Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Just A Short While Ago

When Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Malawi's first open gay couple, were ridiculed and mocked, shouted at and scorned as they answered to charges of indulging in 'unnatural sex', among others.
It all started on December 26, 2010 when Monjeza and Chimbalanga organised Malawi's first ever same-sex engagement.
And ended some four month later. And it ended in conviction and the meting of a 14 year sentence.
Two women who had travelled all the way from Britain, just to be witnesses to Monjeza and Chimbalanga's ordeal at the Blantyre Magistrates Court, openly wept, as a man- also from Britain- touched their backs in a comforting gesture.
"It is okay," he said. "It will be okay."
Monjeza and Chimbalanga did not notice all this.

Divided forever: Steven Monjeza (left) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa was the man in control of things; in control of the two gays' fate, too.
He exercised that control by meting a maximum 14-year sentence.
But Monjeza and Chimbalanga were shortly to be pardoned by State President Bingu wa Mutharika, ostensibly under pressure from United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
Ban travelled all the way from UN Headquarters just to reason with Mutharika, and then met the Malawi National Assembly where, in a surprise move, he announced that the two prisoners-of-conscience had been pardoned.
People were surprised that, instead of Mutharika announcing it, it was Ban who stepped into those shoes.
It was a move described by opponents of the decision to let go the two as 'interference in internal affairs of Malawi'.
But, as it were, Monjeza was the only one meant to be free because, barely 45 days later, Chimbalanga came into the limelight again, this time for 'real' wrong reasons: criminal behaviour bordering on theft.
In the first case, when he stole property, he was committed to a suspended sentence by the Machinjiri Magistrates Court.
But he did it again, and paid with a prison sentence.
He is still serving jail; this time, without the sympathy of human rights activists.
He is going it alone without the company of Chimbalanga, whom he parted ways with as he found "true love" in Gloria Gulo- a Blantyre-based woman who bruntly told reporters:
"He has everything in a man; he even performs well in bed. So far, so good- I have not found any mistake in him. I can safely say that, during the few times we have made love, he has performed very well."
It was the bold voice of a woman in a country dominated by male stereotypes against women.
This is Malawi, where the husband is still very much the partriarch, and women are expected to keep quiet in the presence of men.
However, this, too, did not last for Monjeza: he was soon to be abandoned by the brunt Gulo.
Monjeza later lamented: "she has abandoned me because I have run out of cash. She came to me because I had cash. Now that it (cash) is gone, she is gone."
So, Gulo never goes to the penitentiary institution Monjeza is in to give him the occassional lunch or dinner: he languishes by himself.
Perhaps he even wishes he had remained in jail after being convicted on homosexuality-related crimes: that way, he would still be accessing the hotel food human rights activits and well-wishers were bringing hima and Monjeza at Chichiri Prison.
No more.
As for Monjeza, he had a planned assylum trip to Canada. But nothing has materialised yet.
But one thing is clear: he lives in peace, unbothered by jeers and sneers.
The last time Zachimalwi saw him was three months ago in Blantyre as he alighted from an Axa Bus and Coach Service executive coach.
He quickly disappeared into a waiting Toyota VX.
And quickly disappeared from people's minds!

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