Jon Qwelane who published the article “Call me names but gay is NOT OK” in the South African Sunday Sun in July 2008 has been convicted of hate speech by the Johannesburg Equality Court.
The article by Jon Qwelane — which includes a despicable cartoon equating same sex relationships with bestiality, calls for a rewriting of the SA constitution and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships. Despite facing charges of “hate speech” Qwelane was appointed in January 2010 as South African ambassador to Uganda – an openly homophobic man being appointed to a country which was considering the death penalty and long term prison sentencing for same sex relationships. It remains to be seen whether the South African government will do the right thing and relieve him of his position. This report from the South African Mail and Guardian…… UPDATE – the Dept of International Relations and Cooperation has stated this is a “personal” matter for Qwelane, meaning government officials, are free to make disgusting homophobic statements, be found guilty of hate crimes but remain in their positions. A clear message that homophobic statements and actions are acceptable on the basis of small monetary penalty.
“We are quite pleased that the court has found in our favour … R100 000 is quite a reasonable amount,” said SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga.
“The focus is not on the money, but the message coming out of this. With recent hate speech and crimes against the community, the court is sending positive messages,” he said.
The SAHRC initiated court proceedings in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
Qwelane did not make much of an appearance in the course of the trial. He failed to sign court papers presented to him by a clerk and did not file responding papers.
The court ruled that, as it had only one version of the story, the SAHRC’s argument would be accepted.