Nobody knows how many gay voters there are in Hillbrow. No survey has been done, and few people are willing to hazard a guess, but the NP and DP are certainly taking the gay vote seriously, both parties having placed ads in the gay publication, Exit. Candidates and campaign workers say that many voters who are registered in Hillbrow are no longer resident there, and at least half are as yet untraced, increasing the importance of the Hillbrow gay community’s vote.
It is the general opinion among gay voters that it was their vote that put Leon de Beer (NP) in parliament in 1987. He was the first parliamentary candidate to advertise in Exit. One of the DP’s adverts says that the party plans to take the issue of the criminalisation of gay activities to parliament, and will support all plans to open a full-time Gay Crisis Centre in Johannesburg. The DP’s standpoint is that gay rights fall under the broader human rights for which the party is campaigning. ”We are against discrimination of any kind,” says Lester Fuchs, DP candidate in Hillbrow.
Fuchs has also promised to pay attention to the lowering of the age of consent for gay sex. ”Don’t use gays in elections!” shouts the full-page advert placed in Exit by Tony Wasserman (NP), somewhat cryptically. In clarification, Wasserman told the Weekly Mail that he was paying no special attention to gay voters or specifically addressing himself to any gay issues. It was part of an all-over election strategy to reach as many voters as possible, he said. ”They are playing a game,” was the comment of TJ Ferreira, CP candidate for Hillbrow. In his view, the DP is being ”dishonest”, as they will not be able to address these issues in parliament. ”We know that the DP would also like to take the MDM issue to parliament,” he said.
Commenting on the anti-gay sentiments expressed by CP members such as Fred Rundle in the past, Ferreira said that ”each person has the right to his own thinking”. Ferreira said that if he felt it would benefit his business, he himself would advertise in Exit. Exit (itself under threat of banning, because of action instigated by Rundle) has paid significant attention to the upcoming election, with the headline ”Vote for gay survival” on an editorial in its latest edition.
The response of gay voters to the election farrago is not, however, very enthusiastic. One gay man of 42 who has lived in Hillbrow for 14 years said: ”Maybe the DP can come up with something, but in any case maybe a lot of gays in Hill brow will even vote CP, because they don’t want the area to go black.” ”A lot of gays are very conservative and they vote Nat without thinking,” he added.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.