Guest Column

Where is Jon Qwelane's hate speech apology?

2017-09-22 07:59
Jon Qwelane (Supplied)

Jon Qwelane (Supplied)

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Dear Minister Mbalula

I am writing this open letter to you in the hopes that you will be able to “escalate” matters in an issue that is close to my heart (and that of many South Africans).

As I am sure you are aware, former ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech, in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday, August 18. 

This follows a long legal saga, which began when Qwelane wrote a hate-filled homophobic column in the Sunday Sun on July 20, 2008.

Qwelane wrote in his column: "There could be a few things I could take issue with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, but his unflinching and unapologetic stance over homosexuals is definitely not among those."

The column was headlined "Call me names, but gay is not okay".

In the column, Qwelane also said that he would "totally refuse to withdraw or apologise" for his views in which he also condemned gay marriage.

He wrote that same-sex marriage was “illogical” and that if any of his children had been gay, he would have disowned them.

Qwelane wrote that, when it came to the "lifestyle and sexual preferences” of homosexuals, “wrong is wrong”.

Then, at the beginning of 2010, Qwelane was quietly appointed as our country’s High Commissioner to Uganda, a country whose government is well known for its virulent anti-gay views and laws.

This, in itself, is something for which the ANC government should be ashamed, especially given that it was largely the ANC that gave South Africa a Constitution, Bill of Rights and other laws that set a shining example to the continent – and the rest of the world – when it comes to protecting the rights of the LGBTI community.

In April 2011, the Johannesburg Equality Court found Qwelane guilty of hate speech. He was ordered to apologise and fined R100 000. However, he failed to pitch for the default judgment because of his ambassadorial job in Uganda, and the judgment was withdrawn on September 1, 2011 because of a technicality.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) then initiated proceedings against him again.

Which brings us to last month’s judgment, in which he was ordered to apologise to the country’s LGBT community.

According to a News24 report last month, Judge Dimpheletse Moshidi said, in his ruling: "The offending statement is hurtful, harmful and incites propaganda hate towards the LGBT community." 

Moshidi ruled that Qwelane had to make an unconditional apology to the LGBT community within 30 days. He further instructed that the apology had to be published in the Sunday Sun or any national Sunday newspaper, and that he had to bring proof of the published apology to court. 

By my reckoning, Qwelane should have made his apology by this past Sunday (September 17).

It is my understanding, therefore, that Qwelane is not only guilty of hate speech, but also of contempt of court.

And this brings me to why I am writing to you, Mr Minister.

I know you are a busy man. The high levels of crime in this country mean that any police minister would have their hands full.

But you also strike me as someone who likes to get things done and who has a real passion for fighting crime.

My question is, then, why has Qwelane not been arrested for contempt of court?

He can’t be that difficult to find.

Regards

Glenn Bownes

- Bownes is the chief sub-editor at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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