Jon Qwelane
Jon Qwelane

Qwelane verdict a ‘private matter’

Time of article published Jun 1, 2011

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Marianne Merten

Political Bureau

The Equality Court verdict that South African ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane was guilty of hate speech for homophobic comments in a 2008 newspaper column is a “private matter”, according to the International Relations and Co-operation Ministry.

Spokesman Clayson Monyela said the ministry respected the court’s decision.

“The constitution is very clear about the rights of gays and lesbians,” he said, and the government would be the first to defend this.

“This incident happened before Qwelane was appointed as ambassador by the president. He wrote the article in his personal capacity. So it’s in his personal capacity he must deal with this.”

Yesterday, the Johannesburg Equality Court found Qwelane guilty of hate speech, ordered him to apologise unconditionally to the gay and lesbian community and pay R100 000 to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

In a Sunday Sun column on July 20, 2008, Qwelane slammed gay relationships under the headline: “Call me names, but gay is NOT okay.”

The article sparked a public outcry.

It was followed by Qwelane’s appointment as ambassador to Uganda, amid signs in that country of a crackdown on gays and lesbians. It included a proposal by Ugandan lawmakers to increase the punishment from life imprisonment to the death penalty for having a same-sex relationship.

The Human Rights Commission welcomed the verdict, Sapa reports. “... With recent hate speech and crimes against the community, the court is sending positive messages,” said commission spokesman Vincent Moaga.

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