South African President Appoints Country’s First Gay Cabinet Minister

South African President Jacob Zuma has named Lynne Brown as his public enterprises minister. Brown will be the first openly gay cabinet minister in South Africa, the Guardian reports:

BrownShe is not seen as a gay rights activist but her ascent to a cabinet post was described on Monday as a significant moment.

Eusebius McKaiser, a broadcaster and political author, who is gay, said: "It is, sadly, probably newsworthy, I guess, insofar as the social impact of openly gay people in high-profile public leadership positions cannot be discounted in a country like South Africa where levels of homophobia, including violence against black lesbian women, remain rife.

"The symbolism matters from an African perspective, too, given other countries around us are enacting and enforcing laws criminalising same-sex sex and lifestyles."

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said: "I think it's worth drawing attention to. She's not a gay rights campaigner – it's not recognition in that sense – but the fact that under the most socially conservative president since 1994 there is the first openly gay minister in such a position is significant."

In related news, we reported over the weekend that South Africa's parliament swore in its first openly gay, black member: 29-year-old Zakhele Mbhele, an LGBT activist.