One needs to go back to January 2010—to the last time Malawi’s public discourse in the New Year was dominated by passionate debate about gay rights.
Then—as now—it was inspired by the arrest, in December the previous year, of two men accused of engaging in homosexuality.
Curiosity, amusement even, followed the arrest of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in Blantyre in December 2009. Few could understand how the two would be so bold as to come out as they did.
Debate about the December 2015 arrests, which has spilled into January 2016 has, however, been anything but kind. Gone is the innocence and the denial of 2009. While donors’ response to the 2009 was measured and tentative at most, they have not been as reticent this time around. And Malawians have responded in kind and such has been the aggression in people’s opinion it gives the impression that after wildlife, gays are the most endangered species in Malawi.
From the man on the street to politicians to the men of the collar, each one is strident in their demand for a piece of their flesh—pun unintended—of gays.
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Ken Msonda has been the self-appointed voice of an anti-gay movement that is propagating a dubious, but not unprecedented, genocidal approach to dealing with gays. Like a fire and brimstone preacher, Msonda’s message is simple but scaring—kill the lot if they cannot become straight—using the Holy Bible as the source of his inspiration. Incidentally, the same Bible cautions against passing judgement on behalf of the Lord, and encourages compassion and forgiveness.
The culmination of such homophobic sentiment was last Saturday in Lilongwe during interdenominational prayers where preacher after preacher relegated the stated purpose of the gathering—to pray for rains—to a footnote and warned President Peter Mutharika not to give lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals an inch. That they hinted but did not outright accuse gays of causing El Nino—which has affected not only Malawi, but other parts of the world as well—should be considered a miracle.
If Malawi is failing to get by because of sin, take it from me, homosexuality or tolerance to it may be our least worry. It is absurd to pile the shortcomings of an entire nation on a people so few.
While our men of God are praying to Him to deliver us from homosexuality, can they also remember to beseech Him to spare us of lying, cheating and thieving politicians? I consider an honest politician a precious currency for a country’s development than an impetuous campaign against a group of people whose biggest folly, it would appear, is to find comfort in each other’s company.
Can they also remember to take to task conmen among them who hide behind the word of God to deprive people of hope, push them away from salvation and steal from the poor and the desperate? There is an unsettling silence about preachers who are reaping off followers, men of God who are going against their vows of celibacy, pastors who are encouraging the pillage of public resources by maintaining their silence while they receive tainted property in tithes.
These men of God—who vowed to do good but have turned bad—are the people who have let down not only Malawi, but God as well.
Evil does not lurks over Malawi. As a people, we have a pathetic mentality of scape-goating in our quest to find an explanation for our failures and absolve ourselves from our shortcomings.
No rains? No problem, blame it on gays. No problem, blame monkeys. Or too much water. Or too little water. Or some fall guy. No development? Blame donors. Not prospering personally? You are not tithing enough. Seldom are we, as a people, responsible for our own destiny.
Of course, such an approach is cathartic, but essentially it limits creativity and leads the country nowhere. However, life goes on. n