Zuma’s alliance with religious right threatens constitutional rights

Christina Engela discusses the new direction of Jacob Zuma’s South Africa and the ANC’s relationship with right wing church leaders..and a plan to “”assist government” in “cleaning up society”.

Separate but equal”, they are calling this insult in the USA – and if a civil union is truly so great and so equal in their view, then why don’t THEY get “civil unioned” instead of “married”? See? Even the use of the term is clumsy and awkward. It sticks in my throat like the insult to my dignity it is. Why don’t THEY get “civil unioned” if it is so “equal”? Because “marriage” has a nice ring to it, and “civil union” doesn’t. It’s not equal – it’s second best – and if it’s not as good, then it’s not equal.

There is a word which sums up this “separate but equal” mentality – Apartheid. And we all know how separate and how equal that was.

In any case, these same groups who object to abortion usually oppose gay rights in general – in fact, it seems to define them as fundamentalist and radical right wing groups. They also decry the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1994, not being above begrudging other people the chance of having a little happiness in the world. They in effect object to the existence of gay people, let alone their getting married! Since 1994 the religious right-wing groups in SA have been working to reintroduce religion into schools and government – and to dominate the Constitution. They have campaigned ceaselessly to demonize the pink community in the perception of the public – and to remove every law which grants us a smidgen of equality and human rights.

When religious law becomes civil law, does the state not cease being secular, and become theocratic or theocentric?

Where am I heading with all this? Surely the fight for gay rights and marriage equality in South Africa is long over? Ah, whereto indeed?

Just as in the USA it seems, winning the right to marry doesn’t mean we will be able to keep it – fundamentalist gay-haters and other anti-social malcontents seem to overturn these human rights rulings, resulting in a kind of see-saw effect, which we saw recently with Proposition 8 (appropriately named Proposition Hate) and even more recent human rights defeats there. Will this vicious cycle manifest here in South Africa as well?

A month before the elections, when Rhema invited Jacob Zuma to speak, I had already been warning of the dangers of mixing religion and politics for almost a year, that we could expect this from the fundamentalist quarter. People have dismissed me as a crank and a drama queen and even a trouble-maker – and yet, there it is, in black and white, in print in a national newspaper – giving me the unpleasant task and opportunity to say “I told you so!”

Mr Zuma made fine use of the opportunity offered by Ray Mc Cauley to grandstand and vie for the attention of the voting conservative Christian fundamentalists. While all the jealousy and belly-aching of parties such as the ACDP, who afterwards complained bitterly that they were not allowed the same privilege, was all too amusing to me – for the rest of us who have been paying attention to current events in the country, the alarm bells went off.

Why? Because – during his address to the Rhema congregation, Mr Zuma put the hard-won rights of the gay community to marry their partners on the bargaining table to secure more votes from the discerning Christian right. He told them to approach the government about issues which trouble them, such as gay marriage and abortion.

Read the full essay here.

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