Qwelane's column showed hate - witness

2017-03-07 17:57


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Johannesburg - She had been assaulted with bottles, stones and sticks because she was a lesbian, a woman told the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"They said I am lesbian because I haven't yet met a man who would satisfy me," she said.

She was testifying in the hate speech case against South Africa's former ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane. The court has ordered that the woman, the last witness called by the SA Human Rights Commission, not be identified.

The SAHRC took Qwelane to court over a column he wrote, entitled, "Call me names, but gay is not okay" which was published in the Sunday Sun in July 2008.

In his column – which was accompanied by a cartoon of a man marrying a goat – Qwelane lauded Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's "unflinching and unapologetic stance" on homosexuality.

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

The woman said she was hurt when Qwelane supported Mugabe's stance on homosexuality.

'Law doesn't protect us'

"These are hurtful words that show hate to the LGBTI community. The words create a perception for other members of the community to treat LGBTI members as if they are non-entities," she said.

She was "very angry" when Qwelane compared homosexuals to animals.

"It made me feel like we don't have dignity at all. It hurt me because it is an insult."

She wept in court as she gave her testimony.

Despite this, she never laid a complaint about the column. She said she did not always report things that happened to her to the police.

"The law doesn't assist us and the law doesn't protect people like us. My wish would be to pray for the court to act against people who harass and insult us and to come to our defence."  

Qwelane was not in court on Tuesday, due to poor health. The matter was previously postponed because Qwelane was not well.

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 The judgment was withdrawn on September 1, 2011.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.

Read more on:    jon qwelane  |  johannesburg  |  lgbti rights

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