Most South Africans are generally homophobic - witness in hate speech case

2017-03-08 16:21
 Jon Qwelane (File, Supplied)

Jon Qwelane (File, Supplied)

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Johannesburg - Poor blacks in townships are, in general, homophobic, Daily Sun deputy editor Ben Viljoen told the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"This country is full of homophobic people [and] this shouldn't be seen as some kind of racial slur," he testified in the hate speech case against South Africa's former ambassador to Uganda, Jon Qwelane.

"Black people in general are homophobic and white people in general are also homophobic. In South Africa in general we have a problem."

Viljoen said the newspaper's target market was exposed to homophobia.

The SA Human Rights Commission took Qwelane to court for a column he wrote, entitled Call me names, but gay is not okay, which the newspaper published in July 2008.

Written apology

In it, Qwelane lauded Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's "unflinching and unapologetic stance" on homosexuality. It was accompanied by a cartoon of a man marrying a goat.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the SAHRC, asked him if it had been possible in Qwelane's column to separate the encouragement of homophobia from physical harm directed at homosexuals.

"In terms of physical harm, I don't know," he replied.

"Qwelane is a person who is isolated. This kind of speech happens all the time," he said.

Viljoen believed the newspaper's written apology about the column was "meaningless" and "unsatisfactory". He said the newspaper apologised for certain aspects of it, but not for other aspects.

Under cross-examination from Hamilton Maenetje, for the justice minister, Viljoen said the editorial team had learnt from the newspaper's 1.4 million Facebook followers that some of them used hate speech.

"Poor black people in general are homophobic. I can show you content. It is tough to be gay and black in South Africa," he said.

The SAHRC said it received 350 complaints about Qwelane's column - the highest number it had ever received for one incident.

Qwelane was not in court on Wednesday due to poor health. His lawyer said on Monday that he had been hospitalised after he collapsed in a shopping mall in Boksburg.

In April 2011, the Johannesburg Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech for his column.

He was ordered to apologise and fined R100 000. He was not present at the default judgment because of his job abroad. The judgment was withdrawn on September 1, 2011.

Qwelane's counsel argued at the time that the default judgment was not allowed, and that a direction hearing needed to be convened before such a judgment could be handed down.

In August 2013, the court heard that Qwelane intended challenging the constitutionality of certain sections of the Equality Act.

The SAHRC later initiated proceedings against him again.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  jon qwelane  |  lgbti rights  |  gay rights

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