Zambian hypocrisy: Fighting ‘gayism’; accepting rape and corruption

Commentary by the Rev. Kapya Kaoma exposes the hypocrisy of Zambian politicians’ anti-gay posturing: “It is time we accepted that politicians have used the myth of ‘Christian nation’ and homosexuality to distract us from confronting corruption and lack of rule of law.”

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Somizi Buyani Mhlongo (Photo courtesy of Lusaka Times)

Generating outrage about homosexuality is a convenient way for African politicians to keep citizens from paying attention to their regimes’ corruption and lawlessness, says human rights researcher, Episcopal priest and Zambian native the Rev. Kapya Kaoma.

The latest anti-gay distraction was created by Godfridah Sumaili, Zambia’s minister of religious affairs, who last week barred Somizi Buyani Mhlongo, a gay South African TV presenter, actor and singer, from performing in Zambia.

Kaoma analyzed the Zambian government’s position in the following column published in the Lusaka Times:

Why I disagree with Rev. Sumaili’s fight against gay artist Somizi

Godfridah Sumaili, Zambia’s minister of national guidance and religious affairs. (Photo courtesy of the Lusaka Times)

Rev. Sumaili’s opposition to, and Permanent Secretary Chanda Kasolo’s justification of, the barring of South African gay television personality and artist Somizi Buyani Mhlongo from performing in Zambia hurts our nation’s democratic integrity. The government wrongly characterizes Somizi as a person “with questionable character” whose visit would “compromise or dilute the country’s morality and integrity,” forcing me to ask, “Which morality; which integrity?”

We all know that Zambia is led by corrupt politicians. Am I the only person to ask why questionable characters like Robert Mugabe, Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni, Joseph Kabila, Mnangagwa–the list is endless — are in bed with our President? Why don’t we hear calls for integrity when such murderous criminals dine at Plot 1?

The Rev. Sumaili and Kasolo claim that our constitution is based on Christian values. It is a lie and here is why.

Some Christians consider premarital sex, divorce, drinking beers, smoking and even plural marriages immoral, but these activities are not illegal under our Constitution. We are not the Church which is guided by religious authorities and doctrines, but a secular state guided by a secular Constitution.

It is laughable and mere politicking to argue that Somizi needs to visit Zambia to “dilute the integrity” of the corrupt Christian nation. As long as there is social media, cable and other media outlets, the so-called alien values will continue to engage local norms. It is simply the reality of globalization. Zambians know Somizi through the web, social media and cable. Like Anderson Cooper of CNN, Elton John, and Brenda Fassie, Somizi’s sexual orientation does not negate or compromise his art.

Is the government suggesting that heterosexual artists aid Christian values and integrity? In our politicians’ complex minds, as long as they sleep with, and even rape, young girls they are fine. As President Lungu’s pardoning of convicted child defiler General Kanene suggests, Kanene could not serve his 18-year sentence because the victim was a 14-year-old girl. To prove it, Lungu even appointed a convicted criminal an ambassador against gender-based violence as the Christian nation shouted “Amen!”

I am a priest but l find the sex-biasness of Rev. Sumaili’s public statements is deplorable. Unless you live on planet Mars, the PF [Zambia’s ruling party, the Patriotic Front] is overpopulated with “questionable characters” as the news has constantly revealed.

The Rev. Kapya Kaoma (Photo courtesy of Political Resource Associates)
The Rev. Kapya Kaoma: “The decriminalization of homosexuality in South Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana suggests a shifting tide.” (Photo courtesy of Political Resource Associates)

When is Rev. Sumaili to address the immorality of the stolen K6.1 billion, politically sanctioned violence, selective prosecutions and the legalized stealing that characterize this government? Why don’t we hear her voice when the police abuse students and her colleagues beat wives? Why don’t we hear her voice when poor people die from curable diseases while drugs are disappearing from our hospitals?

If countries that have decriminalized homosexuality are immoral, then why do we evacuate politicians to immoral South Africa and Europe — places eroded of morality and integrity by homosexuals like Somizi? In our Christian nation, the gods and not gays must be crazy!

It is time we accepted that politicians have used the myth of “Christian nation” and homosexuality to distract us from confronting corruption and lack of rule of law. Somizi’s sexual orientation does not put food on the plates of starving millions. Somizi does not raid public coffers, but Rev. Sumaili’s and Kasolo’s friends do. It is not the gay person who kills, beats and locks up political opponents; Rev. Sumaili’s and Kasolo’s friends do. It is not homosexuals who abuse their offices; MPs, ministers, and permanent secretaries do.

So why are PF politicians obsessed with homosexuality? In their complex minds, stopping homosexuals from entering Zambia is key to economic well being. And they know it — we Zambians are happy to demean or even kill a gay person rather than hold our politicians accountable for corruption, political violence, and lack of rule of law.

In a democratic polity, the Rev. Sumaili and Kasolo are entitled to their views on “gayism” (whatever it means), but so are those who would love to see Somizi on stage. Is the government suggesting that self-identified homosexuals cannot live or do business in Zambia? How about gay soccer players, gay priests and gay ambassadors? Would Rev. Sumaili and Kasolo stop an openly gay Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, from visiting Zambia? Well, Pope Francis, and even the immoral and gay-hating Trump administration have had audiences with the gay prime minister..

I agree with Rev. Sumaili that each “country has laws,” but the colonial inherited law of carnal knowledge does not criminalize sexual identity, but “homosexual acts.” Being gay in itself is not a crime; “engaging in same-sex acts” is -– something I personally find unjust and a denial of human rights.

Finally we can only slow down the justice train when it comes to gay rights. The decriminalization of homosexuality in South Africa, Mozambique, and Botswana suggests a shifting tide in SADC [the Southern African Development Community].

Rev., the justice train has already taken off.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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