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Organisations campaigning for human rights and the rights of the disabled have reacted with outrage at the insults hurled at Sowetan editor-in-chief Thabo Leshilo and his disabled son by Jackey Maarohanye, director of the Ithuteng Trust.
Speaking outside the Protea magistrates' court on Monday, Maarohanye said nine-year-old Ofentse Leshilo's autism was the result of his mother's bad behaviour.
Muzi Nkosi, chairman of Disabled People South Africa, said he was "appalled" by the remarks.
"This is the first time I have heard such utter nonsense about autism," Nkosi said.
Autism is a genetic disorder that affects a child's development in communication and social behaviour.
Autism South Africa spokesman Jill Spacey said Maarohanye's insinuations were "rubbish and out of line".
She said that misconceptions about autism were common and stemmed from fear and lack of knowledge about the condition.
The chairman of the South African Human Rights Commission, Jody Kollapen, said derogatory statements about disability were damaging and implied that the disabled deserved less respect and equality than others.
"Free speech is recognised but was never intended to give licence to denigrate, undermine or attack the reputation and good standing of citizens," Kollapen said.
Sowetan's Leshilo said he was weighing his options with regard to Maarohanye's comments.
Pupils supporting Maarohanye outside the court on Monday also hurled abuse at Sowetan reporter Thembela Khamango and his colleague Lucky Nxumalo after charges of obstruction against one of Maarohanye's pupils were withdrawn.