THE Supreme Court of Appeal has found the current definition of hate speech to be unconstitutional.

Ruling on a column Jon Qwelane wrote about gay marriage in 2008, the court found it was hurtful, but didn’t amount to hate speech under the current definition.

The court on Friday overturned a high court ruling that Qwelane was guilty of hate speech and ordered Parliament to rewrite the law, which it desribed as vague and overboard.

City Press said the court ruled a comment could only be hate speech if it caused harm or encouraged violence. As a result, Parliament had 18 months to rework parts of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.

But it was reported the order would have to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

Speaking through his attorney, Qwelane told the Sunday Times the ruling was the greatest thing to happen to free speech in the country’s history. The former ambassador to Uganda was first found guilty of hate speech in the Joburg Equality Court in April 2011 and ordered to apologise and pay a R100 000 fine.

The judgment was withdrawn in September 2011 as he couldn’t be in court due to holding a job abroad.

In 2017, the Human Rights Commission took the matter to the High Court, where Qwelane was found guilty of hate speech.

The commission told the court it received 350 complaints over the column, the highest number it had ever received at the time. The column was published in Sunday Sun in 2008.

It read: “There could be a few things I could take issue with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, but his unflinching and unapologetic stance over homosexuals is definitely not among those.” – NEWS24