Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane 6 March 2014

Dear President Museveni… Let’s talk frankly

It’s one thing to distinguish yourself as a hero in the fight against Apartheid. But if years later, you turn around and bring up bigotry of another flavour, you are asking to be brought down – and fast.

Thank you so much, Mr. President, for supporting the struggle of South African people when there were prejudicial laws that saw blacks as animals or sub-standard human beings who needed to be discriminated against. Today those laws seem like a distant memory – people forget that even in relieving ourselves we were discriminated against. Comrade President, if you visited here, you would have had to use a dirty, sub-standard toilet just because of the colour of your skin. Very humiliating stuff.

Of course, there were other, more serious laws than the denial of a place to s**t with all other citizens. People couldn’t fall in love with those of another colour. So if you visited here and you were single or philandering, you would be arrested for sleeping with a coloured lady. It was actually a crime to love anyone who was not your own colour. To top it all, the laws were collated under the so-called ‘Immorality Act’.

The Apartheid regime had since 1948 been passing these ridiculous laws with annoying regularity. But you, along with many African leaders of substance, rallied around the liberation movement and ensured that that regime came tumbling down. We have a poet here called Mzwakhe Mbuli, who penned the lines: ‘No oppressive regime can press on the hot lid of a boiling pot for ever.’ These are words that must have encouraged you and others of the frontline states to press on and ensure that you embarrassed the regime that sought to treat us like animals. You ignored calls by that regime to use its sovereignty to piss at the morality of fellow human beings. You were a signatory of many a petition to that regime and your country was one of the safe places where refugees from South Africa – who left the country to fight from outside – could find safety. It is interesting that the only criterion for them to be welcome in your country was that they were discriminated against by the evil Apartheid regime. Today such luxuries may well be limited by your recent laws – but let me not digress.

It is very instructive that the frontline states deliberately undermined South Africa’s sovereignty in order to bring down an illegitimate regime. That regime, by its illegal laws, undermined everyone around it, killing people in the borders across Southern Africa without a care in the world. It was a heartless regime that had no sense of morality. It was also a regime draped in bigotry. While bigotry may seem to be a big word, it is not – it is described simply as ‘intolerance towards those who hold a different opinion than oneself’. Synonyms listed for bigotry include prejudice, bias, narrow-mindedness – the list goes on. Many families of people who were killed by that bigoted regime are grateful to those like you, Mr. President, who had the balls to stand up against this regime – cutting through the nonsense and veneer of respectability provided by the existence of a state, no matter how illegitimate.

But now, let’s talk frankly. With this illustrious background and history that you were part of, how is it okay to discriminate against those with whose sexual orientation differs from yours? How is this law you have just passed in line with your activism against the evil laws that discriminated against the majority of our people by the Apartheid regime? It seems to me you have forgotten quickly what you and many in the frontline states stood for in bringing down Apartheid. Mr President, Archbishop Tutu reminded us that ‘[i]n South Africa, Apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected to be making love to blacks. It was demeaning to this whose crime was to love each other – it was a blot to our entire society. There is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love… There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification.’ Look, I know that like me, you are Anglican – and the Arch has a point. Do reconsider.

It boggles the mind why it would be any of your business who your citizens sleep with. Why would it be any of your business who they chose to love? You are cocooned by your fellow heads of states who fear to tell you to your face that you are as bigoted as the Apartheid regime. Your conduct is in some way worse than that regime, as it targets something that people can do nothing about.

Your four children, I am sure, did not choose to be straight if they are. They were born straight if they are. If they are gays or lesbian – would you throw them in jail, or will your 28-year-old dictatorship kick in and change the rules again? When you turn seventy this August, it may wake you up a bit if one of your children or grandchildren confessed to being gay. This would be a lesson that you could take to your grave – since it’s clear you plan to die in office – a typical African dictator mentality, whose results are these crazy laws now that you expect us as fellow Africans not to challenge. Your daughter, who is a fashion designer, can’t be excited about your laws, I tell you – I am quite sure she has gay and lesbian clients, and by the way, if she does not report these clients to your criminal police, she may well be an accessory to the new crime you have created. Mr. President, it is a shame what you have put your country through.

Can we maybe suggest adding incest to your slew of laws that will make you feel more in power? Oh no, that won’t work for you, will it? After all, according to The Independent, your son Edwin is married to your first daughter, Natasha. I am sure it’s all a big misunderstanding – you know how these journalists can be. In the same Independent newspaper, you are described in less than flattering terms, Mr. President. “Museveni is a politician who ran out of school, served in government, learnt how to fire a gun and then shot himself into power. And that is why he is using family rule with impunity.” Gosh, this is hard. Could this explain why you have taken such an illiterate legal position against gays and lesbians? You don’t have enough people who respect the rule of law around you – you have too many relatives in your regime, Mr. President, including your wife, whom you have appointed a top dog in your regime – and these people are going to die first before they can confirm what the rest of the world can see – that you, the emperor, have no clothes on. Your scientific rant about the idea that homosexuality is simply a choice that has nothing to do with genes is so far-fetched as to be ridiculous. It is unthinkable that you used this convoluted logic in a public letter to the leader of the free world asking him to shut up because the West is doing many things you don’t like. It is embarrassing, to say the least.

For the sake of your legacy I pray that you change your mind way before you reach your grave – because for this I suspect Hell may just be waiting for you. Heaven won’t accept a campaigner against love in its streets.

For your discrimination against gays and lesbians, frankly, you are a bigot by any definition. You are no better than Verwoerd, who decreed that the African child must never be empowered with mathematics. Your anti-gay laws are no different from saying Africans must not relieve themselves in the same place as Europeans. Your laws do seem like you are relieving yourself exactly where Verwoerd did those many years ago. Ever heard of Tsafendas? I hope you heed Mzwakhe’s words – the warning that the days of your oppressive regime are numbered.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM


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