Limpopo rights champion accused of gay slur
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.