Jon Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech. File picture: Lori Waselchuk

Cape Town - Former South African ambassador to Uganda, Jon Qwelane, was on Friday granted leave to appeal against the whole of the judgment and order that his 2008 newspaper column was hate speech.

In July 2017, the high court in Johannesburg ruled that Qwelane's column was "anti-gay" and was "hurtful, harmful and incites propaganda hate towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community".

In the initial judgment, Judge Dimpheletse Seun Moshidi said the newspaper 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".

However, on Friday Justice Moshidi said that he was of the view that there were reasonable prospects of success on appeal. 

"I have come to the conclusion that leave to appeal ought to be granted to the Supreme Court of Appeal on this matter. This, on my finding based on the above nature of the matter, that there was reasonable prospects of success on appeal," Moshidi said.

Qwelane's legal representatives, Jurgens Bekker Attorneys, welcomed the ruling. 

"Accordingly, leave to appeal was granted to the Supreme Court of Appeal. We are satisfied with the ruling and shall proceed to prepare Mr. Qwelane's appeal," the law firm said in a statement.

"We are in agreement with Justice Moshidi that the Equality Court proceedings are relatively novel in our democratic dispensation, and therefore it is in the interest of justice that certainty be achieved by having the Supreme Court of Appeal rule upon the matter."

The case was brought by the South African Human Rights Commission after it said it received many complaints against Qwelane's utterances in the column. 

In his 2008 column titled "Call me names, but gay is not okay" in the Sunday Sun newspaper, Qwelane expressed his opinion about homosexuals and lauded former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's "unflinching and unapologetic stance" against gays and lesbians.

Qwelane wrote: "There could be a few things I could take issue with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, but his unflinching and unapologetic stance over homosexuals is definitely not among those."

African News Agency/ANA