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South Africa's President "Respects" Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

09/04/2014 16:43 BST | Updated 09/06/2014 10:59 BST

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa stated on Tuesday he respects Uganda's right to pass anti-gay legislation and that no action will be taken against the country.

"South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation," Zuma stated in response to a parliamentary question seeking clarification of the country's policy towards Uganda anti-gay law.

The President added: "In this regard, through diplomatic channels South Africa engages with Uganda on areas of mutual concern bearing in mind Uganda's sovereignty."

A harsh anti-LGBT law was signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on February 24, which punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.

South Africa's Human Rights Commission has previously called upon Zuma's government to condemn Uganda's anti-gay law.

Zuma's statement however, makes it clear that South Africa will not join Western nations in taking action against Uganda for having passed its anti-gay law.

Zuma has previously made several anti-gay remarks. In 2006 during his tenure as the Deputy President, Jacob Zuma told an audience: "When I was growing up an ungqingili (a gay) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out." He also opposed the legalization of marriage equality in 2005 say it was "a disgrace to the nation and to God."

Junior Mayema of the South African advocacy group, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) commented on the statement: "What is worrying is that Zuma isn't even condemning the law, let alone taking any action.

"It's a backdrop in his campaign towards South Africa's elections in May, and this makes me worried about Zuma's complicity with homophobia.

"Zuma was clear about his opposition to marriage equality yet he himself lives in a polygamous set up.

"He has also been silent when Contralesa (the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa) has demanded a Constitutional Review to drop LGBT rights from the country's constitution, which still is a present danger.

"Far from following Mandela's legacy of the Rainbow Nation, I fear he is leading South Africa towards a different, less tolerant path."