JWG statement on proposed Jon Qwelane appointment

Joint Working Group reject the proposed appointment of homophobic journalist Jon Qwelane as an Ambassador

19 January, 2010

Jon Qwelane
JOHANNESBURG — Joint Working Group Reject the Proposed Appointment of Homophobic Journalist Jon Qwelane as an Ambassador

The Joint Working Group (JWG), a network Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) organizations throughout South Africa are deeply disturbed by reports over the weekend reportedly confirmed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation that Jon 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.

Jon Qwelane has shown himself on a number of occasions to be openly and unapologetically homophobic and transphobic, not least when he wrote the article "Call me names, but Gay is not ok" in which he among other things expressed support for Robert Mugabe's brutal and oppressive treatment of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe. There remains an open investigation and pending charges against Qwelane for hate speech at the South African Human Rights Commission in connection with this article.

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.

That there is even a suggestion of Qwelane being sent to Uganda is utterly disgraceful. The anti-homosexuality bill currently under discussion in that country is an entirely oppressive piece of legislation, not only does it seek to impose draconian punishments on people found guilty of homosexuality but it attempts to punish people who fail to report on homosexuals and activists working in the field of LGBTI rights among others.

That President Museveni of Uganda has in recent days spoken up against the bill is the result of an immense amount of activism within and outside Uganda and an enormous international outcry from countries around the world, South Africa's voice has been painfully silent in this outcry. It defies comprehension that at a time like this South Africa would even consider sending a vocal homophobe to act as our countries new representative in Uganda.

The Joint Working Group rejects this appointment and calls for its immediate withdrawal. We further demand that our government clearly state our countries opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. Finally we demand that the South African Human Rights Commission immediately expedite the pending Hate Speech charges against Jon Qwelane as this case has already taken far too long to come to court. We will be carefully considering all options for further action related to this matter. – Issued by JWG

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