The appointment of one of many women to South Africa’s cabinet following the country’s fifth democratic elections, has surfaced, amongst some media and journalists, a woman’s sexuality as being the most significant aspect of her appointment.
Minister Lynn Brown’s sexuality was immediately pointed out, by some pathetic forms of journalism and media, as being a notable, highly significant appointment of President Zuma’s cabinet; a cabinet which earned accolades for its several women cabinet ministers. This was published as news because, Lynne Brown is supposedly known as being openly gay. Because sometime ago and somewhere out there she publicly ‘outed’ herself, to appease all who were curious about her sexuality, instead of being curious about their own sexuality.
Those who know Lynne Brown, especially from her teacher years and activist era, don’t refer to her or know the cabinet minister as an openly gay activist, but as a human rights and social justice campaigner who fought oppression under apartheid South Africa.
I’m raising this because there’s already pressure being placed on the woman cabinet minister; should she be seen as not delivering her portfolio effectively and responsibly, she may inevitably be judged because she is a gay cabinet minister. This then impacts on sexuality of others sexuality, with implication centering on gay people being judged on sexuality and nothing else.
Within the South African government, being a cabinet minister is not about sexuality, not about colour or class, religion or wealth. It’s about how effective you are considered, by the ruling party, to be for the appointment.
My take is that President Zuma didn’t in any instance even reflect on Lynne Brown’s sexuality when he considered her appointment. The only credentials which carried Lynne Brown’s appointment vigorously and appropriately, and which couldn’t be ignored, was the manner in which Lynne Brown has served non-racial democratic South Africa in our 20 years of democracy.
This is not to block off attention from her sexuality or to dismiss and not want to acknowledge whatever Lynne Brown’s sexuality is, but rather to demand that the honest acceptance of Lynne Brown’s appointment was not about her sexuality, but as the best applicable for the job.
If anything, it was the gender of the appointment that was the pivotal factor! This appointment, I’m very sure about, was not based on sexuality or the person being gay but on a woman politician who has impeccable credentials to serve South Africa at the highest levels of public office. I’m sure that President Zuma himself was shocked to know he had appointed ‘an openly gay person’ when that was furthest from his mind. What President Zuma saw in front of him was a woman who had a long standing record of efficient public service.
It was the Guardian newspaper which reported this about President Zuma appointing an ‘open gay cabinet minister’ I saw this story two hours after it was published and thought ‘now what has Lynne Brown’s sexuality got to do with her appointment?’ Then some South African print online and broadcast media got onto the idea and began thrashing it out with one broadcaster trying desperately to get Lynne Brown to announce publicly on his radio show that she was gay.
And the message we are sending out is that people should not be judged or scrutinized on sexuality, unless sexuality is explicitly stated as a pre-requisite for the appointment, but on what they can offer their appointment!