We must speak out against injustice – whether it’s against the LGBTQI community or a sovereign nation

The following speech was delivered by DA Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen, at the Gay Pride in Cape Town today. A soundbite is attached here.

Good afternoon, Cape Town.

What a beautiful day this is in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. And aren’t we blessed to be here today at Gay Pride, in support and celebration of the LGBTQI community.

To be able to proudly walk though Cape Town’s streets – free to be whomever we want to be, to love whomever we want to love. I’m certainly proud to be an ally of this community.

Every freedom won and every advancement of human rights is a victory for all of us.

It seems unreal that, only a couple of decades back, none of this would have been possible. Just 28 years ago being gay was still considered a crime in South Africa.

One and a half decades ago same-sex marriage was still not legal. We have come far, and the world is undoubtedly a much better place for it.

But still this is not enough. Because as long as people are persecuted, threatened or harmed for simply being who they are, this fight continues.

While today’s colourful celebration feels so natural and so right, there are many parts of our country where this simply could not happen. Even with our liberal constitution and inclusive laws, there are still parts of South Africa where a Gay Pride parade would be a very dangerous idea.

In fact, there are parts of this beautiful city where just being yourself out in the open puts a target on your back.

Just last year, in a two-month reign of terror, at least six young people were killed here in Cape Town for being gay. And those are six that we know of – the real number could be far higher.

We must say their names so that no one can ever forget them.

  •  Nathaniel Mbele.
  •  Andile Ntuthela.
  •  Lonwabo Jack.
  • Sphamandla Khoza.
  •  Lulama Mvandaba.
  •  Anele Bhengu.

These were the victims of the most brutal and evil hate crime, and the fact that this can still happen today, here in this modern and liberal city, should be a wake-up call to all of us.

So while we share this wonderful day with the Mother City’s LGBTQI community, and celebrate how far we have come as a society, let us also use today to speak up for people who don’t yet have these freedoms.

Wherever we have a public platform – wherever we can raise our voices and speak out against oppression, homophobia and bigotry – we must do so. It is our moral duty. 

We most certainly must not, as Deputy President David Mabuza famously remarked a few years ago “be decent and keep our mouths shut” when it comes to the ongoing persecution and repressive laws of other African nations.

Over 30 countries on this continent still have some form of anti-gay legislation. In many places being openly gay can still – and does – get you killed.

We cannot simply shrug and say: Who are we to interfere in their laws and their way of life? Because that’s cowardly, and it is a tacit endorsement of their bigotry.

If we see human rights trampled and vulnerable communities threatened, we have to say something. How can we claim to embrace the spirit of Ubuntu if we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others?

South Africa still has a strong voice on this continent, and on the global stage. We must use it for good.

If ever there was a country that could use an ally and an advocate for human rights right now, it is Ukraine.

Russia’s brazen invasion of a sovereign, democratic nation must be condemned by all who love freedom. There can be no justification for this aggression, and our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine as they face an uncertain and terrifying future.

The country’s LGBTQI community, in particular, must surely now live in fear given Russia’s awful human rights track record.

South Africa has a voice, and it still carries weight. As BRICS member, we have a platform to speak out strongly against Russian aggression. President Ramaphosa cannot hide behind his party’s ideological allegiance with Russia any longer. He has a duty to take a stand and speak out.

Yesterday I called for an urgent debate in Parliament on the unfolding situation in Ukraine. Our government’s preferred tactic of quiet diplomacy is not good enough. Ukraine needs global allies, and Russia needs universal condemnation.

It’s not that hard to do the right thing. Whether you’re the president of a country or just a regular member of a community, you will know injustice when you see it. And when you do, you cannot remain silent.

When others are at their most vulnerable, you need to be strong. Because vulnerable people need allies.

So let us enjoy this wonderful day. Let us have fun here, because this is first and foremost a celebration of our freedoms and our bright and colourful diversity.

But let us also use this opportunity to put the plight of others, who are not as fortunate as we are, on the world stage.

This fight and these freedoms are not won until everyone is free.

Thank you.