Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has hit out at Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s anti-gay Bill, telling a public audience in Kampala that what two consenting adults do in private “is really not the matter of law.”
The visiting former head of state’s comments will come as a boost to the crusaders of gay rights in Uganda. Mr Mbeki, a guest of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), issued the comments during a three-hour public question and answer session on Thursday evening debating post-cold war Africa and why the continent is reliant on external interventions in dealing with local issues.
Mr Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, first tabled in the 8th Parliament, is currently collecting dust on the shelves of the 9th Parliament following wide international uproar in large part for a clause that seeks to hand down the death penalty for aggravated homosexuality, including the spreading of HIV/Aids.
His stand on gay rights followed a question by law don Sylvia Tamale, a strong proponent of sexual parity, who asked what the ex-leader would say to Mr Bahati about the plight of a lesbian woman seeking recognition of her divergent sexual orientation.
“I would say to the MP; sexual preferences are a private matter,” said Mr Mbeki. “I don’t think it is a matter of the state to intervene.” Mr Mbeki said he was certain that Mr Bahati would disagree with his stand and argue that African culture does not permit same sex relations, a reason at the heart of the continent’s wide spread antipathy towards homosexuals.
Mr Mbeki said apartheid South Africa prohibited sexual relations “across the colour line” aided by The Immorality Act which handed the police legal ground to raid “people’s bedrooms” before dragging them to court for prosecution.
“I mean what would you want? It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law,” he said. Mr Mbeki also responded to a series of questions about the failure of Africa’s present day intellectuals to cultivate ideas for progressive movement of change on the continent and the weakness of the African Union in defending and promoting the interests of Africans.
He said a weak and selfish political class, responsible for collaborating with Western imperialists to lead external intervention for selfish end on the continent, had played a leading role in clamping down progressive intellectuals since viewed as opposition to their hold on power.
However, Mr Bahati yesterday said the Bill was brought to curb a several issues including inducement, recruitment and funding homosexuality. “His excellency (Mr Mbeki) needs to read the Bill and understand the spirit in which it was brought and the context in which we are talking about,” Mr Bahati said.
Additional reporting by Mercy Nalugo