Qwelane tramples on Constitution

As if it wasn’t busy enough trying to cajole apologies out of Julius Malema and Zwelinzima Vavi for their “kill for Zuma” remarks, the South African Human Rights Commission this week had to deal with complaints about Sunday Sun columnist Jon Qwelane’s attack on gay South Africans — and the Constitution.

Taking his cue from the current strife around homosexuality in the Anglican Church, Qwelane writes in the newspaper’s July 20 issue about the “rapid degradation of values and traditions by the so-called liberal influences of nowadays”, referring to men displaying affection in public to other men and “shamelessly flaunting what are misleadingly termed their ‘lifestyle’ and ‘sexual preferences'”.

He applauds Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s strongly homophobic stance, and goes on to say: “Why, only this very month — you’d better believe this — a man, in a homosexual relationship with another man, gave birth to a child!”

Qwelane’s ignorance is astounding — the case in question, in the United States, saw a transgender male (whose sex was changed from female) in a heterosexual relationship fall pregnant artificially as “he” had retained female reproductive organs.

His column continues: “I do pray that some day a bunch of politicians with their heads affixed firmly to their necks will muster the balls to rewrite the Constitution of this country, to excise those sections which give licence to men ‘marrying’ other men, and ditto women.”

And, clearly expecting a backlash, he says: “And by the way, please tell the Human Rights Commission that I totally refuse to withdraw or apologise for my views.”

His column was accompanied by a cartoon of a man “marrying” a goat, with the headline “When human rights meet animal rights”.

It’s unfortunate that any newspaper would print such a hate-filled rant. It may not be fully fledged hate speech, as it lacks direct incitement of action against gay people, but Qwelane’s blatant homophobia — and lack of respect for our constitutional values — has no place in present-day South Africa, where gay and lesbian people are assaulted and killed for expressing their love despite the progressive legislation we have in place.

And the equation of homosexuality with bestiality — by means of the cartoon accompanying Qwelane’s claptrap — is an example of the worst kind of irresponsible tabloid reportage.

Perhaps Qwelane is trying to imitate (badly) the “shock value” writing of fellow columnists like David Bullard? He would do well to remember the fate that befell Bullard.

Already many gay rights groups are up in arms, and rightly so. One can only hope that the Human Rights Commission will also take firm action against Qwelane.

Thabo Mbeki
A cautious “Full speed ahead” goes to the President, who has been hailed as a minor miracle worker for getting talks going in Zimbabwe in the past week. He certainly could use the PR boost — but his ratings still depend heavily on a workable government solution being found in Zimbabwe.
Butana Komphela
Parliament’s sports portfolio committee chairperson is always in the news for the wrong reasons — recently for seemingly racist comments. Perhaps Sascoc was over-eager in boycotting the committee, but Komphela is doing more harm than good. It’s time for a change of guard.

Most-read stories

July 17 to 23

1. What comes after a trillion?
“No one believes what has happened to our country. Now we talk of prices in billions of [Zimbabwe] dollars and people are asking what comes after trillions. They laugh about it but we know it’s not funny. People are dying. I wonder how long I will be able to feed my children.”

2. Zimbabwe crisis talks stall
Efforts to agree on a framework for talks aimed at ending Zimbabwe’s political crisis stalled on Thursday as state media accused the opposition leader of pulling out of a deal at the last moment.

3. South Africa’s mood sours
A report commissioned by the government shows that nearly 40% of adult South Africans are no longer committed to the country and some 29% are actively seeking to emigrate or have thought about doing so.

4. Premier axing sparks turmoil
The imminent sacking of Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool and his Eastern Cape counterpart Nosimo Balindlela has heightened tensions in ANC structures rather than calming them as their supporters and opponents battle for control of provincial government and party structures.

5. Mugabe threatens foreign firms over sanctions
Zimbabwe will transfer ownership of all foreign-owned firms that support Western sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government to locals and investors from “friendly” countries, a state newspaper reported on Sunday.

6. Threat of famine looms in Zim
Millions of Zimbabweans are threatened with starvation after the widespread failure of the latest harvest brought on by the government’s disastrous mishandling of land redistribution, and food shortages in the shops caused by hyperinflation.

7. Zim rivals sign ‘historic’ talks pact
President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai pledged a new chapter in their bitter relationship on Monday as they agreed to hold fully fledged talks on ending Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

8. Relief for Mugabe as diplomatic onslaught falters
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is beginning to breathe more easily as a Western diplomatic campaign against his re-election falters, leaving mediation efforts in the hands of his old ally, Thabo Mbeki.

9. What is needed is real mediation
In his final rally before his one-person election Robert Mugabe declared that he would go to Cairo and would dare anyone of the leaders there to point a finger at him so he could see “whose finger was clean or dirty”.

10. Mbeki is ‘stumbling block’ to mediation
The Movement for Democratic Change has insisted that without the African Union’s involvement, and at least another mediator in addition to President Thabo Mbeki, “talks about talks” between Zimbabwe’s two largest parties will not go ahead.

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