Some people on the COPE Facebook group at the time made the suggestion that 'gay rights are simply not important enough'. I find that remark appalling in the light of human rights abuses that still plague GLBT in SA.

Today for example, the Minister of the Presidency, our old health minister and friend, Manto "Dr Beetroot" Mse Mang, addressed "outstanding issues" on human rights such as the indigenous tradition of "forced marriages" - but funny enough hasn't said a word about the so-called "corrective rape" of lesbians currently rampant here in SA. Is that not an outstanding issue? People as far away as Alaska know about this issue in SA - but why has the SA government not taken it up yet - or even released a statement to acknowledge the existence of this problem and what it intends doing about it?

But I digress - not long after, it was announced that Pieter Marais of the New Labor Party was to be included in COPE and then we also tackled them on the matter of including a homophobe in the party hierarchy.The man clearly opposes GLBT equality - he and his New Labour Party were up until late last year even part of the Christian Democratic Alliance and helped draft - and signed - the so-called "Christian Charter" and subscribed to the rigidly anti-gay policy of the CDA.

Then Marais toddled off to join COPE, leaving the CDA to bitterly criticize his oh so unexpected betrayal.

COPE even reassured us Marais would be given no position where he could harm GLBT rights and "would have to toe the party line". The party also obscured whether he had brought the NLP with him to COPE, or if he was there simply as an individual, because such questions were deliberately either left unanswered or simply ignored.

Marais even made a statement at the time saying "the gays are out to get him" because we were lobbying COPE for an explanation for his inclusion. Guilty conscience?

Now it seems COPE (and Marais) revealed he was indeed placed in a position of power - COPE knowing full well that he is anti-gay - and because of his reputation it seems, he has finally been sidelined and has actually resigned (from yet another party) because of it!

But wait, there's more - a month or so ago COPE started romancing the religious right vote by appointing a Bishop as its presidential candidate. Dandala once was a co-leader of SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly), a homophobic Christian group which waged open war on same gender marriage a few years ago - along with Michael Cassidy - an openly hateful anti-gay rights campaigner. Dandala was also head of the AACC (All Africa Council of Churches) and as such he was quoted as saying many things about poverty and the HIV epidemic in African countries over which he held sway - such as Uganda - but not once has he been quoted as saying one single thing about the appalling human rights abuses against gay and transgender people in that same country, where religious leaders even call for the starvation to death of gay people as "punishment" for being gay. The question is simply screaming to get out: Did he simply not know about this rampant homophobic hatred in Uganda - or did he just think it wasn't worth commenting on? Take your pick - because he isn't answering, and neither is COPE. It seems COPE is now completely ignoring the interests of the GLBT community.

In February we publicly withdrew all support and endorsement for COPE - and were immediately beset upon by character assassins - apparently well educated, though you wouldn't guess by their narrow views - who made it pretty clear what they thought of anyone who dared to disagree with their theocratic wisdom. Not that it worried me too much - you tend to grow quite a thick skin while growing up with people who spit at you in the street, calling you a "f***ing queer piece of shit". In fact, since Dandala's appointment, on the COPE Facebook group the warning against derogatory remarks on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity has been taken down.

All this just shows where COPE's interests lie - and it isnt with GLBT or human rights! And it also shows that Marais (ex LP, NP, NNP, NLP, DA, CDA, COPE) is now such an unstable element (fortunately) that no self respecting party will ever touch him or take him seriously.

Bearing this in mind, apparently he is with the ANC now.

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