Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has had something of a mixed run during his tenure in charge of one of the country’s most important departments.
His insistence on unabridged birth certificates for parents travelling with children will probably go down as among those decisions by government that had well-intentioned motives but caused immediate damage to tourism and the economy while, many have argued, having little effect on combating human trafficking.
The jury remains out on either point, some would say, but many criticised Gigaba for his apparent unwillingness to listen to the concerns of others, while taking a stubborn personal position on a matter of national importance that affected people’s livelihoods.
He also used what appeared to be wildly inflated figures on child trafficking that many experts dismissed as an untrue reflection of reality to try to bolster his visa argument and create the impression that the problem was some sort of pandemic and home affairs was the saviour of children.
This week, Gigaba was again thrust into the public eye when it came to his department having the final say on whether US Pastor Steven Anderson would be allowed to enter South Africa to preach his narrow view on morality based on a selectively literal interpretation of biblical scripture no human being alive follows to the letter.
The same book that calls a man “lying with a man” an abomination forbids women from wearing jewellery, doesn’t want anyone to eat bacon or seafood, forbids rips in clothing or wearing polyester, doesn’t approve of tattoos, remarrying after divorce (or women to get divorced at all), allowing women to speak in church, working on a Saturday, many forms of visual art and a host of other things that most of us take for granted or don’t think about twice.
Anderson and people like him are simply homophobes, and religion gives them a convenient excuse to justify that hatred, along with their many other forms of bigotry, because it’s unlikely that any bigot would be so self-reflective as to limit his or her bigotry to just one minority or group that is “different” in whatever way.
So kudos to Gigaba for finally making the decision to bar this hatemonger from coming to a country whose laws expressly forbid the kind of statement he made when celebrating the brutal murders of nearly 50 men in a Florida gay nightclub earlier this year.
However, one has to wonder if Gigaba took this stand because of the thousands of South Africans who petitioned against Anderson, or the calls from numerous human rights groups wanting South Africa to take the high ground against this rather creepy, unhinged individual.
Because the other thing Anderson did was publicly insult Gigaba on YouTube, calling him a “wicked vile sinner” who was just stringing “the sodomites” along.
If Anderson hadn’t insulted our minister, would the decision to ban the preacher still have been taken? Would Gigaba have “listened to the people” (even though there are probably just as many or even more people in this country likely to agree with the views of Anderson) on this issue if it hadn’t been made personal? That is something we can’t, of course, ever know.
What we do know, however, is that when it came to the child-visa matter, Gigaba appeared to care only for his own opinion and no one else’s, and particularly not even for the views of his colleague in charge of the tourism department.