By NYASHA CHUMA, Harare
South African singer, actress and dancer Kelly Khumalo on Thursday cancelled an appearance in Harare in solidarity with Somizi Mhlongo before returning a deposit paid into her account to host the event, Zim Morning Post can report.
Khumalo was a last minute inclusion to host the Garwe Restaurant re-opening event after Zanu PF shut out South African TV star Somizi over his sexual orientation.
Insiders say the South African singer walked away at the airport minutes before her flight scheduled to depart at 4pm for Harare. The re-opening launch had been rescheduled to start at 6pm to accommodate Khumalo’s arrival.
Khumalo reimbursed Garwe restaurant while Somizi was paid 30 percent of his R250,000 charge as a cancelation fee.
Most gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe have to hide their sexual identity as discrimination, exclusion and violent attacks remain a constant threat.
Zim Morning Post understands that the Idols SA judge had agreed to a R250, 000 purse to host the gig and embark on social media campaigns aimed at promoting the eatery’s brand.
“Somizi was set to fly in but his invitation became unattainable after calls were made for him not to attend on grounds of his sexual-orientation,” said an insider.
Somizi’s date with Harare was cancelled after ruling party aligned churches under the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe and the party’s youth league vowed to block Somizi from attending the red carpet event.
“We represent indigenous churches in Zimbabwe and are strongly rooted to our culture and support our revolutionary party. It is after we saw an article in our leading paper “Sunday Mail, 31 October edition” that a South African well known gay, Somizi Mhlongo “Somiz” is coming to Zimbabwe to grace the reopening of Garwe Restaurant on the 4 of November 2021. The church is strongly against such an event in the sense that Somiz is a homosexual, hence according to our People’s driven Constitution, Zimbabwe doesn’t tolerate homosexuality,” said the church grouping.
The Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe went on to claim that Somizi’s attendance would cost Zanu PF votes in the 2023 elections.
“It is therefore our question, if we allow Somiz to come to our land, spiritually we would have been disturbed a lot, and physically we would have openly accepted homosexuality in Zimbabwe hence affecting our children. This move will also affect our revolutionary party ZANU PF by disturbing the 5 million votes win needed in the next 2023 harmonized elections for it is publicly known that our party strongly stands against homosexuality,” the churches claimed in a letter copied to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“After reading the article and spreading the message to all our congregations, they all expressed ingratitude and felt vulnerable for our rights, we feel, we are being violated. We stand firm to announce to you that we don’t support such an event in our land.”
“If the authorities fail to protect us in time, the Church is currently planning to hold a peaceful demonstration at the airport upon his arrival as well as at the Restaurant. Zimbabwe is a Christian Community and we Indigenous Churches stand firm to our culture for we do not seek any foreign aid. We are kindly seeking your response within 24 hours immediately after receiving this.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Zanu PF youth league acting secretary general Tendai Chirau said “I’ve engaged the owner of the outlet Ms Mandi expressing concerns by different societal groups over the invitation of one of the highly controversial guests (Mhlongo), a declared ngito (derogatory term for homosexual).
“I’m glad to announce that the owner took heed of the great concerns and elected to remove the said ngito from the guest list and never to associate themselves with the said character again.”
In Zimbabwe and other African countries, it is often claimed that homosexuality is “un-African” and a deviant Western ideology.
Somizi took to Instagram to hit back saying barring him from the event only fuels hate towards the LGBTQI community.
He added that homophobia was no different from “xenophobes and racists.”
“They are people in Zimbabwe who don’t want him to come based on my sexuality, they have made it clear. And this is not the first time this has happened to me, am used to it, am okay with it but am not okay at the same time,” he said.