Monday, June 6, 2011

A Famous Grouse: June 4

Latest Weekend Argus column. As submitted for publication. -- AD

TO Kampala, where our chap there, Jon Qwelane, may or may not be taking time out from the diplomatic swirl with diverse members of the Bagandan royalty and their obsequious courtiers to ponder his future in the service now that he has been found guilty of hate speech by the Johannesburg Equality Court.

There’s a rich irony here, something that won’t be lost on Qwelane, a former journalist who fell foul of the apartheid security establishment on several brutal occasions.

He may even find it amusing that he should be censured for some homophobic crap he penned almost three years ago -- especially now that he is ambassador to a country that until very recently was hell-bent on broadening the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for such offences as being HIV-positive, or engaging in sexual acts with people of the same sex or with those under 18 years of age.

Compare that degree of homophobia with the sort found in Qwelane’s Sunday Sun column and you’d find it hard to believe we’re on the same planet as Uganda, let alone the same continent.

Which in no way excuses the blimpish gay-bashing exercise in which Qwelane railed at the “rapid degradation of values and traditions by the so-called liberal influences of nowadays”.

Everywhere he looked, Qwelane saw “men kissing other men in public, walking holding hands and shamelessly flaunting what are misleadingly termed their ‘lifestyle’ and ‘sexual preferences’.

“There could be a few things I could take issue with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, but his unflinching and unapologetic stance over homosexuals is definitely not among those,” he continued. “Why, only this very month -- you'd better believe this -- a man, in a homosexual relationship with another man, gave birth to a child!”

If, gentle reader, you feel that this last point strains credulity, you must remember that Qwelane was writing for a readership that is accustomed to seeing photographs of what appears to be large turnips or sweet potatoes on the front pages of their newspapers and being told that these were, in fact, the tokoloshe.

Qwelane concluded that he would be praying that the constitution would be rewritten to outlaw same-sex unions. “Otherwise, at this rate, how soon before some idiot demands to ‘marry’ an animal, and argues that this constitution ‘allows’ it?”

It is understandable that there are those who have welcomed the court’s ruling that Qwelane apologise unconditionally to gays and lesbians, and that he pay R100 000 to the SA Human Rights Commission for awareness and education of homosexual rights, and have urged the government to recall him from Kampala.

Government will probably do no such thing. This, after all, is a “personal matter”, according to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

Perhaps it’s best that Qwelane remains in Uganda, swanning about the cocktail parties in his pith helmet in search of drink. He’s doing no harm up there, and no good will come of hauling the lumpy-brained troglodyte back to Pretoria.

You’re not going to change his mind -- or the minds of those who support his views, and believe me, there are many, as I discovered by scrolling through the moronic comments posted under the online reports about the court’s ruling.

Some, like the outraged claims that the SAHRC would be using Qwelane’s hard-earned tom to actually train young people in “gayness”, are so gormless that you feel compelled to wash your eyes out after reading them lest your own mind be corrupted. Here, for the stout-hearted, is one such offering, verbatim: “Practitioners must not run to schools and convert our children. We have became imoral country and abomination filled country. Very soon the rath of God will befell.”

God, some readers may believe, has probably done more than enough in the making trouble department. In Uganda, the motion to introduce the harsh anti-gay laws was, according to news reports, inspired by a conference in which in which evangelical American Christians declared homosexuality a direct threat to the cohesion of African families.

But other postings include attacks on the court by those who suggest it only ever tried black people, Africans in particular -- it never heard cases involving white people -- and that it had no authority because it was “drunk” when it ruled against Qwelane in absentia.

The language, the racism and the attitude of obdurate ignorance is that of the ANC Youth League, in particular its brattish president, Julius Malema. It’s like PW Botha all over again, and the boorish bluster is finding currency as the lingua franca in every aspect of our public life. It’s very sad, the hatred of the new dumb.

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