from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life (LGBTQI) practice is deepening tensions in Zambia.
It is further dividing political rivals, raising differences in the church and threatens to culminate in a government crackdown against these members of the community.
Friction heightened this week amid criticism that the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) and President Haikande Hichilema were “downplaying” the issue.
Critics believe this is in contrast to the hardline stance by the previous Patriotic Front (PF) administration of Edgar Lungu.
On Monday, the government however broke its silence on the issue through a statement by Chushi Kasanda, the Minister of Information and Media, who is also the chief government spokesperson.
“Government wishes to reaffirm that LGBT practice is illegal in Zambia. The law is clear on this matter,” the minister stated.
“Government, therefore, warns that anyone found practising or promoting any of the said acts is liable to prosecution in the Courts of Law,” Kasanda said.
Kasanda dismissed allegations by critics and the opposition that the government supports homosexuality.
“The accusations are unfair and unfounded,” she stated.
“Government has been consistent, before and now, in office, that it does not support LGBT,” she said.
Kasanda said police and other law enforcement agencies were active and engaged in pursuing cases of LGBT “whenever and wherever” they are reported.
“I wish to stress that this government has a duty to promote, protect and defend the interest of the Zambian people,” she insisted.
Hichilema, in a social media post this week, made similar sentiments.
“Our position on this issue has been very clear and consistent from our days in opposition. We must focus our energy in addressing pressing issues affecting our people and not be detracted,” the president stated.
PF however differs.
It was in power until 2021 when UPND won elections.
Antonio Mwanza, PF spokesperson, raised qualms in a radio interview.
“The President says the issue of sodomy; homosexuality is not a pertinent national issue,” Mwanza was quoted.
“It is in that statement. He (Hichilema) says he will not be distracted from pertinent national issues,” the opposition spokesman said.
LGBT has divided the church.
Bishop John Mambo of the Chikondi Foundation, argued homosexuality and sodomy were not urgent matters.
This is in stark contrast to the position by other religious leaders, among them Archbishop Alick Banda of the Lusaka Archdiocese.
“The law enforcement agents and the President, who took oath to protect the Constitution seem to be paying a blind eye (to LGBT incidents),” Banda stated.
Banda denounced last Friday’s reported arrest of some citizens during a protest against homosexuality and sodomy in the country.
He has come under criticism.
“It is visibly clear that Archbishop Alick Banda is using the church as a tool to discredit the current government,” alleged Mwiba Mwiba, good governance and disability rights activist.
He encouraged the Archbishop to “come down the holy altar and join politics.”
“Let him (Bishop Banda) leave the church to play its instrumental role it has always played in the development of this country,” Mwiba said.
Mambo also said he had been “astonished” by Banda’s statement.
“I am further perplexed and don’t know whether to term it theological, doctrinal or political,” Mambo stated.
Mambo argued Banda was championing a doctrine of animosity against Hichilema and divisive theologies that turn citizens against each other.
Brian Chota Sampa, petitioning the police on behalf of “Concerned Citizens” reveled they would march to State House on September 28 against “the rise of unnatural act of homosexuality.”
Zambia criminalises same-sex acts through sections of the Penal Code Act Chapter 87.
These also outlaw “attempts to commit ‘unnatural offences’” and “acts of ‘gross indecency’ between men and between women.”
Zambia has been tense since the Lusaka July festival, held in the capital city earlier in September.
Members of the LGBT community were in full force.
PR Girl Media, organisers of the controversial Lusaka July, are now planning the Beerville festival also in Lusaka.
It mentioned a dress code.
“Please come dressed as your GENDER, we don’t want any trouble,” read a PR Girl Media invitation to the event.
– CAJ News