Deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC) Jacob Zuma has outraged the gay community by calling same sex marriage a ”disgrace to the Nation and to God”, reports The Sowetan

ANC is the majority party in South African government controlling the presidency and more than two-thirds of parliament’s seats.

Mr Zuma’s comments were made last Sunday at the Heritage Day celebrations in KwaDukza.

He told the crowd of thousands that he was speaking not as ANC leader but in his personal capacity “as a man”.

A statement released yesterday by the Joint Working Group (JWG) representing the South African gay community said the comments amounted to hate speech.

The JWG statement asks ”How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?” Accusing Zuma of “blatant ignorance of the fundamental rights of people as enshrined in our South Africa Constitution”.

The comments come at a time when the South African parliament is preparing to hold public hearings on same sex marriage, which would give equal rights to gay unions.

If the bill is passed, South Africa will become the first country on the continent to sanction same-sex marriage.

Evashnee Naidoo, of the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community, said “It is quite scary as we are not sure whether this is a reflection of the ANC as a whole”.

“It is regrettable that these statements were made by someone like Zuma, whose party was instrumental in adopting the constitution which is currently considering whether to adopt matrimonial rights for gays and lesbians”.