David Mabuza. Picture: MASI LOSI
David Mabuza. Picture: MASI LOSI

Deputy President David “DD” Mabuza hasn’t exactly garnered a reputation for consistency on matters of principle. There was, for example, that small matter of switching sides at the Nasrec conference to ensure his own political elevation. And even if you leave aside the swirl of rumours that surrounds him, his latest foray into moral relativism casts doubt on his self-portrayal as a statesman of substance.

Mabuza believes SA should “keep [its] mouth shut” about the ongoing assault on gay rights in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. We should “not impose our beliefs on anyone”, he sagely said last week, nor “put ourselves morally above others”.

In fact, he seems less concerned with the founding principles of SA — equality, human rights, freedom — and more with a national sovereignty that sanctifies all sins. Only, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t.

Sovereignty doesn’t give states carte blanche to subject their citizens to all manner of horrors. An alternative view holds that sovereignty vests in states’ willingness and ability to safeguard their citizens. Failure to do so should evoke action — or, at the very least, condemnation.

Mabuza’s failure to take a stand bodes badly for SA’s ability to hold the human rights line — or any other line, for that matter — should his presidential ambitions be realised one day. If they aren’t, of course, there’s probably a comfortable diplomatic post awaiting him in Kampala. It worked well for Jon Qwelane, that other great defender of civil liberties.