President Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has been urged to use his visit to Nigeria to encourage its leaders to halt a pending ban on same-sex marriage and gay organisations.

Zuma was set to visit the country on Saturday where he will meet with President Goodluck Jonathan.

In a statement, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said that the President must use this as an opportunity to urge Jonathan to veto the bill.

“The protection and promotion of human rights is officially a guiding principle of South Africa’s foreign policy,” said Kenneth Mubu, DA Spokesperson on International Relations and Co-operation.

“It is incumbent on President Zuma to use his position as leader of an influential African nation to promote human rights on the African continent.”

Mubu added that Zuma “has thus far repeatedly failed to do so”.

He cited examples such as the South African government’s silence on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and Zuma’s appointment of the openly-homophobic former journalist Jon Qwelane as South Africa’s ambassador to that country.

“In his visit to Nigeria this week, President Zuma will have a unique opportunity to engage with the Nigerian president and encourage him to veto a deeply flawed piece of legislation. We urge him to use this chance to do so,” said Mubu.

The bill, which has been passed by the Senate, will next be voted on by the country’s House of Representatives. If passed, it will move to President Jonathan who has the option of signing it into law or vetoing it.

If the bill becomes law, members of same-sex couples who attempt to marry face 14 years in jail. Anyone who is found guilty of witnessing or aiding the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage could be fined or receive up to ten years in prison.

The bill also criminalises public affection between members of the same sex and bans the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations.

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