Male singer in a dress? Zambia freaks out, cracks down

Flamboyant attire and provocative behavior on a Zambian reality TV show caught the eye of the country’s religious affairs minister, who declared that the show promotes homosexuality and should be canceled.


From the African Human Rights Media Network


Publicity photo for "Lusaka Hustle."

Publicity photo for “Lusaka Hustle.”

That could have been just a passing fit of religious pique, but Zambia’s Independent Broadcasting Authority took it seriously and ordered the suspension of the “Lusaka Hustle” reality TV show.

The Rev. Godfridah Sumaili, the country’s religious affairs minister, complained that the show featured a character with “gay tendencies” and IBA officials said that they received “several comments from the public” that the show promoted a lifestyle contrary to Zambia’s values.

“Lusaka Hustle” on the Zambezi Magic network features three local celebrities, including the singer Kuni, who appears in the show’s promotional ad in a flowing white robe and in a recent episode was wearing a dress.

Timothy Okwaro, head of Zambezi Magic, denied the charges:

” ‘Lusaka Hustle’ is a locally produced reality show which follows the lives of three Zambian celebrities who regularly appear on television. The suggestion that the show advocates or promotes any particular lifestyle is an unfair misrepresentation,” Okwaro said.

In addition to Kuni, the celebrities on the show are two local celebrity entertainers Thandi and Cleo Ice Queen.

Zambian Eye reported:

[The show] has sparked social media outrage after [Kuni] was seen wearing what appeared to be a dress in the latest episode.

Some social media users have argued that the presence of Kuni – who is believed to be gay – on the show is likely to corrupt the minds of children and lead to the erosion of the country’s moral values and its status as a Christian Nation. Others have gone further to suggest that the show contravenes the country’s anti-homosexuality laws.

And Rev. Sumaili has been quick to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the show, saying: “This show should stop immediately. Our stand as a Christian nation is clear and the laws of the land speak louder.”

Kuni (on the left in dress) appears in a "Lusaka Hustle" spa scene with Thandi and Cleo Ice Queen.

Kuni (on the left in dress) appears in a “Lusaka Hustle” spa scene with Thandi and Cleo Ice Queen.

The Zambian Observer complained, “Zambezi Magic Reality Show Promoting Gayism.”

Lusaka Times reported:

IBA Director General Josephine Mapoma said the authority has received several concerns from the public, with regards to the show, and as such directed Multichoice Zambia to withdraw it, in public interest.

“Section 24(1) of the IBA (principal) Act,2002 provides that all programmes by a commercial broadcasting service shall, subject to the conditions of a license and regulations of the authority-(a) reflect the culture, character, needs and aspirations of the people in the areas they are licensed to serve,” she said.

Ms Mapoma has urged the producers of local content to produce that which reflects the Zambian culture, as well as take into, the Zambia laws.

This isn’t the first time that Zambia has cracked down on televised discussions that upset homophobic viewers.

Paul Kasonkomona

Paul Kasonkomona

In 2013, anti-AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona was arrested for advocating the repeal of Zambia’s anti-homosexuality law during a television show. In the charges against him, his appeal for reform was described as “soliciting for immoral purposes in a public place.”

Zambian law calls for a prison sentence of from 15 years to life for anyone convicted of having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”

After Kasonkomona’s arrest, Zambia’s then vice president, Guy Scott, admitted that the arrest was politically motivated. He said in an interview: “The problem with this guy going on television was that we had to do something because if we had done absolutely nothing we would have got a bollocking from all these evangelical churches plus damn idiots.”

Kasonkomona was acquitted in 2014.

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