The leader of South Africa’s newest political party, Mamphela Ramphele, supports LGBT rights.
Ramphele heads the Agang party, Setswana for “Let’s Build,” which will challenge the National African Congress party next election. In an interview with City Press, she voiced strong opposition to homophobia and violence against LGBT people.
“That we have homophobia today is a disgrace,” she said. “We have a formal system that protects everybody to be able to express themselves. But again we haven’t educated people to understand that being orientated sexually in a particular way is not a crime, is not a disease; it’s not something you can cure. It is how God created us.”
The formal system that Ramphele refers to is a series of LGBT rights granted over the past 22 years in post-Apartheid South Africa. Today LGBT people can perform joint adoptions, serve openly in the military, and even marry. They are also constitutionally protected from discrimination.
However, LGBT people still face instances of harassment and violence. In 2011, lesbian and activist Noxolo Nogawaza was attacked and killed in what are called “corrective rapes,” when a lesbian is raped to punish or “correct” her behavior. The BBC reported that many gay and lesbian South Africans believed that such acts were becoming increasingly common. Last June, a transgender female, Thalepo Makutle, was brutally killed and beheaded in Northern Cape Town in an alleged hate crime.
Ramphele’s party has not put forth any specific policies to protect LGBT individuals. “The party’s political platform,” she says, is still “consulting widely with fellow South Africans.” But LGBT people will be included in her efforts to revive the South African dream of a “prosperous constitutional democracy united in its diversity.”
Ramphele is a medical doctor and businesswoman, as well as a former anti-Apartheid activist and leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, which focused on social activism and business.