By phumim Submitted on 20 January, 2010 - 14:26
Dear Mr. President Jacob Zuma
RE: MEDIA REPORTS ON APPOINTMENT OF JON QWELANE AS SA AMBASSADOR TO UGANDA
The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP), formerly known as the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE), is concerned about reports that Mr Jon Qwelane will assume the role of Ambassador of South Africa to Uganda.
Jon Qwelane has on a number of occasions openly and unapologetically displayed his homophobic and transphobic views. In his newspaper column, published in the Sunday Sun of 20 July 2008, which he titled Call me names, but Gay is not ok he wrote an offensive hateful piece accompanied by a cartoon connecting homosexuality with bestiality. The article made derogatory reference to lesbian and gay people solely based on their sexual orientation and in direct opposition to the constitutional protection enjoyed by all South Africans to not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. He would conclude his reflections saying “[S]ome day a bunch of politicians will muster the balls to rewrite the constitution”.
This publication led to a broad coalition of human rights activists protesting against the publishers of the Sunday Sun and Jon Qwelane, as well as laying a complaint of hate speech against Qwelane with the South African Human Rights Commission.
We understand that the process of the investigation into the complaints has been concluded and that the hearing is imminent. Qwelane refused to apologise for the clear display of hatred against a marginalised group that is protected by our collectively hard-won Constitution. He wrote “and by the way, please tell the Human Rights Commission that I totally refuse to withdraw or apologise for my views”, disregarding a constitutionally mandated body, set up to uphold the commitments to human rights laid out in the Constitution.
Mr President, in our country people with a different sexual orientation other that heterosexual get assaulted, raped and murdered. All known facts and investigations suggest homophobia. It is well documented that hate speech far too often leads to hate crimes: loss of lives, dignity and freedom.
Mr President, an appointment of Qwelane in any public office will undermine your own apology in 2006 to the gay community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and intersex [LGBTI] people) following the public comment "When I was growing up an ungqingili [a gay] would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out". Furthermore, his appointment would suggest that you are one of the ‘politicians to muster the balls to rewrite the constitution’, as he wrote, which will send this country back into years of oppression, discrimination and exclusion and over right the internationally renowned provisions of our Bill of Rights.
There are so many challenges that still lie ahead in our country to fully embrace the rights to equality, freedom and human dignity. In our collective efforts to rebuilding South Africa, the silence of our government on the murders of lesbians and transgender people, motivated by hatred, is of great concern. Equally, the silence of the South Africa State at international forums, like the United Nations and the African Union, when proposals are put forward to protect people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity leaves us concerned on the neglect of our Bill of Rights in strengthening diplomatic and trade ties.
Mr President, our organisation, the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, is committed to struggling for true social, economic and political transformation. As many LGBTI people fought in the liberation movement against apartheid, we will continue to work with government, political parties and other civil society structures to advance on the promises laid down in our Constitution. We will not be silent on anything that detracts from achieving full liberation for everyone.
It is in this spirit Mr President that we trust you will reconsider the appointment of Jon Qwelane as Ambassador to Uganda and encourage the government to speak against the persecution, assaults, rapes and murders of all people, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people.
Wishing you all the best in your responsibilities as Head of State.
Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
Mr Ohm Collins Chabane
Minister in the Presidency
Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
Minister: International Relations and Cooperation
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba
Director General: International Relations and Cooperation
Ms Lindiwe Zulu
International Relations Adviser to the President
Commissioner Pregs Govender
Deputy Director: South African Human Rights Commission