The wedding of two young men, Steven Monjeza and Tionge Chimbalanga in December last year was a foreign body in the cultural flesh of Malawi.
Some of us knew there was homosexuality in Malawi. Some of us chose not to talk about it because it largely happens in places that are kind of outside ordinary life: prisons and boarding secondary schools, especially those that are not co-education institutions.
We also knew, or somehow thought/believed, there are same sex relationships outside of prisons and schools. There is homosexuality in our towns and cities and villages.
What we never thought was that two people of the same sex could declare their love for one another in public. That wedding (engagement is a wedding, remember) has corrupted our society—and for a long time to come.
We have talked about homosexuality as being foreign, alien to Malawi’s culture. True. But we haven’t discussed one question: Why did Steve and Tionge come out in the open, knowing pretty well they would end up in prison?
Part of the answer lies in the enormous support the two have received from NGOs and international bodies, including United Nations whose Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to Malawi on May 29, 2010, and resulted in President Bingu wa Mutharika’s pardon of the gay couple on “humanitarian grounds”.
Support for Steven and Tionge seemed well coordinated as if there was a central control centre. The kind of courage—or put correctly, arrogance—that Steve and Tionge showed by marrying each other cannot just come from within themselves.
It was from some people who hold power of some kind—economic, legal, cultural, religious or political. The international community is spreading a “global culture” and homosexuality is part of that exercise. Steven and Tionge were sent by some of those who supported them to instill this strange seed of same sex love among Malawians.
But why now? If at all there is a time people accept new ways of life, new cultures, it is when their economic status changes. Malawi’s economy has been growing at an average of 7 percent per year for the past five years.
Economic growth makes people, perhaps not accept, but view new appetites and new approaches to life differently. The international community has noted our prosperity and knows that if at all there was a time Malawi can begin to struggle with and somehow soften up to alien cultures, it is now.
Three things have happened to Malawi as a result of our prosperity. One is same sex love.
Two, the registration of the Association for Secular Humanism, a group that, in a nut shell, does not believe in the existence of God. This, too, is a symptom of beliefs that come to a growing economy. When people are full and do not worry about the next meal, they begin to trust secular approach to life.
Three is Urban Music, a genre that has come from almost nowhere and invaded the airwaves. Five years ago, there was no Phyzix, Theo Thomson, Tigris, Heart Beatz, Tay Grin and Mafunyeta. Yet they are household names today.
I drove by the French Cultural Centre (FCC) one Sunday afternoon at about 5 on my way to the office and met hundreds of young people walking out of the FCC. They were in large numbers, coming from an Urban Music Party.
This music has come to stay, at least for now. Urban music is about joy and happiness. It is not about sorrows and tears. It is a kind of music that can be enjoyed by people on a journey towards prosperity, people that are hopeful.
The young people of Malawi are living in hopeful days of a port at Nsanje, five universities on the cards, nice roads, DsTV, mobile phones, Facebook, and eating out.
What is more? Beliefs of some small sections of the world are being pushed across the globe, starting with prospering societies like Malawi, especially because we have a President that is a global figure as well.
These thorns in our cultural flesh are part of the of our prosperity.