North West premier Professor Job Mokgoro has hailed South Africa’s former high commissioner to Uganda Jon Qwelane as one of the finest journalists Mahikeng has ever produced.  

Qwelane, who was a journalist and an activist before being appointed to the diplomatic position in 2010, died on December 24th last year.

He was also the founding member of the Writers Association of South African and was outspoken against the apartheid government.

Qwelane has been accorded a Special Provincial Official Funeral Category 2 and will be buried at the Heroes’ Acre at the Mmabatho Cemetery.

Mokgoro delivered the eulogy at the funeral service of Qwelane in Mahikeng.  

Here lies, a giant of a man, one of our own, a man who came from us, and went to make his mark in the world, through the love of his craft. he was an out and out newsman, Jon Qwelane. clearly, he ranks amongst the finest, our town has ever produced, and his name will forever remain edged in the history books of this country.” 

‘Brutally frank person’

The family has described him as a brutally frank person who did not fear to criticise the apartheid regime. The late former high commissioner’s son Sobukwe Qwelane says “What makes me happy today is that even though I feel that my deeds are not the same as his. But to him, my efforts were at this level and I hope that this time, I have accompanied him to a very special place. Maybe paradise, I don’t know.”

Hate speech judgment 

In August 2017, Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech by the South Gauteng High Court and was subsequently ordered to apologise unconditionally to the lesbian and gay community for homophobic comments he wrote in a column nine years ago.

His column in the Sunday Sun was titled ‘Call me Names, but Gay is not Ok.’

He suggested that the acceptance of gay marriage would lead to what he called ‘some idiot’ demanding to marry an animal.

The Human Rights Commission had approached the court after Qwelane refused to apologise.

Qwelane appealed the judgment in 2019 with the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2019, and the judge dismissed all clauses of the constitution in terms of freedom, equality and non-discrimination.

The SCA upheld Qwelane’s appeal that the Pepuda (Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act) was inconsistent with Section 16 of the Constitution, which guaranteed the right to freedom of expression.

The SCA also dismissed the complaint by the South African Human Rights Commission against Qwelane.

The SCA said comments can be classified as hate speech only if they cause harm as well as incite violence.

In the video below,  more details behind Qwelane’s appeal: 

-Additional reporting by SABC News