Jon Qwelane

The Democratic Alliance (DA) and twenty of the country’s leading LGBTI groups have slammed reports that homophobic journalist Jon Qwelane could be appointed ambassador to Uganda.

The Joint Working Group (JWG), a network of LGBTI organisations throughout South Africa said that it is “deeply disturbed” by reports over the weekend, apparently confirmed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, that Qwelane is to be appointed as an ambassador.

“We are even more disturbed by suggestions that he may be sent to Uganda where a brutally homophobic piece of legislation is being debated at this time,” said the JWG.

The groups noted that there remains an open investigation and pending charges against Qwelane for hate speech at the South African Human Rights Commission in connection with his 2008 article in which he called for the constitution to be amended to strip LGBTI people of their rights.

“Given that the South African Constitution in the Bill of Rights clearly states that people may not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation it seems unbelievable that a person who clearly holds views contrary to those stated in the constitution would be considered a suitable representative of the state in any role, anywhere in the world,” said the JWG.

The organisations called for Qwelane’s appointment to be immediately withdrawn and demanded that the South African government “clearly state our country’s opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda”.

The JWG further insisted that the South African Human Rights Commission expedite the hate speech charges against Qwelane that have been pending since December 2008.

The DA, the official opposition in parliament, called for the President to reconsider Qwelane as an ambassadorial candidate and said that his appointment would “damage South Africa’s credibility internationally as a country which promotes tolerance and human rights”.

“Jon Qwelane is an admitted homophobe, and his appointment could be seen as a tacit endorsement of the repressive stance Uganda is taking on homosexuality,” said MP Lindiwe Mazibuko, the DA National Spokesperson in a statement.

“At time when South Africa ought to be lobbying along with other progressive nations for Uganda to drop their appalling proposal to impose the death penalty for homosexual acts, and to instead champion a culture of human rights, the President appears to be moving to appoint a man whose record for promoting intolerance, homophobia and prejudice in South Africa is well established and largely unparalleled,” she said.

The South African Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) also issued a statement on the matter, saying it believes “that this appointment by the President is in extremely bad taste, and a slap in the face to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex South Africans AND Ugandans”.

It added: “What kind of message does it send to the world and a country like Uganda which is tearing itself apart on the issue of the human rights of GLBTI people when South Africa appoints a blatant unrepentant homophobe, who is still facing charges on hate speech against the pink community – as an ambassador to another country? It says, ‘We support you, Uganda – and your policies of discrimination.'”

SA GLAAD called on members of the LGBTI community to join the Facebook group set up to protest against Qwelane’s appointment at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=424950610340.

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