President Ramaphosa speaks about gay rights at the Arch Bishop’s peace lecture

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has stressed the need for equality of all forms to ensure a peaceful society. Delivering the eight annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on Monday, Ramaphosa said to achieve peace, inequality must be addressed.

“Peace is not possible in an unequal world, and no society can be at peace unless all its people have equal rights, equal opportunities and an equal quality of life.

“As South Africans, we know that peace is not merely the absence of war, but also the absence of injustice.

“There are still millions in our society who live in poverty, who are socially excluded and economically marginalised,” said President Ramaphosa.

He called on every institution to actively work to prevent gender bias in all their activities.

“The violation of the rights and equal worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people demeans our common humanity.

“Not only does it expose individuals to pain, suffering and even violence, but it often limits access to social services and economic opportunities for LGBTI people.

“It is not possible to build a just and equal society in such circumstances,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa
Archbishop Desmond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling an arch in his honour outside St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

He also spoke about wealth distribution in the country and lamented the current level of inequality in the country. “We cannot speak of true freedom when 10 percent of the population has more wealth than the remaining 90 percent combined; when women are discriminated against at their places of work and abused in their homes; and when privilege and poverty follow the same racial contours of a colonial past.”

“We cannot speak of true freedom when the constitutionally guaranteed rights to quality health care, to quality education, to decent housing and to a clean environment continue not to be enjoyed by many South Africans.”

The president, who had in recent weeks laid out plans to revive South Africa’s economy. There was also a jobs summit aimed at looking for avenues to address unemployment in the country.

President Ramaphosa called for a skills revolution in which inclusive, accessible and relevant education produces quality outcomes.

“It is essential that, alongside a skills revolution, we draw millions more young South Africans into the productive economy through work,” he added.

“Last week, the social partners – government, labour, business and communities – convened a Jobs Summit, which was the culmination of several months of deliberations on measures to accelerate job creation. It was a clear signal of the determination of all sections of society to work together to build a social compact to create jobs,” said the President.

The Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture was named in honour of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu who turned 87 on 7 October. The Anglican Bishop was, however, absent as he is a Cape Town hospital, where he is receiving treatment. He had been admitted days earlier “for a series of tests”.

The retired archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner has always been the voice of the oppressed in South Africa, and had at different times spoken in favour of gay rights. His daughter Mpho is married to another woman and had to relinquish priesthood for love.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in South Africa in 2006, but the South African Anglican church does not recognise same-sex marriage. A similar sentiment remains in the larger society, with a surge in LGBT-targeted violence, including corrective rapes, being reported in the country.