Jacob Zuma South Africa Luxury Mansion
Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, supports Uganda's homophobic law Reuters

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma has refused to condemn Uganda's anti-homosexual law.

The so-called Kill the Gays Bill, signed into law by Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, carries a sentence of up to 14 years in jail for homosexual offences. It also outlaws homosexual propaganda and urges people to denounce gays and lesbians.

When asked by MPs where he stood on the law, Zuma said: "South Africa respects the sovereign rights of other countries to adopt their own legislation.

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

The South African Human Rights Commission has called on the government to condemn the legislation.

"The commission believes that our government should make its rejection of Uganda's draconian law clear and visible," spokesman Isaac Mangena said.

"[We should] join those who respect the rights and freedoms of every person to call for the repeal of this and all similar legislation and to follow good human rights practices in line with its commitments under international and regional laws."

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu compared Museveni's behaviour to Hitler's in Nazi Germany.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said he was "disheartened" by Museveni's decision and warned that it could to some of the worst excesses of apartheid.

"In South Africa, apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected of making love to blacks," Tutu said.

The bill has sparked controversy also at international level.

Barack Obama declared it a "step backward for all Ugandans" and the World Bank postponed a $90m (£54m) loan in protest.

"We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law," World Bank spokesman David Theis said.