Zuma invokes gay wrath

Durban - Jacob Zuma's weekend comments about homosexuals earned him the wrath of gay and lesbian groups on Tuesday.

Speaking at Heritage Day celebrations in KwaDukuza on Sunday, Zuma said: "When I was growing up an ungqingili (a gay) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out."

The Sowetan quoted Zuma as saying that same-sex marriages were "a disgrace to the nation and to God".

The Joint Working Group (JWG), representing the gay community, said on Tuesday that while Zuma was entitled to his personal opinion, his public statement at KwaDukuza during Heritage Day celebrations "was a form of hate speech".

He told the thousands of people that attended the festivities he was speaking in his personal capacity "as a man".

"It would seem Jacob Zuma still has a lot to learn about leadership. A true leader leads with intellect and wisdom - not popularity or favour.

A 'homophobic Zuma'

"How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?" read a JWG statement.

It questioned whether a "homophobic" Zuma had forgotten South Africa's past of "state institutionalised discrimination, stigmatisation and segregation".

It accused Zuma of "blatant ignorance of the fundamental rights of people as enshrined in our South Africa Constitution and a total disrespect of it".

Parliament is set to hold public hearings on the proposed civil unions bill which would give equal rights to gay unions similar to those enjoyed in existing marriages between heterosexual couples.

If the bill is passed, South Africa will become the first country in Africa to sanction same-sex marriages or unions.

The JWG describes itself as an alliance of registered non-profit organisations, providing services to the gay community.

Zuma was not available for comment.

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