Sonke calls on Deputy President David Mabuza and the Presidency to denounce homophobic and transphobic laws across the continent

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) wishes to unequivocally condemn recent remarks by Deputy President, David Mabuza in respect of the potential revival of homophobic laws in Uganda.

It has been reported that Uganda may re-introduce the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that seeks to impose the death penalty for same-sex sexual conduct. In terms of existing laws from the colonial-era, those found guilty of “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” could already face life imprisonment.

These laws have led to the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda being subjected to systemic discrimination and abuse. Just this past weekend, police raided a gay-friendly bar in Uganda, and arrested as many as 120 people, allegedly on drug-related charges.

Amongst other things, Mabuza emphasised that South Africa should respect the principle of state sovereignty and non-interference under international law; that South Africa should not impose its own beliefs or morals on other countries; and that we must be decent enough to keep our mouths shut.

Mabuza’s comments are inconsistent with South Africa’s Constitution which expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Our courts have similarly found that discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity or expression is abhorrent to our constitutional values.

Mabuza’s reference to the principle of state sovereignty and non-interference in international affairs is misguided. Whilst states must respect the sovereignty of each state this does not detract from their duty to respect and protect fundamental human rights.

Both international and regional laws respect the inherent dignity of each person and acknowledge the fundamental rights of all persons without distinction of any kind.

Regionally this has been expressed through Resolution 275 of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights which calls on state parties to ensure the protection against violence and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity.

Mabuza’s comments must also be condemned because they feed into the myth that homosexuality is unAfrican and may be considered acceptable in some societies but not in others; this is a dangerous proposition that seeks to conceal homophobia and transphobia under the guise of cherishing African values.

To the contrary, various forms of sexual and gender identities have existed across the continent for centuries. Most of the laws criminalising homosexuality in Africa, are in fact colonial-era laws which have not been repealed. In this sense, there is nothing inherently African about transphobia or homophobia. Rather, the African value of ubuntu requires us to embrace the diversity of all persons regardless of difference.

Lastly, Mabuza’s insistence that South Africa should “keep its mouth shut” betrays our own history, where many nations across the continent aided South Africa in its struggle against apartheid. If history were to repeat itself, would Mabuza insist that the rest of the continent keeps its mouth shut and allow tyranny and racial oppression to have free reign again in South Africa?

Sonke calls on Mabuza to retract his remarks and issue an unconditional apology not only to the LGBTIQ+ community in South Africa but across Africa and the world at large.

In addition, Sonke calls on both Mabuza and the Presidency to confirm South Africa’s opposition to homophobic and transphobic laws across the continent and its commitments to our constitutional values which cherish human dignity, equality, and non-discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

For media enquiries, please contact:

  1. Given, CSI Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, 073 988 2870 or
  2. Ohene Yaw Ampofo-Anti, Sonke Health & Human Rights Fellow 2019-2020,