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Zambia: Opposition Leader Risks His Political Neck Over Gays

Homosexuality is an issue better left undiscussed–if undiscussed is the word–as a Zambian opposition politician has found out for seemingly suggesting that he would allow the practice if he is elected president in this year’s forthcoming presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

Leader of Zambia’s biggest opposition party, the Patriotic Front, better known by its ubiquitous initials, PF, Michael Sata has been linked to meetings with some diplomats from western donor countries accredited to Zambia where he has allegedly pledged that if and when he is elected president, he will recognise the rights of gays and lesbians in the country.

Zambian politician, Patriotic Front's Michael Sata, arrives at the Supreme Court in a bid to recount the 2008 presidential election. Image by Harrison Tuntu, copyright Demotix (17/02/09).

Zambian politician, Patriotic Front's Michael Sata, arrives at the Supreme Court in a bid to recount the 2008 presidential election. Image by Harrison Tuntu, copyright Demotix (17/02/09).

Ever controversial, Sata, a veteran politician who rose to prominence as the capital, Lusaka’s governor under first Republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda’s administration in the 1970s and went on to become the present ruling party, MMD’s national secretary and minister without portfolio, arguably the third highest ranking Cabinet position under second Republic president Frederick Chiluba, has attempted the presidency three times since 2001.

Sata formed his own party in 2001 when Chiluba anointed an outsider, Levy Mwanawasa, a former Vice President who resigned his position on account of his differences with Sata between 1991 and 1994, to contest the elections that year, by-passing him after he allegedly hounded out eligible members who had opposed Chiluba’s unconstitutional shot at an unconstitutional third term of office.

For his statements on homosexuality, Sata has been under fire from current Vice President and Minister of Justice George Kunda who attacks the practice at every opportunity including in parliament. Kunda’s incessant attacks of the sexual practice recently attracted a write up on the Zambia News Features website by an American-based Zambian, Henry Kyambalesa.

On Kunda’s continuous reference to the issue of homosexuality against Sata, Kyambalesa wrote:

…the learned Vice President and Minister of Justice needs to take a neutral position on issues which are likely to incite some segments of Zambian society to rise against other citizens. He needs to take the lead in ensuring that whatever he says is not based on his own opinions, or on innuendos, speculations or on promoting hatred for a particular politician or group of citizens.

After all, our country’s constitution does not recognize same-sex unions, same-sex marriages or same-sex adoptions. What Comrade Kunda needs to do is to introduce a Bill in Parliament which will address issues relating to sexual orientation, particularly with respect to whether or not there should be a ban on discrimination of any individual on the basis of his or her sexual orientation.

But what has landed Sata in political soup for which some sections of society such as the church and the media have threatened to de-campaign him for the elections just a few months away, is an interview he allegedly gave to a Danish newspaper in which he stated that Zambian laws in fact recognise homosexuality. He, however, did not specify which parts of the law recognised it. The only laws that talk about homosexuality in Zambia are those that seek to punish it.

The church is very vocal on this issue simply because Zambia is a Christian nation, having being declared so by President Chiluba in the first few months of his presidency in 1991 and is now encapsulated in the Republican constitution.

Part of the interview quoted on one website, Afrique en ligne, Sata is alleged to have said the following:

Mr Sata: “Some people are saying I am talking to you people because I want to bring back gays and sebians, I mean the lesbians, and I tell them that listen, the laws of Zambia recognise(s) the gays. The laws of Zambia recognise(s) the lesbians.

And the Laws of Zambia have provided restrictions and when you go all over the world, there isn't any single country which has not provided restrictions for those things. But those are cheap propaganda. The laws are already there what we need is to implement the laws.”

Question: How do you think the current Government is doing their job in enforcing the law? Mr Sata: “Well the Government, the current Government is so corrupt, when you are corrupt you can't do anything right.

Where you are corrupt you can't do anything right because in English which you and I have learnt, he who pays the piper plays the tune. That is the problem of corruption. That is the problem of corruption.”

As usual, netizens have been thrashing the issue out both in support and against homosexuality. These reactions are especially from an article quoting the Vice President saying that homosexuality is illegal in Zambia. The article appears in one of Zambia's leading online news site Lusaka Times.

INDEPENDENT OBSERVER says:

The western world has gotten very broken due to Liberalism. Politicians know this very well but cannot dare touch the subject in fear of being booted out of power, especially, in USA, UK, German, France and of course the oldest Gay Temple of Europe which is Greek.

We have groups in Europe that are campaigning that Paedophiles should NOT be locked up but be given professional help and treatment. What kind of foolishness is this?

Now, Am I discriminating the Gay Society? Hell No!!…. Nevertheless, Zambia does not need to invite self-destruction and disown our Culture morals and Christian Values.

Areaboy agrees:

The laws against homesexual activities should remain unchanged. Enough of this unnecessary liberal talk and political correctedness. Sha!

Monster says:

Firstly , how many christians do we have in Zambia??. I mean real christians by their soul, spirit and deeds, not fake pretenders, and its hard to know them , everyone knows himself or herself if they conform and comply and practice the biblical teachings, and remember that in the book of mathews not all those who shout lord ,lord shall inherit the kingdom of God and the same bible says do not judge others, the teaching further explain that … how do you remove something from your friends eye when u have yours. so first pluck out your wickedness before attempting to look at other people’s morals. I dont support gay business and will not want it to happen in Zambia atleast in our generation. what makes a christian nation is not a political declaration by a political plunderer bt gud…

Monster continues:

so those who want to insinuate that Sata is for Gay business, they have got it wrong, if people dont want to do that they will refrain but if some people want to engage in the dirty business they will do. the world of today will not be the same in the next generation. so SATA clarified his position so whats the fussy about it. MMD is to pack this year full stop.

Mushota wonders why Christians want to have it both ways:

Christians want to have it both ways.

They want to be offended and take legal action when an atheist voices his opinion and presents them with anti-religious literature.

Yet they want the right to lecture everyone else about their opinions in the street, through the letter box, in schools, in council meetings, on the radio, on TV, etc.

Once Christians (and Muslims) take the blinkers off and learn that they are not special, then we can begin to sort out these issues properly.

Allow Homosexuality and accept it. The response of the law to this is really a seconday issue. Gays are the same as someone who is left handed, Its a gene, and MUST be embraced

Please lern from me
Thank you

The Lord SITH does not understand what the fuss is all about:

I am baffled that in a society where even the talk of heteresexual sex is taboo , this issue of gayism is so much prominent in our public debates nowadays. I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about .
….Our society is very conservative about such things , and we all know that. The impression that is being given that we are under threat of moral decay , implies to me that we are accepting that we cannot think for ourselves and we readily are prepared to let foreigners dictate to us . Yet we know that this is not the case . (or perhaps it could be judging from the paranoia that’s being shown). The real debate should be about why it is a criminal offence or even why it should carry such severe penalties.

RAT RACE does not understand what makes Zambia a Chistian nation:

First of all Zambia being a christian nation is one thing that i have never understood in my life-from the time that thief declared the status.I dont think there is anything sinister about my neighbour being gay for as long as he does not infinge my rights.When two male adults agree on being with each other then leave them.There are many questions that will arise here,however just like polygamy is accepte in our traditional set, when two adults reach a concordance.Yet some people demonise it.I think zambia is the only country in the world where any rational thinking is prevented with a poretext of being a x-tian nation.If we trully are a x-tian nation then lets ban all polygamy marriages, the act of worshiping ancestral spirits etc and criminalise them.

This is not the first time the issue of homosexuality has generated a lot of interest in Zambia. Just over 15 years ago, a coalition of NGOs formed an organisation that wanted to champion the cause of homosexuals which was called LEGATRA or Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Association. The organisation suffered a stillbirth for the same reasons of intolerance and criticism that Sata is now facing. The question is, for how long will it take for another cycle of discussion to come around? Only time will tell.

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