Iranti welcomes the resignation of Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana. A man who resorts to physical violence is not suitable to act as a Deputy Minister of Higher Education in this country, plagued as it is by gender based violence. Furthermore, a man who considers being called gay, the ‘ultimate insult’, is not fit to be in the position of a Deputy Minister, in a country that has a specific reference to the protection of LGBTI rights in its constitution.

Hot on the heels of this incident came the derogatory comments made about trans identity by journalist Criselda Dudumashe (Kananda) at an AIDS gender-based violence dialogue on the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, campus. As an ambassador of the Higher Education and Training HIV/ AIDS programme (HEAIDS), which works in gender awareness training and HIV/AIDS on more than 400 campuses across South Africa, this was extremely inappropriate. Iranti commends HEAIDS for taking immediate and swift action to relieve Dudumashe of her duties as an ambassador to the organisation.

While Iranti also akcnowedges and celebrates the judgement this week, of the South Gauteng High Court in the case of the hate speech charge against high profile journalist and public figure, Jon Qwelane, there is a question as to why this case took so long. The judgement relates to Qwelane’s 2008 article entitled Call Me Names, But Gay Is Not Okay. South Gauteng High Court Judge Dimpheletse Moshidi ruled that Qwelane’s article constituted hate speech; adding that in a country struggling against high rates of violence against women in general, and lesbian women, who are targeted and attacked, raped and murdered, such speech is unacceptable. Jon Qwelane’s lawyer used the ‘right to free speech’ argument, but the judge ruled that ‘free speech has limitations to it’, and Qwelane’s statements against the LGBTI sector constitutes hate speech. Iranti welcomes this ruling. People cannot consider themselves above the law. Thank you Judge Dimpheletse Moshidi for using the law to fight against bigotry.

The above recent developments are indeed encouraging, and we hope that the commitment to hold accountable those who perpetuate hate, and engender violence, will go beyond high profile cases, and will address the violations against people in all communities on an on-going basis.

Further, we encourage the state to examine the impact of its past attempts at dealing with the problems of homophobia, transphobia and gender based violence, and craft interventions that address root causes.