The years-long legal battle to make Jon Qwelane face the consequences of his homophobic hate speech will continue later this year.
On Monday, Qwelane’s lawyer, Andrew Boerner, said in a statement that the South Gauteng High Court will hear the disgraced journalist’s effort to challenge certain provisions of the Equality Act on 13 and 14 November.
Qwelane, who is now embarrassingly South Africa’s High Commissioner to Uganda, is specifically challenging sections 10 and 11 of the Act, under which he was convicted for hate speech in 2011, on the basis that they infringe on his constitutional right to free speech.
“Today [Monday] the heads of argument were filed and we will now prepare for the hearing,” said Boerner.
“We are also seeking a stay of the equality proceedings that are at present pending against our client in the Equality Court. What is sought is only a temporary stay pending the outcome of the constitutional challenge.”
Qwelane believes that he has the constitutional right to insult gay people, to compare same-sex marriage to bestiality and to call for the repeal of the Constitution’s sexual orientation discrimination protection, as he did in his infamous homophobic 2008 article, Call me names, but gay is NOT okay…
In statement issued last year, Boerner said that Qwelane’s views in the article “may have been unpopular, controversial and even shocking, but it neither advocated hatred nor constituted incitement to cause harm. His expression is therefore protected by our Constitution.”
The SA Human Rights Commission will be opposing Qwelane’s challenge, along with the ministers of justice and correctional services.
The Psychological Society of South Africa said in October that it will also provide evidence to the court showing “the nature and extent of the material harm caused by homophobic hate speech,” and “the tangible consequences of such hate speech on the lives of those who are its target and society at large.”
In 2011, an Equality Court ruled that Qwelane’s article “propagates hatred and harm against homosexuals” and ordered Qwelane to apologise to the gay community and to pay damages of R100,000 towards an LGBT rights group. Qwelane has doggedly continued to challenge the ruling ever since.
Despite his statements that flouted the country’s Constitution he was made South Africa’s high commissioner in Uganda by President Jacob Zuma. This was described at the time as a “F*** you” to South Africa’s and Uganda’s LGBT communities.