|Stephane Tchakam, ILGA|
|Raquel Perez Andrade, ILGA(Spanish)|
Jon Qwelane’s appointment as the new High Commissioner in Uganda has been confirmed, leaving much speculation about the hate speech case brought against him by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) last year.
Johannes van Niekerk, Counselor of the South African High Commission in Uganda confirmed his appointment while the Ugandan embassy stated “We can confirm that there is a new high commissioner but we are not sure on the name.”
Van Niekerk added, “We are still waiting for him to hand over his credentials to Mr Museveni, he should assume duties in a month or so.
Meanwhile the SHRC is awaiting guidance from the court on whether Qwelane should be subpoenaed or the case will take place in his absence.
“Until then, there is nothing much we can do”, Vincent Moaga, SAHRC Spokesperson said.
Donald Komane Mapa, Candidate Attorney, SAHRC noted that Qwelane had not given any indication that he intends to object the charges brought against him.
Gay rights groups in South Africa however maintain that Qwelane’s appointment will not only jeorpardise the country’s reputation internationally but also make matters worse for Uganda, said to be presently a hot-spot for homophobic and transphobic activity due to the pending Anti-homosexuality Bill.
Emily Craven of the Joint Working Group criticised the appointment stating, “It shows an utter disregard for LGBTI people in South Africa and Uganda. At a time when that country is proposing on the most draconian pieces of anti-gay legislation in the world, gay and lesbian people in Uganda look to South Africa for support and instead they get a slap in the face.”
Craven added “We have suspected for some time that the appointment had been made and it is a huge disappointment because both the Presidency and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation were aware of all the issues related to the appointment, but still went ahead and did it anyway”, she said.
Meanwhile, Media 24, already served with court papers, is challenging the case based on merit and the validity of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
Following his 2008 opinion piece ‘Call me, names but gay is not okay,” where he boldly expressed sheer hatred of gay people saying they are “degradation of values and traditions”, also associating homosexuality to bestiality, Qwelane was sent to the Equality court by the SAHRC , after gay rights lambasted his writing as hate speech.