Johannesburg - The South Gauteng High Court on Friday ordered former South African ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane to apologise to the gay community for his 2008 newspaper column which the court found to be harmful.
Judge Dimpheletse Seun Moshidi found Qwelane guilty of hate speech emanating from a column he penned in 2008 while working as a journalist.
''The offending statements made against the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) community are declared by this court to be hurtful, inciting harm, propagating hatred as envisaged in Section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Unfair Prevention of Discrimination Act of 2000. The applicant is ordered to tender to the LGBTIQ community an unconditional apology within 30 days, or another period as parties may agree upon,'' Moshidi said.
''The apology shall be published in one edition of the Sunday Sun newspaper or publication of the same circulation as a Sunday newspaper in order to receive the same publicity as the offending statements. Proof of the publication of such apology shall be furnished to this court immediately thereafter.''
The self-confessed homophobe was also ordered to pay the legal costs for the long-running case, including the postponements. Moshidi further dismissed Qwelane's constitutional challenge of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act hate speech clause, which Qwelane said was ''vague and too broad.''
The case was brought to court by the Human Rights Commission of SA after it said it received many complaints against Qwelane's utterances in the column.
The column, titled "Call me names, but gay is not ok" was published in the Sunday Sun newspaper, and drew widespread criticism from activists who accused Qwelane of promoting hate speech. It was accompanied by a cartoon that portrayed homosexuality as bestiality.
Moshidi said the column "did not contain constitutional value at all" and was not produced in order to encourage debate on homosexuality, "but rather to persuade readers of Qwelane's own views and ''position on homophobia and call on others to join him in that.''
Lesbian and gays continued to endure hatred and discrimination, he added.
"It is common cause that the gay and lesbian community constitutes a vulnerable group in our society and have been subjected to societal discrimination purely on their sexual orientation."
"They are a permanent minority in our society and have suffered various patterns of discrimination. The statements published further caused hurt and were aggravated by Mr Qwelane's failure go apologise to the LGBTIQ community," said Moshidi.
Moshidi said had it been Qwelane's intention to spark debate on issues faced by homosexuals as he argued, he could have given evidence in this regard in court, but that never happened.