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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 6 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 23
South Africa appoints Lesbian cabinet minister
Section One
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South Africa appoints Lesbian cabinet minister

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lynne Brown became South Africa's first Lesbian cabinet minister May 26, and probably the first LGBT cabinet officer in Africa.

Brown was appointed by South African President Jacob Zuma to the post of Minister of Public Enterprises. Like Zuma, she is a longtime member of the governing ANC (African National Congress) and has served on its National Executive Committee since 2007.

When appointed, Brown was leader of the ANC in Western Cape Province, where she served as premier - the equivalent of governor - in 2008 and 2009. Before governing the Western Cape, she served as provincial Minister for Economic Development and Tourism.

Eusebius McKaiser, South African broadcaster and political author, told The Guardian newspaper that Brown's new high-profile position is a significant advance.

'It is, sadly, probably newsworthy, I guess, insofar as the social impact of openly gay people in high-profile public leadership positions cannot be discounted in a country like South Africa, where levels of homophobia, including violence against black lesbian women, remain rife,' McKaiser said.

'The symbolism matters also from an African perspective, too, given other countries around us are enacting and enforcing laws criminalizing same-sex sex and lifestyles.'

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, agreed.

'I think it's worth drawing attention to,' he said.

'She's not a gay rights campaigner - it's not recognition in that sense - but the fact that under the most socially conservative president since 1994 there is the first openly gay minister in such a position is significant.'

South Africa's constitution includes explicit protections for LGBT people, and same-sex marriage has been legal there since 2006. President Jacob Zuma - who identifies as a 'Zulu traditionalist' - has not endorsed same-sex marriage, but says he accepts that it is a legal institution.

'We have a constitution that is very clear that we all respect, which I respect. It has a view on that one, that gay marriage is a constitutionally accepted thing in South Africa. So no matter what my views would be,' Zuma said.

In South Africa's May 7 election, the country also elected its first Gay black member of parliament, Zakhele Mbhele, a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance. He was sworn in on Harvey Milk Day.

On May 20, the South African National Blood Service announced it was lifting its ban on blood donations by Gay men.

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