Like others in South Africa over the past few years, I have long been asking the South African government for an explanation for not signing the UN Statement to Decriminalize Homosexuality in 2008 and what they meant when they said they did so on the grounds of "having principles". It seems they have been answering my question in increments.
I got an inkling of what this might mean when our new president, who is on record for making homophobic statements in the media, went on stage in the hall of the Rhema cult and placed gay rights on the bargaining table for right wing religious fundamentalists less than a month before the General Election in 2009.
Not long after that, the ANC and Ray Macaulay started working together in a joint venture called the NILC (the National Interfaith Leadership Coalition) more commonly referred to as "the God Squad" which has ousted the long-standing South African Council of Churches in religious dealings with government. The God Squad leadership includes four ANC MP's, including the Chief Whip of Parliament and has in press statements put out through government email, put removing gay rights from the SA Constitution right at the top of their list of priorities.
Yesterday I was utterly appalled to discover that Jon Qwelane, the homophobic and racist journalist who has for years been critical of gay people and their fight for human rights - and whom human rights groups have been lobbying for almost two years to see appear before the Equality Court - has just been appointed Ambassador to Uganda! I take issue with this appointment, because this man has proved himself to be utterly intolerant, and prone to inciting hatred between races and sexual orientations alike. He is not a peace-maker, but a blunt instrument who would - if anything, make matters worse for the pink community in Uganda.
This man is so unbelievably bigoted that he even went so far as to write in his column that if he required blood transfusions, he wouldn't accept White blood under any circumstances! His criticism of Black people who embrace Western culture are referred to in derogatory fashion as "coconuts", being black on the outside and white on the inside. Of course, many people ask how can a Black person be so racist? Well, duh. Because he obviously has a major chip on his shoulder about White folks - and gay folks. Oh, and women too. Considering the history of this country, how can such people be allowed to perpetuate the old hatreds from that time and to reinforce them instead of lay them to rest?
People like Qwelane belong under a microscope, to see where society has gone horribly wrong - not placed in positions where they can infect the minds of impressionable people and give rise to more hatred.
Uganda is at present a hot-spot for homophobic and transphobic activity on the part of social organizations, local and foreign churches and the Ugandan government - which is under pressure from the UN and numerous countries to rescind existing laws and to not pass proposed laws which make life impossible for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. The proposed law would legalize the death penalty for people, purely based on their sexuality!
Qwelane is still facing charges in the SA Equality Court brought against him by the SA Human Rights Commission for matters arising from an article he wrote in the Sunday Sun in 2008 "Call me names but gay is not ok".
This matter has still not yet been resolved and is still outstanding after nearly 2 years.
WHY Jon Qwelane? He isn't qualified for the kind of work required of an Ambassador - he clearly has no skill or aptitude for the job - nor the temperament for diplomacy whatsoever. I would think somebody like Bishop Tutu would be better suited for the job - at least he has the noble interests of peace and stability at heart, not hatred and violence. Well, it seems this hack journalist has been putting his weight behind Zuma as part of the press machine, so I have to ask myself again, why? Is this payback? Is it part of the new "cadre redeployment" program we read so much about these days?
This is either a bungle or deliberate. Considering the process that should be followed in checking the suitability of candidates for such high profile posts, I can't bring myself to believe that this is not deliberate.
What kind of message does it send when a country like South Africa, which is supposed to be a pro-human rights haven in Africa, after REPEATED calls to do so - refuses to condemn the policies of a country it trades with - a country which discriminates unfairly against its own citizens and callously and unrepentantly violate their human rights, indeed even going so far as to table laws which would institutionalize genocide?
What kind of message does it send to a country like Uganda when South Africa appoints a blatant homophobe and human rights violator, who is still facing charges on hate speech against the pink community - as an "ambassador"?
I know what it says to me - it says, "We support you, Uganda - and your policies of discrimination!" It says "We stand with you against those western pro-homosexual, pro-human rights lobbyists". Solidarity. That's what it says to me.
How can president Zuma in all good conscience appoint such a person - who is known for his hatred of gay people - to the post of Ambassador in a country which is currently STILL being slated for both existing and proposed draconian laws that rob such people of their equality and human rights and threatens to slaughter them like cattle?
Will Qwelane still appear in the Equality Court to answer for his hate speech? I can't wait to see the answer to that question.
This appointment is yet another slap in the face to the human rights, dignity and equality of the pink community in South Africa - and in Uganda too, for that matter - delivered by our own government.
For those who are still wondering what the future holds for human rights and gay rights in South Africa under the present government, I have one thing left to say: