Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Serious Stuff...

Jon Qwelane guilty of hate speech

Former Sunday Sun columnist Jon Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech by the Johannesburg Equality Court on Tuesday.

The court found that a cartoon in his column amounted to hate speech, and that both his article and the cartoon propagated hatred and harm.

The article was published in the newspaper on July 20 2008, under the headline: "Call me names, but gay is NOT okay."

Qwelane was ordered to make an unconditional apology to the gay and lesbian community, and pay R100 000 to the SA Human Rights Commission.

Qwelane's column (PDF)

Read the full text of Jon Qwelane's column in the Sunday Sun 

No costs were ordered.

"We are quite pleased that the court has found in our favour ... R100 000 is quite a reasonable amount," said SAHRC spokesperson Vincent Moaga.

"The focus is not on the money, but the message coming out of this. With recent hate speech and crimes against the community, the court is sending positive messages," he said.

The SAHRC initiated court proceedings in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

Qwelane did not make much of an appearance in the course of the trial. He failed to sign court papers presented to him by a clerk and did not file responding papers.

The court ruled that, as it had only one version of the story, the SAHRC's argument would be accepted.
"From here, we will have to look at the judgment and make sure that Qwelane abides by the court order," Moaga said.

In 2008, the press ombudsman found the paper was "disparaging" of homosexuals in publishing Qwelane's column.

Ombudsman Joe Thloloe received nearly 1 000 complaints after the paper published the column, he said in a statement on July 29 2008.

Thloloe found that the thrust of the column was a call for a revision of the country's Constitution to take away the rights that gays and lesbians had won in the new South Africa.

"This is the same type of debate as those on the death penalty and on proportional representation. Debates about amendments to the Constitution are protected under the freedom of speech clauses of the Constitution. Qwelane has the right to call for amendments."

'Well within the law'
Although Qwelane expressed reservations about homosexuality and put down gays and lesbians, he did not advocate hatred or the harming of gays and lesbians.

"It is robust language, but not hate speech," said Thloloe.

He also did not equate homosexuality with bestiality.

"What he does say is that after allowing gay marriages it will not be long before we legalise bestiality. He is not equating the two, but placing them on different rungs on a ladder, with bestiality lower. By implication however he is placing heterosexuality higher."

Asked whether the column could lead to violence against gays and lesbians, Thloloe responded: "To me it appears most unlikely."

There was nothing in the column inciting hatred and calling for the harming of homosexuals.

"Columnists are protected by the Constitution for as long as their comments don't propagate war, incite imminent violence and advocate hatred that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

"Qwelane was well within the law but fell foul of the press code."

Qwelane is South Africa's ambassador to Uganda. - Sapa and Staff reporter
Re-blogged from the Mail & Guardian

Qwelane guilty 

- 'axe him as ambassador'

May 31, 2011 11:49 PM | By CHARL DU PLESSIS 

Jon Qwelane's continued tenure as high commissioner 

in Uganda has been labelled 

an "embarrassment to the constitution" 

after he was found guilty yesterday 

of hate speech against homosexuals.

Qwelane, who wrote a 2008 column in the Sunday Sun under the headline "Call me names, but gay is NOT okay", was ordered to pay a R100000 fine to be used to raise awareness of gay and lesbian rights. The Johannesburg Equality Court also ordered him to apologise publicly.
Qwelane was taken to the Equality Court by the Human Rights Commission after it received numerous complaints about the column.
Mazibuko Jara, chairman of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said yesterday the organisation was "overjoyed" at the court ruling, which exposed "Qwelane as the homophobe he is".
Jara said the government now had "no basis whatsoever to continue protecting Jon Qwelane . [it ] must recall him, fine him . and order him to apologise".
Jacob van Garderen, director of Lawyers for Human Rights, said "it is certainly problematic that our representative in Uganda has been found guilty of this speech, which is clearly not representative of the values and aspirations of our country".
Activist Rhoda Kadalie said it was an "embarrassment" that a South African ambassador appeared to support Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's "horrendous anti-gay laws".
Department of International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela said Qwelane wrote the article in his "personal capacity", before he was appointed ambassador, and he needed to "deal with it in his personal capacity."
Presidency spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the judgment would be studied.   
Re-blogged from the Times Live   

Health4Men welcomes Equality Court's ruling on Qwelane
Jon Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech by the Johannesburg Equality Court today after the former Sunday Sun columnist penned an article titled "Call me names, but gay is NOT okay." Some four years after the article was published, Qwelane has now been ordered to apologise to the gay and lesbian community and to pay a fine of R 100,000.00 to the SA Human Rights Comission. 

"This is more than a slap on the wrist. It sends a clear message to prominent community leaders, and indeed to politicians, that they will be held accountable for prejudiced statements against any sector of the community. It is also a clear statement to the mass media that they cannot hide behind the concept of 'freedom of the press' when printing hate speech," says Glenn de Swardt from Health4Men. 

Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute, are specialists in providing sexual healthcare to men who have sex with men (MSM) - a sector of the community whose sexual health is rarely considered, as prejudice and stigma often prevent these men from accessing public health services. For these men, articles like Qwelane's only aggravate their situation, inciting further hate and violence against them. 

But Qwelane's ruling comes as the latest in a series of developments that suggest that unlike elsewhere on the continent, the tide may be turning for sexual minorities. Last week, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health emphasised the Department of Health's intentions to better respond to the needs of MSM by working closely with organisations like Health4Men. 

Government has also shown increasing recognition of sexual minorities with its recent inclusion of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sector within SANAC (the South African National Aids Council). "The verdict against Mr Qwelane resonates strongly with these recent developments and it does well to highlight what we hope will be a significant and lasting shift in attitude," commented Executive Director of the Anova Health Institute, Professor James McIntyre. 

"Hopefully Qwelane's verdict will also send a message to health care workers within the public sector, who are often blatantly prejudiced against gay and bisexual men," adds de Swardt. "While the Department of Health is being supportive, clinic managers, doctors and nurses often harbour irrational hostile attitudes towards men who have sex with men, which prevents many men from accessing appropriate health care and taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and their partners from HIV." Whether the ruling will have further implications for Qwelane who is currently South Africa's ambassador to Uganda - a country whose media are deeply prejudiced towards homosexuality - remains to be seen. 

Health4Men in a project of the Anova Health Institute and is funded by USAID/PEPFAR. For more, contact Glenn de Swardt, Health4Men at: (0)21 421 6127 or e-mail

Make sexual minorities mainstream

Is the government a champion of the rights of sexual minorities? 
This past week there was minor excitement within the broader 
community of sexual minorities and civil society organisations 
that work on sexual-health issues. 

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had agreed to give the keynote address at a conference focusing on sexual-health issues affecting men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly within the context of the HIV/Aids pandemic.

The minister's presence, according to one of the organisers, is "indicative of the department of health and the minister's personal response to MSM and recognition of the need for programming".

And yet, notwithstanding the importance of the health ministry targeting all groups affected by HIV/Aids, this praise for a minister doing his job gives us an opportunity to reflect on a broader set of questions.

Is this government, in general, a reliable champion of the rights of sexual minorities? Is the more specific focus on MSM appropriate or does it reinforce stereotypes about the sexual behaviour of minorities?

The ANC-led government has had a chequered relationship with sexual minorities.

On the one hand, in spite of the fact that the majority of ordinary citizens display various levels of homophobia, the ANC agreed to a liberal Constitution that outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation. And, of course, it is old hat to assert that we have the most progressive gay-rights jurisprudence in the world.

There is no political pressure on the ANC to take liberal party positions on these thorny ethical issues. And yet there has appeared to be something of a principled commitment to create at least a legal environment that affirms the substantive equality and dignity of sexual minorities.

Seen within this context, Motsoaledi's personal appearance at a conversation between experts and sexual minorities about their sexual health challenges is appropriate. Indeed, it flows from the very constitutional rights that sexual minorities enjoy. It gives policy and practical meaning to those legal rights.

At the same time, however, the minor excitement about the minister's presence is deceptive. We should not exaggerate the symbolism of the health department's decision to be a serious partner in localised conversations about sexual health within various vulnerable communities. It belies the broader reality that there is a gap between the liberal Constitution and political leadership on issues of sexuality.

Where, for example, is government's leadership on the issue of so-called corrective rape, which too many lesbian girls and women torturously endure? Where is the ANC government's commitment to human rights in the appointment of Jon Qwelani as ambassador to Uganda, a man who has a record of committing verbal violence against sexual minorities that shatters their dignity?

Where is government's commitment to substantive equality for sexual minorities when a senior diplomatic figure, Jerry Matjila, argues at the United Nations Human Rights Council that it would be wrong to oppose homophobia and racism in the same resolution because to do so would belittle the experiences of racism's victims?

Worse still was the intervention by this diplomat's political principal, Ayanda Ntsaluba, who explained that Matjila should have used "more elegant" language. The truth is that the Constitution cannot change hearts and minds. It is an important step towards making the country safer for sexual minorities to live freely. And it matters that there is legal affirmation of everyone's unqualified entitlement to dignified treatment from the state and from their fellow citizens.

But if we are to see a change in attitude on the part of the homophobic majority, much greater leadership is required than the health minister's appearance at a health conference. This is not, of course, to deny that the minister's appearance is necessarily limited in terms of its potential impact. And, furthermore, it is appropriate for him, specifically, to focus on matters of health rather than on the broader fight against homophobia, for example, or sexual violence against lesbians and heterosexual women and non-violent manifestations of prejudice against all vulnerable groups.

It does mean, however, that we need to urge the government to display greater visible, public leadership in a broader social dialogue about attitudes towards sexual minorities. The danger of having a minister present only at a health conference is that we may inadvertently medicalise sexual minorities.

We may (though I acknowledge this is not the intention) accidently reinforce the belief of some that sexual minorities are objects for medical intervention rather than banal persons with the same banal desires, capacities, wishes, dreams, hopes and fears as the heterosexual majority.

We can render sexual minorities boring, however, only if government, as a unit, shows moral and political leadership in celebrating the positive contributions many sexual minorities make to this country and shows leadership in fighting the social manifestations of prejudice against them.

Motsoaledi's commitment to sexual minorities' wellbeing is praiseworthy. But more is needed from government to ensure that, at some point in the future, the very need for a conference of this kind falls away.

Eusebius McKaiser is an associate at the Wits Centre for Ethics


Now, here's another battle to be fought!
 Affirmative Action in South Africa
South Africa is the only country in the world where affirmative action is in the favor of the majority, who have complete political control. The fact that the political majority requires affirmative action to protect themselves against a 9% minority group is testament to a complete failure on their part to build their own wealth-making structures. As such, their only solution is to take it from others. - Gambit Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups (black Africans,ColouredsIndians and some Chinese  who are SA citizens) economic opportunities previously not available to them. It includes measures such as Employment Equity, skills development, ownership, management, socioeconomic development and preferential procurement. - From Wikipedia                 In essence, the BEE is legalised discrimination against white South Africans.  
Yet, there's always something to laugh about in Africa...  

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This is the best I can do until I figure out how to do it the right way. – Nealbo

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