Qwe­lane’s big­otry not hate speech, lawyer tells court

The Times (South Africa) - - NEWS - ROX­ANNE HEN­DER­SON

FOR­MER jour­nal­ist and am­bas­sador to Uganda Jon Qwe­lane’s 2008 Sun­day Sun col­umn crit­i­cis­ing same-sex mar­riage was of­fen­sive but not hate speech.

This was the ar­gu­ment Qwe­lane’s lawyer, Musatondwa Mu­sandiwa, started out­lin­ing yes­ter­day in the Jo­han­nes­burg High Court.

Mu­sandiwa was de­fend­ing Qwe­lane in re­spect of the col­umn he penned in 2008, which the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion found amounted to hate speech.

In the col­umn, Qwe­lane sug­gested that the con­sti­tu­tion’s ac­cep­tance of gay mar­riage would lead to “some id­iot [de­mand­ing] to marry an an­i­mal”. The col­umn also en­dorsed Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s stance against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

The Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion lit­i­gated against Qwe­lane af­ter he failed to apol­o­gise for his com­ments.

The case went ahead yes­ter­day de­spite Qwe­lane be­ing in hos­pi­tal.

Mu­sandiwa asked the com­mis­sion’s head of le­gal ser­vices, Pan­delis Gre­go­riou‚ how the com­mis­sion could have con­cluded that Qwe­lane’s col­umn con­sti­tuted hate speech when the SA Press Coun­cil had found that it did not.

“His views are of­fen­sive,” Musa- ndiwa said. “That’s not in dis­pute. But if you go back to the Press Coun­cil’s rul­ing the view is that it is ro­bust lan­guage‚ not hate speech.”

He asked Gre­go­riou why Me­dia24 was not be­ing pros­e­cuted for the col­umn’s pub­li­ca­tion.

“He was an em­ployee at Me­dia24. You with­drew the ac­tion against Me­dia24. Should you not also have with­drawn the ac­tion against Qwe­lane?”

Ad­vo­cate for the SAHRC Tem­beka Ngcukaitobi said: ‘‘One must take into con­sid­er­a­tion that de­hu­man­i­sa­tion has a dis­tinct abil­ity to jus­tify phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.”

The case con­tin­ues to­day when Powa’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor will tes­tify.

Pic­ture: ALAISTER RUS­SELL

RAISING THEIR VOICES: Sup­port­ers of the NGO Peo­ple Op­posed to Wo­man Abuse demon­strat­ing out­side the Jo­han­nes­burg High court against for­mer am­bas­sador to Uganda Jon Qwe­lane who is be­ing pros­e­cuted for hate speech

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