The assault of a woman by Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana after she called him gay smacks of homophobia – by both of those involved.
Manana is accused of attacking and beating Mandisa Duma and another woman in the early hours of Sunday morning at the Cubana restaurant and cocktail lounge in Johannesburg.
While it appears the argument began on the topic of†politics, Manana was later recorded telling the victimís brother: ďMy brother, when she swore at me and called me gay, I slapped her.Ē
It’s appalling and unacceptable violent behaviour by someone who should be a role model, especially for our youth. It also reflects the deeply entrenched and widespread homophobia in our culture; seemingly displayed by both parties.
It’s clear that Manana – a government minister who has sworn an oath of office to uphold the Constitution – believes that not only is it acceptable to beat a woman, but that being called gay is an insult of the highest order.
His recorded audio statement suggests that the mere act of being described as gay is justification for violence against another individual. In fact, in his formal apology to Duma (and all South Africans), he tellingly writes of being subjected to “extreme provocation”, leading to his assault.
Manana must face the full might of the law, and few would (publicly) argue that he is fit for office. He must immediately resign or be fired.
Duma on the other hand, although the unambiguous victim in this attack, also needs to be challenged. If she did indeed call Manana gay, (it remains to be confirmed), it is highly unlikely she intended this as a compliment in the midst of the argument.
She used the hate and stigma behind homophobia in an attempt to sting and hurt Manana. In that sense they are both complicit in perpetuating the second-class status of LGBT people.
Being gay is perceived as a shameful, humiliating and immoral identity. It’s seen as a rage-inducing insult to throw against a man, disparaging his status and masculinity in a patriarchal and heteronormative society.
It is this fear of men’s loss of status that is often cited as a basis for the ongoing attacks against lesbian and transgender individuals in our country. Lesbian women (whose lack of attraction to male virility is perceived as emasculating) and those whose gender appearance subverts the norm are the most at risk of rape and murder. Itís particularly ironic and tragic that a woman apparently played into these dangerous tropes.
I am not aware of Manana or Duma addressing the homophobia involved in the assault. Itís time that they do. They should also apologise to the LGBT community. Our identity is not an insult or a justification for violence. Stop using it and treating it as such.