Pride and Progress: Steve Letsike Sworn in as South African MP

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Steve Letsike comes to Parliament with an influential background as an LGBTIQ+ human rights activist

In a landmark moment, Mmapaseka Steve Letsike, one of South Africa’s most distinguished LGBTIQ+ and HIV rights activists, has become a Member of Parliament.

The 38-year-old internationally recognised human rights defender was sworn in by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as an ANC MP during the first sitting of the National Assembly of the seventh Parliament in Cape Town on Friday.

While Letsike is not the first openly LGBTIQ+ MP in South Africa, she is arguably the first with such a significant and influential career as an activist in the LGBTIQ+ sector.

A Trailblazing Career

Letsike is the founder and Executive Director of LGBTIQ+ group Access Chapter 2, the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Equality Network, and has served as the Co-chair of the South African AIDS Council (SANAC) and the National Task Team addressing LGBTIQ+ hate crimes.

In January 2023, she became a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), the party’s highest decision-making body.

“Today, as a proud black lesbian woman, I was sworn in as a Member of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa,” said Letsike on Facebook, noting that her swearing-in took place during International Pride Month.

She acknowledged the contributions of other historic activists and figures like Simon Nkoli, Bev Ditsie, Phumi Mtetwa, Edwin Cameron, and Prudence Mabele, who made the moment possible.

Community Celebrates a Historic Achievement

Rights groups and members of the community congratulated Letsike on her new role as a lawmaker, recognising it as a significant moment in South African LGBTIQ+ history.

Bev Ditsie tweeted that she burst into tears when Letsike was sworn in, writing: “Out and proud and fierce African lesbian comrade and friend Steve Letsike being sworn in is not a small thing. I may not love your party or the politricks, but you I stan. Continue the awesome work you’ve been doing.”

OUT LGBT Well-being extended its heartfelt congratulations to Letsike, adding, “We are immensely proud of your achievement today and wish you all the best in this exciting new chapter.”

Triangle Project asserted, “Steve’s unwavering dedication to human rights, democracy, and advocacy for women, youth, and the LGBTI+ community has been inspiring.”

In a statement, Clement Mampane from Access Chapter 2 lauded the organisation’s founder.

“This milestone is a testament to Steve Letsike’s dedication to the constitution, human rights, democracy, and advocacy for the people of South Africa, particularly women, youth, and the LGBTI+ community. We have no doubt that she will continue to be a strong voice for accountability, equality, and justice in South Africa,” said Mampane.

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