By Angela Quintal

Gay activists have accused the South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) of helping to promote homophobia because it allowed its Cape Town boardroom to be used as the venue for the launch of a book opposed to homosexuality.

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project wrote to Sacob chief executive Kevin Wakeford this week to express great dismay at the fact that Sacob would be "hosting" the launch of The Pink Agenda: Sexual Revolution in South Africa and the Ruin of the Family.

"The book, quite simply, is a work of pure hatred and will contribute to fostering of homophobic attitudes in South Africa," project co-ordinator Evert Knoessen wrote.

He also attacked the book's co-author, Peter Hammond, alleging he was implicated in gun smuggling in Sudan and Rwanda, and in human rights offences before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997.

"He has been declared persona non grata by the government of the Sudan," Knoessen alleged.

The promotion of Cape Town as an international lesbian and gay tourism destination was generating millions of rand for the local economy.

"A publication such as The Pink Agenda may likely have the impact of making Cape Town a less viable tourist destination for lesbian and gay tourists, which will harm the interests of your members directly," Knoessen said.

He urged Wakeford to investigate the matter and respond to "how Sacob can lend support to a venture such as this, that is not only blatantly a promotion of hate speech, but also clearly against the interests of your members".

Sacob spokesperson Robbie Cairncross - who is also president of Family Alliance International (SA) - said the venue had been hired as part of a normal commercial transaction, and Sacob was not associated with the launch.

Another Sacob employee said the boardroom was hired by other organisations all the time.

United Christian Action communications director Mathew Pute - who also spoke at the launch - said the allegations against Hammond were untrue.

He was not surprised that Hammond was not liked by the Sudanese government, because "he takes bibles into the country and helps Christians who are being persecuted".

Pute called for a frank and open debate about the homosexual agenda.

Co-author Christine McCafferty invoked a passage from Constitutional Court judge Albie Sachs' judgment on sodomy to defend her right of freedom of speech to oppose homosexuality.

The judge wrote: "... those persons who for reasons of religious or other belief disagree with or condemn homosexual conduct are free to hold and articulate such beliefs".

In their book, McCafferty and Hammond explain: "This book in not as much an attempt to provide new information, as an attempt to expose what has been hidden by shrill accusations of "homophobia, discrimination and hate speech".

"Being bulldozed into accepting anything as normal good and right - without free and open debate - is one of the ways that apartheid came to be accepted as normal."

Hammond said on Friday: "The homosexual agenda is an attack on the family. This (book) is not an attack against homosexuality, but more a defence of the family."

A policeman was posted at the foyer and another in the boardroom to prevent any possible disruption at the launch on Friday. However, it went ahead incident free. - Sapa