from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – A FEW years ago, the issue of same-sex relationships was the source of a diplomatic fallout between Zambia and the United States (US).
Viewed as taboo in the Southern African country, the emotive subject has returned to haunt Zambia.
This time, the fallout is internal and further driving a wedge between the government and the opposition.
The church has also waded into the fracas in the predominantly Christian nation.
At the centre of the conflict is the Lusaka July, held in the capital city earlier this month.
Heralding the advent of Spring, the annual event that blends the sport of polo with fashion, was held under the theme “Emerald in a Zambian World.”
Green is a symbol of Zambia’s vast natural resources, including minerals, and vegetation.
This year’s Lusaka July courted controversy through some green-themed outfits that were denounced as indecent.
Eyebrows were raised as some men and women clad in attire of the opposite sex and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life (LGBTQI) community were out in full force.
So divisive has been the issue that calls are intensifying for the organisers of the event to be arrested as homosexuality is illegal in Zambia.
However, the issue is way beyond the Lusaka July but the so-called homosexualising of cartoon characters such as Superman and Peppa pig, which target Zambian children viewers.
Golden Party Zambia (GPZ) is the latest opposition to denounce what it termed “gayism.”
“Our position as a party and clarion call to the Zambian people now and future generations is to never legalise, embrace or surrender to the homosexuality agenda in all its forms in this God country (sic),” stated GPZ president, Silavwe Jackson.
“Every generation of Zambians irregardless (sic) of their creed must continuously stand up against this movement and defeat it. Yes we say no to gayism in all its forms. We dare not call right what our God has called sin,” Jackson said.
He noted his party expressed these same views in 2019 when the High Court jailed a gay couple for 15 years.
This triggered a diplomatic spat between Zambia and the US.
The US government of then president, Donald Trump, recalled its ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Lewis Foote, after he spoke out publicly against the conviction of two men.
Then-president, Edgar Lungu, had declared Foote as persona non grata.
Critics of the current government of President Haikande Hichilema accuse the administration of a soft stance on homosexuality.
Allegations that Vice President Mutale Nalumango and First Lady Mutinta Hichilema have bought wigs from same-sex activists have added to the strains.
“The question is why these people didn’t support the young men during PF (Patriotic Front) and only now after they (United Party for National Development –UPND) are in power. Something is fishy,” a PF activist stated.
UPND defeated PF in last year’s elections.
Mutotwe Kafwaya, a PF lawmaker, advocated for the arrest of organisers of the Lusaka July.
He alleged selective application of the law, raising opposition sentiment the UPND has been targeting PF members particularly in the crackdown against corruption.
“If police can pursue alleged crimes committed five to ten years ago, surely it should be easy to do so for those crimes (homosexuality) alleged to have been committed just a day ago,” Kafwaya said.
In another incident that has brought to the fore the divisiveness of homosexuality, one of the country’s most prominent footballers had to issue a public apology after photos went viral amid allegations he was of a same-sex orientation.
The government has stated it would engage the organisers of the Lusaka July following the uproar the event has caused.
“Government runs an open door policy. It will ensure it engages all those that were involved,” Kennedy Kalunga, Ministry of Information and Media Permanent Secretary, was quoted in an interview.
He appealed for the Church to complement government’s role in enhancing morals in Zambia.
An estimated 95 percent of the population of 19,5 million people is Christian.
The Pentecostal Assemblies of God – Zambia (PAOGZ) Council of Bishops noted attempts made over the years to establish and support LGBTQI activities and events to promote their “detestable” lifestyles.
“We wish to put it on record that such behaviour, even under the guise of fashion, will not be tolerated in the Zambian community,” Bishop Brian Bwalya, PAOGZ General Secretary, vowed.
The bishop said “everything about the event had more questions than answers.”
“The dressing looked strange where in some cases, it was amounting to almost nudity,” Bwalya stated.
PR Girl Media, organisers of the Lusaka July, alleged the pictures circulating depicting acts of homosexuality had been fabricated.
It accused some politicians of capitalizing on the event for partisan reasons.
“It is disappointing that these officials are promoting propaganda and have chosen to ignore the value that the event holds in creating revenue for the entertainment and fashion industry in Zambia,” PR Girl Media stated.
Zambian law criminalizes homosexuality and “related unnatural acts” in the Penal Code Chapter 87 and section 155.
– CAJ News