'Qwelane not aware of headline, cartoon' - witness in hate speech case

2017-03-08 17:21
Jon Qwelane (File, Supplied)

Jon Qwelane (File, Supplied)

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Johannesburg - South Africa's former ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane was not aware of the cartoon and the headline which accompanied his homophobic column, the Sunday Sun's deputy editor told the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"Mr Qwelane like any other journalist simply puts forth a piece of writing. We get dozens of other pieces every day," Ben Viljoen testified in the hate speech case against Qwelane.

"If there was any unhappiness with his piece, it would have been sent back to him."

In July 2008, the Sunday Sun published a column by Qwelane titled Call me names, but gay is not okay. He lauded Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's "unflinching and unapologetic stance" on homosexuality. It was accompanied by a cartoon of a man marrying a goat.

Qwelane wrote that he wondered what "these people have against the natural order of things". He refused to withdraw or apologise for his views and would not explain his opinions to the SA Human Rights Commission, he wrote.

Hate speech conviction

Viljoen told the court that Qwelane only saw the column on the Sunday morning it was published. Viljoen is Qwelane's only witness in the matter. He said Qwelane didn't take the decision to publish it.

After 2008, there was more tolerance toward and acceptance of the LGBTI community, he said. However, in the case of Qwelane's column, "the LGBTI community is hurt".

Qwelane was not in court on Wednesday to attend the hearing due to poor health. The matter was previously postponed because Qwelane was not well. His lawyers said he would not lead evidence in the matter.

In April 2011, the Johannesburg Equality Court found him guilty of hate speech. 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 The judgment was withdrawn on September 1, 2011.

The SAHRC subsequently initiated proceedings against him again.

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

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