Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Africa The Last Light Flickers And Wanes

This morning I heard the news on 5fm, and the thing that caught my attention was the announcement that Barrack Obama had announced the USA was going to sign the UN Declaration to decriminalize homosexuality. This, following the previous administration under Bush who refused to sign, along with the Vatican. Not very surprising because we all know those religious fundamentalists think they are better than everybody else and make a big show of hating gay people and anybody who happens to be different. 

So the USA now makes a u-turn in favour of equality, and human rights. I am sure this will draw the ire of bigots in the USA and around the world who are probably spluttering and squirting coffee through their noses over their breakfast news today. The thing is, South Africa did not sign either, and the news crew on 5fm never even brought that up. Nor did they mention the news that when GLBT advocacy orgs confronted the ANC government on that matter last year, the SA delegation to the UN said that we should not criticize them for "having principles".

I, like many others, would love to know just what the hell that is supposed to mean?

Note that SA's government has not issued any further statement on this issue, and especially not one indicating that they will change their minds about signing to support human rights. If they did, they might anger the fundamentalist bigots whose support the ANC is now courting.

To add to this, a man without any formal education who has had a criminal case and multiple charges of corruption pending against him for 7 years and who has made homophobic comments in the press now heads the governing party and is grooming himself to be the country's next president. Amid these allegations of corruption and the coincidental dismissal of a National Prosecuting Authority head who was prosecuting him, the disbanding of the Scorpions who were investigating him, it wasnt surprising at all that yesterday the NPA announced it was considering dropping the case against him completely. After all, his supporters claim to be willing to kill for him and are adamant that he WILL rule SA, even if it is from a prison cell. And he seems quite happy to go along with it all, after all, seven years ago he was the vice-president, and apparently it is good to be king.

This same man on sunday, from a pulpit in the homphobic Rhema Bible Church, called on church groups to talk to the ANC government to discuss matters which bother them about SA, most likely with reference to the upcoming elections - specifically the issue of gay marriage and the other favorite target of the fundamentalist bigots, legal abortions. Subsequently a horde of particularly fundamentalist parties and notably the ACDC - sorry, I mean the ACDP, are banging on Rhema's door to get a turn as well, presumably to boost their ratings. I always thought the reason people went to church was for their own souls, or to commune with their god, not to listen to party political rhetoric, albeit with a relgious twist every Sunday. I would think church for the folks at Rhema is going to get so monotonous over the next few weeks that they may even grow to appreciate why church and state are kept separate in the first place - and to agree that it is actually a good thing.

From his utterances, we know Zuma doesn't have time for GLBT, nor do many of his supporters - and in the past few years the ANC has repeatedly let down gay rights in its recent failure to address certain issues - so what are we to read into what must be to the gay-hating fundamentalists such a tantalizing offer? Will they throw us to the bigot wolves in exchange for their support?

No surprise then that the SA government, riding the crest of a wave which still proclaims its reputation to be the enlightened, human rights oriented and liberal inclined body it was under Mandela, is making some very contradictory moves and noises - or not, as the case may be. For ten years or longer, people in African countries have been persecuted for their sexuality by their own governments and churches - and SA's government has made a habit of saying nothing at all in their defence. Not one single thing. In fact, our government still trades with those countries and indulges in talks of future economic unity with them, jumping at the occasional chance to criticize these and other countries for other matters, though - but stay accusingly silent whenever GLBT rights happen to be an issue. And for a number of years the SA government has been associated with anti-gay group Focus on the Family, who pollutes society with their "abstinence education" religious programs in rural schools and the 'ex-gay' crap they peddle across SA. This is not an exageration, Focus brags about its "government partnership" on their website.

Is it just me, or does it seem that SA is starting on a steep backwards slide into the same suffocating darkness plaguing the rest of Africa? So hold your breath folks, the light in Africa is flickering in these rising winds of change. Will it go out? Stay tuned - April 22 isn't far off anymore - and neither is the new dark age.

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