Pigeon spat leads to hate speech judgment

11 August 2017 - 18:05 By Jan Bornman
The Gleneagles Flats in Killarney.
The Gleneagles Flats in Killarney.
Image: Google maps

A spat over screens preventing pigeons from nesting in an apartment building has ended with a Johannesburg woman being found guilty of hate speech.

Timothy Trengrove-Jones‚ an openly gay man and a trustee at the Gleneagles flats in Killarney‚ Johannesburg‚ brought a case of hate speech against Elvira Oelofse‚ a fellow tenant‚ after she called him "a fucking old queen" during an altercation in July last year.

The altercation started after Oelofse protested and prevented contractors employed by the building's body corporate from placing nylon screens over the service shaft outside her flat‚ where pigeons had been nesting.

Oelofse's protests ended with insults and homophobic slurs being hurled at Trengrove-Jones.

In her affidavit she denied making those comments and said she had no intention of inciting harm‚ however‚ during examination she conceded that she had used other abusive language‚ such as calling Trengrove-Jones "you ugly piece of shit".

In his judgment‚ magistrate PJ Stanford said: "Being angry does not justify or excuse making statements that are homophobic‚ hateful and hurtful. Her behaviour was haughty cruel and unnecessary."

The court found that Oelofse was not a credible and reliable witness and that her utterances clearly constituted hate speech.

She was found guilty of hate speech and ordered to write a sincere apology to Trengrove-Jones‚ attend anger management classes and make a payment of R25 000 to Sonke Gender Justice.

Following the judgment‚ Trengrove-Jones said the ruling was an important one for him personally and for the larger LGBTQI (lesbian‚ gay‚ bisexual‚ transgender‚ questioning and intersex) community.

"I am greatly relieved and vindicated by the judgment‚" he said.

Trengrove-Jones said he was also happy that the judgment showed the LGBTQI community who are victims of "vicious and hateful language" that institutions exist where it is possible to get the appropriate remedy if one has a strong case.

He also said it was important in a country where there the credibility and accountability of the justice system was questioned. "We are very strong laws on paper‚ but it is important to know those laws are on your side."