Psychology Society enters Qwelane case

2013-10-30 07:53
Jon Qwelane (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Jon Qwelane (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The Psychological Society of SA [PsySSA] filed papers in the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday to be admitted as a friend of the court in the hate speech case against Jon Qwelane, it said.

The law firm Webber Wentzel would act on behalf of PsySSA pro bono.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) took Qwelane to court seeking an apology and damages over a column he wrote in 2008, and which was published by the Sunday Sun, in which he expressed his opinion about homosexuals.

The column was headlined: Call me names, but gay is NOT okay.

Challenging act

Qwelane, South Africa's ambassador to Uganda, filed a constitutional challenge in the South Gauteng High Court to certain provisions of the equality legislation on 27 September.

He intended challenging sections 10 and 11 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. Section 10 deals with hate speech and section 11 with harassment.

In April 2011, Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech, but was not present at the default judgment because of his job abroad.

On 1 September 2011, the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court withdrew the judgment.

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.

PsySSA said it would present research-based evidence of the harmful psychological effects of hate speech on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community and on broader society.

Freedom of expression argument

It would submit that the legislation on hate speech was constitutional, as it limited the right to freedom of expression in a reasonable and justifiable manner.

"Importantly, the Equality Act does not criminalise hate speech. Rather, it balances the right to freedom of expression against the constitutional protection of equality and dignity of all persons, regardless of their status or identity."

Qwelane's lawyer Andrew Boerner has defended his client's right to freedom of expression.

"His particular expression of his views may have been unpopular, controversial and even shocking, but it neither advocated hatred nor constituted incitement to cause harm. His expression is therefore protected by our Constitution."

Qwelane had been labelled a homophobe and a bigot.

"What people fail to understand is that the very same offensive views that they express about Jon, and the right with which they have to express their views, is the same right which Jon expressed in writing the article," Boerner said.

"This is the same right which he is now fighting to protect."
Read more on:    sahrc  |  hate speech

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