New Johannesburg mayor is from openly queerphobic party


Johannesburg’s new Executive Mayor, Thapelo Amad

The man now heading the city of Johannesburg, Mayor Thapelo Amad, is a representative of the fervently queerphobic party, Al Jama-ah. And the ANC and EFF helped get him into the position.

Amad was this week appointed Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor as a result of ongoing power-grabbing machinations between political parties that are disrupting the running of the country’s largest city. He is the metro’s sixth mayor in just three years.

Amad is a representative of Al Jama-ah, a small religious-based political party that only has three seats on the city council. (In South Africa, mayors are not directly elected by residents but by the city’s councillors.)

Al Jama-ah is openly queerphobic and espouses the adoption of “Shari’ah [Islamic religious law] values” in South Africa. It is opposed to homosexuality, same-sex marriage and gender diversity.

In 2020, the party’s founder and leader, Ganief Hendricks, told Daily Maverick that when it comes to homosexuality, “We’re against it, because the Quran opposes it.”

In November last year, the party lashed out at draft proposals to make schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQ+ learners. It said it “vehemently opposes any moves by the Department of Basic Education to turn bathrooms at schools into unisex and to remove pronouns indicating gender of persons.”

Hendricks asserted in a statement that: “This is a direct assault on the constitutional rights of learners coming from homes with religious, faith and cultural objections to LGBTQ. God-fearing citizens must stand up against these atrocities as in our silence we would be leaving a disgraceful legacy for the future generations.”

“We say NO to attempts to normalise LGBTQ in this country.”

He called for religious communities “to be protected against any measures to force down a LGBQT agenda on them,” and urged the government “to stop wasting resources meant for education on matters such as LGBQT agendas which are not welcome to a largely faith-based South African society”.

Hendricks added: “We say NO to attempts to normalise LGBTQ in this country.”

In October, the party fumed at a headline suggesting that a threatened terror attack on Johannesburg Pride was rooted in Islamic fundamentalism.

Al Jama-ah complained that “the report implies that only Muslims are opposed to the Gay Pride event [but journalists] are aware that there are several Christian organizations – based on religious grounds – that are also vehemently against it; yet they do not talk about Christian terror!”

The party reiterated that “we determinedly disagree with their forms [of] sexual orientation and their queer belief system… Their lifestyle is condemned and unacceptable with the practices of Islam and Muslims.”

Amad’s election was only made possible with votes from councillors from the EFF and ANC; parties that claim to be LGBTIQ+ allies. The cynical move showed that these parties are prepared to discard their commitment to human rights for political expediency.

Amad was personally congratulated by ANC Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi at his swearing-in ceremony. The event was also attended by the ambassadors of Qatar, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Turkey; states that persecute LGBTIQ+ people.

It remains unclear to what degree Amad personally shares his party’s queerphobic stance or if and how Al Jama-ah’s bigotry will impact his role as mayor. Efforts to contact a spokesperson for the mayor were unsuccessful.

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