The Gay & Lesbian Network hosted a local government election public meeting yesterday (14 July 2016) in Pietermaritzburg.
The aim of the public meeting was to provide an opportunity for those who are marginalized and vulnerable especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) to engage with the major political parties on issues of concern to them with regards to local governance, service delivery issues and hate crimes. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was also invited to provide an overview of the election processes and voter education.
The following political parties confirmed their attendance: ANC, DA, IFP and EFF. The following party representatives were expected: Mzi Zuma (ANC); Martin Meyer (DA); Vusi Khoza (EFF) and IFP were yet to advise who they would send. The only party or representative that honoured the commitment was Martin Meyer of the DA.
Anthony Waldhausen, director of the Gay & Lesbian Network said, “The lack of commitment shown by a failure to attend gives the impression that politicians and their respective parties do not care about the LGBTI electorate and, possibly, the other vulnerable and marginalized sectors of the local population. The level of civil unrest in the country is unsurprising given the failure to engage with the electorate when suitable platforms are provided prior to the elections. It would therefore seem that the DA is the only party willing to engage with the LGBTI electorate ahead of the local government elections scheduled for 3 August 2016.”
With South Africa’s abstention from the UN Human Rights Council in respect of the Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity resolution; this is a disappointing blow to the organizations that are working for the protection of lives of LGBTI people in South Africa.
Mr Waldhausen later commented that “We will keep attempting to engage various political parties throughout the year. We have accordingly extended an invitation to various political parties to march alongside us during the Street Parade in Pietermaritzburg on 28 October 2016 as part of the Pink Mynah Festival. This would be a welcome symbol of support and willingness to journey with us in making Pietermaritzburg the City of Choice, even for the vulnerable and marginalized.”
Sarah Rule, director of CREATE, a disability rights organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, said “ CREATE supports the Gay and Lesbian Network in its concern that the political parties do not deem vulnerable groups (including people with disabilities) sufficiently important for party representatives to attend this meeting. We are keen to build an informed electorate but the missing parties clearly do not have the same values”.