'Jon Qwelane's defence of homophobic column has no merit‚' Psy SA tells court

Jon Qwelane
Jon Qwelane

The Psychological Society of South Africa (Psy SA) has rejected all arguments former ambassador to Uganda Jon Qwelane has put before the courts in defence of his homophobic column.

This was on Wednesday at the High Court in Johannesburg‚ where advocate Kate Hofmeyr‚ for Psy SA laid into Qwelane “offensive” comments.

Qwelane has not attended the hearing‚ dealing with 2008 the Sunday Sun column titled‚ “Call me names‚ but Gay is NOT okay‚” since its commencement last week‚ after he collapsed in a shopping mall and was hospitalised.

The column suggested that the Constitution’s acceptance of gay marriage would lead to “some idiot being demands to marry an animal” and endorsed the views of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe – who has compared gay and lesbian people to dogs and pigs.

Qwelane’s counsel has defended the offensive column in court‚ saying it stimulated debate and that sections of the law which prohibits such speech‚ the Equality Act‚ is unconstitutional.

Psy SA‚ which has joined the case as a friend of the court‚ said Qwelane’s claim that section 10 of the Equality Act is overbroad and vague in its limitation of free speech is without merit.

The very act of limiting free speech is something Parliament was empowered to do by the Constitution‚ when it enacted the Act‚ Hofmeyr argued.

“Parliament is at liberty to limit the right to free speech because it recognised words can retard the attainment of equality … and because certain speech attacks the inherent dignity of all the people in our country. The only proviso is that it does so reasonably and justifiably.”

Hofmeyr said Qwelane’s constitutional challenge of the Equality Act was remarkable because its suggested its limitations are “inappropriate”.

She also said that exceptions to the free speech limitation Qwelane is challenging is already provided for in the Equality Act.

Deputy editor of the Sunday Sun Ben Viljoen‚ called to the witness stand by Qwelane‚ previously told the court that the “reprehensible” column should never have been published.

The court also heard that the publication reached a wide audience and that it generated 350 complaints at the South African Human Rights Commission and 1 000 complaints with the press ombudsman.

Hofmeyr said Qwelane knew his following and made clear in the column that had no intention of encouraging debate.

“He says‚ ‘I know I’m going to be criticised and I don’t give a damn. Wrong is wrong’. That is not an invitation to engage in debate.”

Hofmeyr also opposed Qwelane’s claim that sections of the Equality Act created a crime of hate speech‚ saying matters were only referred for prosecution by the Equality Court if a separate crime is uncovered during proceedings.

The hearing continues. — TMG Digital


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