Lim­popo rights cham­pion ac­cused of gay slur

Sunday Times - - NEWS - By PREGA GOVENDER

The head of an or­gan­i­sa­tion cham­pi­oning hu­man rights has been hauled be­fore the Equal­ity Court in Lim­popo for mak­ing anti­gay com­ments dur­ing a ra­dio show.

Bard­well Mu­fun­waini, 66, founder of Munna Ndi Nnyi Men’s Fo­rum in Tho­hoyan­dou, told lis­ten­ers that he ad­vised a young gay per­son to change his be­hav­iour “be­cause the anal cav­ity is meant for the ex­cre­tion of waste, not sex”.

He made the com­ment on Univen Ra­dio, a com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion based at the Univer­sity of Venda, dur­ing a dis­cus­sion about drugs and their ef­fects. He was a guest on cur­rent af­fairs pro­gramme Nkho Ya Lushaka, broad­cast in Venda last Septem­ber. Thalukanyo Raedane, a mem­ber of the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans, and/or in­ter­sex com­mu­nity and the per­son who lodged the com­plaint against Mu­fun­waini, has asked the court to rule that the com­ments by the head of the fo­rum amounted to hate speech.

Raedane, who has been joined in his court ap­pli­ca­tion by the South African Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, is also seek­ing a declara­tory or­der against Univen Ra­dio and the pre­sen­ter of the pro­gramme, Rab­son Ram­buwani, for their con­duct.

Mu­fun­waini, who was awarded an hon­orary doc­tor­ate by the Univer­sity of South Africa last year for cham­pi­oning hu­man rights, also told lis­ten­ers: “Peo­ple still have an op­por­tu­nity to change, re­pent from wrong­do­ings and tell them­selves that they are men, not women. A woman tells her­self that I am not a man, I am a woman and I live a good life.”

Raedane, who is a project man­ager for the mi­nor­ity rights divi­sion of the Tho­hoyan­dou Vic­tim Em­pow­er­ment Pro­gramme, said in court pa­pers that the in­for­ma­tion con­veyed by Mu­fun­waini was “not fac­tu­ally cor­rect”.

“As a proud ho­mo­sex­ual man, the state­ments . . . grossly of­fended me and made me feel undig­ni­fied.”

He said Mu­fun­waini had also stated that ho­mo­sex­ual peo­ple “can change and re­pent”, thereby in­sin­u­at­ing that sexuality was a choice and that LGBTI in­di­vid­u­als were guilty of wrong­do­ing.

“His com­ments were ir­re­spon­si­ble given the gross dis­crim­i­na­tion to which the LGBTI com­mu­nity is al­ready ex­posed in a ru­ral area such as Venda.”

He is also ask­ing the court to or­der Mu­fun­waini, Ram­buwani and Univen Ra­dio to apol­o­gise to the LGBTI com­mu­nity.

Vic­tor Mavhidula, pro­vin­cial man­ager of the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion in Lim­popo, said many gays and les­bians in the prov­ince were afraid to re­veal their sexuality be­cause of the fear of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“But we are not go­ing to al­low that as the HRC. If you are iden­ti­fied as one of those per­pe­trat­ing ha­tred to­wards gays and les­bians in our com­mu­nity, we are go­ing to come af­ter you.”

Mu­fun­waini re­ferred queries to his le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ad­vo­cate Azwifaneli Mphanama, who de­clined to com­ment, say­ing the mat­ter was sub ju­dice.

The Univer­sity of Venda has dis­tanced it­self from Mu­fun­waini’s state­ments, say­ing it did not sup­port any form of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Munna Ndi Nnyi de­scribes its mis­sion as try­ing to re­solve com­mu­nity prob­lems.

Bard­well Mu­fun­waini

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