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Roodepoort - A Roodepoort Equality Court ruling, condemning a local woman's harassment of her transsexual neighbour, has been hailed as a victory for the victims of hate speech.

“People have been allowed to say what they wanted to vulnerable groups of our society for far too long without suffering the consequences,” lawyer Michal Johnson of Eversheds in Johannesburg said on Friday.

“The ruling sent out a clear message that the act afforded protection to victims of hate speech and that the courts would enforce their constitutional rights.”

Johnson represented the brother of Ambrose Lallu, a 41-year-old hairdresser from Roodepoort, who had been awarded damages in his hate speech case against his former neighbour Wilna van Staden.

Roodepoort Magistrate M J Thobela earlier this year handed down judgement in Lallu's favour, claiming she had repeatedly harassed him and had propagated and advocated hurtful, hateful and harmful words towards him on the basis of his sexual orientation.

The magistrate ruled that Van Staden's conduct amounted to hate speech and unfair discrimination in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000.

He ordered Van Staden to pay her former neighbour R27 300 for his relocation expenses, psychological counselling and the humiliation, pain and suffering she had caused him.

A similar claim by Lallu's brother Raphael was still waiting for a trial date.

Lallu said in an affidavit his sexual orientation was transsexual, but suffering the slings and arrows of Van Staden's contempt had cause such psychological damage he had to get counselling and began to feel uncomfortable with his sexual orientation.

“I feel more comfortable when I am dressed as a woman. There were occasions on which the respondent (Van Staden) would see me dressed as a woman,” he said.

Lallu and his brother used to live with his parents in a townhouse complex in Roodepoort, but claimed they were forced to move because of Van Staden's harassment.

He said his relationship with Van Staden was at first civil when she moved in next door in 2006, but soon turned into a nightmare.

She used to refer to him as “daai dingetjie”, a “Boesman moffie” and “it”, openly discussed what he was with visitors and constantly watched him and encouraged visitors to come and look at him.

Her conduct allegedly escalated over the years so that she started circulating petitions to have him and his family evicted from the complex.

She allegedly also circulated a newsletter among residents in which she used the term “neuters”, apparently a reference to Lallu and his brother.

After getting notice of Lallu's hate speech complaint against her, Van Staden allegedly invited other residents to her home for a braai, at which certain guests loudly discussed having him and his brother killed and raped.

Obtaining peace orders against Van Staden, numerous complaints to management and the body corporate and complaints to the police had no effect on her conduct, Lallu said. - Sapa