An Oudtshoorn newspaper has apparently fired an employee after she caused a Facebook furore by posting an anti-gay status update.

“Aids is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals. It is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”, Karin Zaayman, an employee at Die Herrie, reportedly posted as a status update last week.

The message caused a furore on Facebook as the news spread and outraged users of the social network site expressed their anger at the statement.

Christina Engela of the South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD), posted the contact details of the newspaper and urged people to confront Zaayman and her employers on her views.

“You should know that the Pink Community in Oudtshoorn (and across South Africa) is very disappointed and angry about this issue. Some of them reportedly place adverts in your paper for business purposes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to review their continued support of your paper as a consequence of how you handle this matter,” Engela wrote to Die Herrie owner Johan Breunissen.

A complaint of hate speech against Zaayman was also laid with the Human Rights Commission by at least one person.

Breunissen finally responded on Friday via e-mail and on Facebook, explaining that Zaayman was a copy shop assistant at the publication.

“I would like to state it that I’m not supporting her Facebook profile comments, on or off the internet. Her comments are totally out of line, with my views and the views of my company.”

He added, “she will not be working with me anymore!”

While most welcomed the statement by Breunissen, Glenn De Swardt, the editor of Cape Town-based gay newspaper Pink Tongue, was less satisfied.

“I’m not sure that her being fired is sufficient as it doesn’t undo the harm that has been caused,” said De Swardt.

“The owner of the publication states that he does not share her views but these are empty words – he should commit to using his newspaper to remedy some of the harm that has been caused against gay people and against people living with HIV and AIDS by producing rational journalism on subjects such as prejudice and stigma.”

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