The South African government announced on Tuesday that it has banned an anti-LGBT American pastor from entering the country.
Steven Anderson, a pastor at the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., had been scheduled to visit Johannesburg on Sept. 18 with a group of 17 missionaries. Mamba Online, a South African website, reported the anti-LGBT pastor had planned to travel the country to “win souls.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes Anderson has previously called for the execution of gay men and lesbians.
Anderson said in a 2014 sermon that gay men should be killed in order to have an “AIDS-free world by Christmas.” He also celebrated the June massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured.
Mamba Online reported South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba told reporters during a press conference at the South African Parliament in Cape Town that Anderson is an “undesirable person” under the country’s Immigration Act.
“Steven Anderson and members and/or associates from his church are prohibited from entering the Republic of South Africa,” said Gigaba, according to Mamba Online. “Steven Anderson will be advised that he is a prohibited person in South Africa.”
“We have a duty to prevent harm and hatred in all forms against LGBTI, as any other person in a democratic state,” he added.
Anderson wrote on his Facebook page that he has “been banned from” South Africa and the U.K. He added he was “not even allowed to have a connecting flight” in London.
Anderson is scheduled to travel to Botswana later this month.
“I feel sorry for people who live in South Africa, but thank God we still have a wide open door in Botswana,” he wrote. “Stand by for reports of MULTITUDES saved in Botswana, where religious freedom still exists.”
Activists ‘proud’ of South Africa
LGBT rights advocates launched a campaign that urged the South African government to ban Anderson from the country, even though U.S. citizens do not need to obtain a visa. Mamba Online reported Hendrik Baird, station manager of Gay SA Radio, joined Gigaba at Tuesday’s press conference.
“As South Africans, we are proud that our government has today sent a strong message to our citizens and the rest of the world, namely that LGBTI people are as much South Africans as anybody else, and that we are deserving of the same rights and respect as everybody else,” said Baird. “When push comes to shove, we stand together as a nation and do what is right. I cannot tell you how encouraging this is.”
“It’s a fantastic day in South Africa,” he told the Blade during a brief telephone interview after the press conference.
Phumi Mtetwa, a South African LGBT rights activist, also welcomed Gigaba’s announcement.
“It’s important to welcome this decision by the South Africa government through its Ministry of Home Affairs,” Mtetwa told the Blade during a telephone interview from Johannesburg.
Country first in Africa to ban anti-LGBT figure
South Africa is believed to be the first African country to explicitly ban a person because of their anti-LGBT views.
The South African constitution explicitly bans discrimination and hate speech based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So-called corrective rape of lesbian women and other forms of anti-LGBT violence remain pervasive in South Africa, despite these protections.
The U.N. Human Rights Council in 2011 narrowly approved an LGBT rights resolution that South Africa introduced. The country in June abstained from a vote on a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that created the U.N.’s first-ever position to combat violence and discrimination around the world based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Mmapaseka “Steve” Letsike of Access Chapter 2, a Pretoria-based LGBT advocacy group, described the South African government’s decision to ban Anderson as “great news.” Letsike told the Blade the announcement “will not solve all the problems faced by the LGBTI community across the country on issues of discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and patriarchy.”
Mtetwa made a similar point.
“The South Africa state is filled with contradictions when it comes to LGBTI issues,” she told the Blade.
South Africa decision ‘sets a precedent’ in Africa
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal lawsuit against Scott Lively, an evangelical pastor, on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBT advocacy group, in 2012 for allegedly exploiting anti-gay attitudes in Uganda before the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa, whose daughter married her same-sex partner in the Netherlands earlier this year, is among those who publicly criticized the law.
Pamela Adie of All Out, a global LGBT advocacy group that supported the campaign against Anderson, told the Blade on Tuesday the South African government’s decision will resonate across the continent.
“This sets a precedent for other international groups who want to come to Africa to spread hate against the LGBT community,” she said during an interview from the Nigerian city of Lagos.
Katlego K. Kol-Kes, a Botswanan LGBT rights advocate, urged the government of Botswana to ban Anderson from the country.
“We already have many issues to deal with: Race, economic unrest, youth unemployment,” Kol-Kes told the Blade in an email. “These create fertile ground for his doctrine which preys on insecurities under the veil of blaming the LGBT and it’s unfair and unjust for everyone concerned.”