This is an edited version of an old blog article of mine I wrote back in February 2010 in response to Jon Qwelane’s controversial and homophobic article which appeared in his 2008 Sunday Sun newspaper column.
Jon Qwelane – like David Bullard who was fired by Sunday Times newspaper for writing what was believed to be a racist column in which he described Africans as backward and that had it not been for his ‘white colonialist’ brothers Africa and its people would still be underdeveloped – has now joined the club as one of the country’s controversial newspaper columnists.
Qwelane was reportedly to be appointed South African ambassador to Uganda, a country that had threatened to make anything gay-related as illegal and punishable.
Many in the country were opposed Qwelane’s appointment saying he had shown ‘dislike and hate’ to the gay people with his Sunday Sun newspaper column in 2008 when he said people could call him whatever they liked but that being gay was not okay. Qwelane said it was the “lifestyle” and “sexual preferences” of gays which he found problematic.
“And by the way, please tell Human Rights Commission that I totally refuse to withdraw or apologise for my views. I will write no letters to the commission either, or explaining my thoughts,” wrote Qwelane at the time. He said “homosexuals and their backers will call me names, printable and not, for stating as I have always done my serious reservations about their ‘lifestyle and sexual preferences’, but quite frankly I don’t give a damn: wrong is wrong!”.
Qwelane hoped (in his wildest dream?) 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 exercise those sections which give licence to men ‘marrying’ other men, and ditto women.” He said it will not be long before “some idiot demands to ‘marry’ an animal, and argues that this constitution “allows” it?
And it was not long before Johannesburg Gay Pride Festival board announced it had lodged an objection against Qwelane’s column with the Press Ombudsman and calling for Sunday Sun to publish a withdrawal of the column and make a public apology to the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. LGBT said at the time that although it accepted that Qwelane was entitled to his personal opinion, it however felt that “publication of the column amount[ed] to hate speech” and seemed to “serve to incite further violence against the LGBT community,” according to media reports.
Even Times newspaper reported Qwelane and Sunday Sun publisher, Media 24, were sued about hundred thousand rand which was hoped to be paid to 777 Campaign Against as a form of reparations of ‘pain’ for his criticism of the homosexuals.
Journalism Professor at the Universityof Witwatersrand, Anthon Harber, wrote in his The Harbinger blog that “something is not right somewhere if this [Qwelane’s appointment as ambassador toUganda] goes ahead”. Harber said Qwelane would create havoc as an Ambassador and that his views had embarrassed him and that he was going to “embarrass the nation” as well. Surely there must be a “better way for President Zuma to reward those who have supported him,” said Harber.
Despite opposition to his ambassador appointment, Pastor Martin Ssempa and the Family Policy and Human Rights Centre (FPHC) wrote an open letter to Zuma urging him not to cancel Qwelane’s ambassadorship because it would jeopardise the relations between the two countries, according to Uganda’s The Independent newspaper.
Ssempa said they welcomed and supported Zuma’s “wise decision” of sending Qwelane as South African envoy to Uganda and urged Zuma not to listen to “the homosexual extremists who [were] demanding that [he] disqualif[ies] him, and rather send an extreme homosexual propagandist.” It is however not clear if by ‘homosexual extremists’ Ssempa was referring to the Joint Working Group’s press release statement opposed to Qwelane’s appointment.
In the statement – consisting of other non-governmental organisations like Behind the Mask, Coalition of African Lesbians, Gay and Lesbian Network (PMB) to mention but a few – JWG said Qwelane had shown himself on a number of occasions to be “openly and unapologetically homophobic and transphobic” and therefore demanded government to state its opposition to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda which would see gays being punished.
Personally, JWG’s request of government to state its opposition to the bill seems very unlikely because, like South Africa, Uganda is a sovereign country which is entitled to formulating and later implementing any legislation it sees fit although such legislations would have to be line with, for example, International Declaration of Human Rights that binds all states, countries and continents.
Ssempa said homosexual groups only wanted Qwelane’s appointment cancelled because his views were “strong on traditional marriage” and that he did not put “sodomy as a major pillar of his foreign policy agenda”. He warned that cancelling Qwelane’s appointment under “pressure of the homosexuals” would trigger a widespread civil society protest which stands to affect the South African businesses in Uganda. This, said Ssempa, may include the boycotting of South African’s businesses as a means of sending Uganda’s message across. This is despite survey at the time claiming about 95% of Ugandans were opposed to sodomy.
De Vos said Qwelane’s writing was that of a man who was not “very secure about his own sexuality” and that equating homosexuality with bestiality was “the kind of primary school argument used by bullies to denigrate gay men and lesbians and is not worthy of anyone with an IQ of more than 60”. He said Sunday Sun should have shown a “modicum of responsibility” and not propagating “hatred of gay men and lesbians”.
But often when a man, for example, says he hates a woman you’d be surprised to know just how much he adores and loves her.
So I hope it is not sexual insecurity and controversial hateful and defensive thoughts or what Khaya Dlanga once called “the bullet-proof vest of freedom of expression” which Qwelane is trying to use and hide behind so that he won’t accept his sexuality which he might have discovered just before penning that sad article and being denial of.
Let me rephrase that again for you.
Could it be that Qwelane is gay (and doesn’t want to admit it?) and is only using his controversial hateful and defensive bullet-proof vest of freedom of expression to hide behind his being gay or afraid of becoming one or he is probably one but would not come out and be a man enough to say it and would therefore only prefer to stay in the closet for a while irrespective of his being married and having kids of his own?
What I am trying to say is this: Is Qwelane gay but in denial?
I was just thinking out loud.
See the PDF copy of the article here.