DA writes to Minister over UN vote

Kenneth Mubu says recent action ran contrary to our constitution

UN vote: DA writes to minister

The Democratic Alliance has written a letter to the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation in response to South Africa's recent vote to remove reference to sexual orientation from a United Nations resolution on extrajudicial killings. We believe that this vote runs contrary to our constitution and will serve to weaken the international community's response to extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation.

A copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Minister

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted with concern that South Africa's United Nations delegation has voted to remove reference to sexual orientation from a United Nations resolution on extrajudicial killings. In doing so, South Africa has voted in the company of states which carry the death penalty for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex:  Iran, Nigeria, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Other states which voted for the removal of reference to sexual orientation from the resolution include: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belize, Libya, Tanzania, Comoros, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Morocco, Burundi, Eritrea, Angola, Kenya, Cameroon, Algeria, Tunisia, Kuwait, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Guyana, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Malaysia. In all of these states, homosexual acts are illegal, and punishments vary from public floggings to hefty, and in some case life, sentences.

It is very disappointing for South Africa to be among the 79 states which voted to have the amendment to this resolution passed. The explanation for this vote offered by South Africa's UN representative - that the international law is "insufficiently clear on the definition of sexual orientation", according to the official UN minutes - is patently ridiculous.

We have voted to weaken the international community's response to extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation, and this, to be frank, makes a mockery of our constitution, which is widely regarded as one of most progressive in the world. South Africa should be leading the way in promoting LGBT rights on the African continent, and further afield. Our foreign policy should set an example. Instead, we are voting with states that publicly flog and execute their own citizens.

With neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique joining South Africa in voting in favour of this amendment, it is quite conceivable that, had South Africa adopted a more principled stance, we could have influenced enough other states in the region to take up the same position, and thus change the outcome of the final vote.

Before becoming president, President Zuma repeatedly demonstrated severe insensitivity to the rights of gay and lesbian South Africans. On one occasion, he stated: "When I was growing up, an ungqingili (homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out." More recently, the president appointed Jon Qwelane, an outspoken homophobe, as Ambassador to Uganda. Our concern is that our UN vote appears to be part of an increasing trend of disdain being shown by the Zuma administration towards the LGBT rights.

There is absolutely clear evidence that sexual orientation has been a motive for many extrajudicial killings, and that the inclusion of reference to sexual orientation in this resolution was therefore appropriate and necessary. We wish to request absolute clarity from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as to why this decision was taken, whether the Department sanctioned it, and why South Africa appears to have been complicit in voting to undermine one of the most fundamental liberties upheld by our constitution.


Kenneth Mubu

Statement issued by Kenneth Mubu, MP, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, November 22 2010

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter