Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
15 November 2006

Mosiuoa Lekota, champion for gay rights?

During the National Assembly debate on the Civil Union Bill yesterday, Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota made a stirring speech, saying that same-sex marriages should be afforded similar space as heterosexual marriages “in the sunshine of democracy”, and noting that men and women of homosexual and lesbian orientation “joined the ranks of the democratic forces” in the struggle for liberation.

According to ANC sources Lekota also made a decisive intervention at the ANC caucus meeting last Monday during the debate about the Bill, telling those members of the caucus who oppose same sex marriage that they had no choice but to support the Civil Union Bill. Same-sex marriage was a matter of discrimination, not of conscience, and the ANC had always been against discrimination of any kind.

The reason for this support stems from Lekota’s days as a Delmas treason trialist in the late eighties. One of his co-accused was Simon Nkoli who came out of the closet to his comarades during the trial. This action and the debates it inspired (they had lots of time to debate in those Delmas prison cells) prompted UDF leaders such as co-defendants Popo Molefe and Patrick Lekota to recognize homophobia as a form of oppression. Nkoli tragically died of Aids related ilness in 1998.

It just goes to show how people can change their view once confronted with a real life homosexual/black person/American. I will drink a glass of wine in honour of Nkoli tonight. Without him, and without people like Lekota who saw the link between various kinds of oppression, the Civil Union Bill would not have been possible. Neither would our progressive Constitution.

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