Robert Chiwamba needs no introduction. He is one of the several performers parading themselves as poets. But this article is not about the art. Days ago he released his latest ‘poem’ which is titled ‘Takana Mathanyula’ (We say No To Homosexuality). Being in a democratic nation, where people are free and have the right to express themselves, his opinion is valued and respected. But there are several conceptual challenges one can easily observe from it. These have exposed him as an ignorant and an emotional person, who while lacking reason to back up his points, has resorted into things like threats and redundant talk. This article, using the basic language possible, will take the time to go deep into the ‘poem’ and fish out the quotes Mr. Chiwamba should have thought otherwise on.
First Quote: “Dzana munabwera monong’ona kudzatinyengelera kuti mwabweranso ndi kaufulu kena kokwatirana amuna kapena akazi okhaokha mwina tingakakonde. Tinakuuzani get out, uchisi sitimapanga.” (Yesterday you silently came to ask us if we may be in favor of the homosexual rights and we told you to get out. That is gross).
Response: The wrong thing here is that Mr. Chiwamba, just like several others, think that homosexual rights are being bulldozed on Malawi by some people, deliberately. They are failing to realize that it is right in our very own constitution. Everyone is entitled to freedom from discrimination, the right of association and life, among others. What the western organizations do is just to remind Malawi of its obligation to follow what is in the constitution. The thinking that these ‘White’ people have an interest in Malawi as far as this issue is concerned is very wrong. What will they gain from a not-so-well-to-do country like ours?
Second Quote: “Lero ngati sizinamveke mwabwera ndi ka Mzungu katanyamula chimtuwitsa mbali inayi nkumatiopyseza, mwati tikapanda kuvomera nyasi za ufuluzi adzanyamula chimtuwitsa chake ndipo tikhaula tigona ndi njala. Ife tikuti basop, get out. (Today you have come with the White man with his money to threaten us that if we say no to homosexuality he will take his away money and we will suffer and sleep hungry. We have said get out).
Response: Mr. Chiwamba has exposed the misconception a lot of people have towards the minority rights activists. Most of them think that they are doing it for money. Let me not entirely defend them against this accusation because I am not fully aware of their intentions. But to present the issue as if one is sure that they do it for money is wrong. They are these same activists whom we back when they are attacking the government for not delivering to us the social services. Simply because they have spoken for something we do not like, then they have turned into bad people. That sounds unfair. They are just doing their job, whether what they are doing or saying is to our favor or not. And about the white man taking his money; I have never heard any activist saying that if Malawi says no to homosexuality then the Western man will take away his aid. There has never been such kind of blackmailing from the activists’ side. They are not desperate guys to reach to that level. Mr. Chiwamba has wrongly misinterpreted their message for his gain. It will be to your interest Mr. Chiwamba that the Bible you are using to form your opinion was brought to you by this same white man you are now castigating.
Third Quote: “Tawamveni a Malawi… onse akuti mathanyula amawanyansa ngati makhololo a Nkhumba, Ndithu monga Bulu wokakamizidwa ku mtsinje tafika koma madzi wokha sitimwa madolo.” (Listen to the Malawians… they are all saying that homosexuality is gross to them like the Pig’s mucus. Like the donkey, you have taken us to the river, but guys, we will not be forced to drink the water).
Response: By using the Pig and then mucus, Mr. Chiwamba shows how emotional he is. This is what has characterised the whole anti-homosexual side. It is very emotional and lacks tangible arguments hence resorting to either violence or ugly description of the act. Another wrong mistake is when he says the activists have taken them to the river but they will not be forced to take the water. Mr. Chiwamba, the activists are not that desperate to the point of forcing you to accept homosexuality. They do not have that authority and means. All they are doing is to advance their reason on the issue and are asking you to give them yours as well. The problem is that throughout the poem, when you had the opportunity to respond to them in a convincing way, you chose to sound absurd.
Fourth Quote: “Ndithu zotiwuza kuti nchilengedwe chanu kukhala ndi chilakolako pa mwamuna kapena mkazi nzanu, kwa ntu wa Galu tatemetsa Nkhwangwa pamwala toto. Mbwelera zanu tazimva, usiru wanu tauona, makani anu atikwiitsa, taunika chirichonse choyenera kuunikidwa tapeza kuti ndi mbwelera.” (Telling us that it is natural for you to feel for a fellow man or woman; we have vehemently denied that. We have searched and found out that it is nonsense).
Response: Usually, the problem in this world is that ignorant men like Mr. Chiwamba speak louder than those in the know. Mr. Chiwamba, try to look at the scientific side of the debate and you will find out that it is possible for someone to be born a homosexual. If people are born without limbs or heads, what can fail someone to be born a homosexual? With nature, anything can happen. You cannot be saying that all these homosexuals choose to be like that. I have interacted with a few of them and they have told me how much struggle they have had to forsake their feelings for their same sex, but failed. You are talking from a vacuum. I would encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go into the homosexual world and first experience their stories before you take time to castigate them.
Fifth Quote: “Si inu kodi munabwera pa dzana kudzatiuza titsatire democracy, ulamuliro wachigulu? Lero chigulu chikuyankhula chikuti takana mathanyula…” (Was it not you who years ago told us to follow democracy, the rule of the majority? Today the majority is saying no to homosexuality…).
Response: Mr. Chiwamba, democracy is not the rule of the majority. This is one of the weaknesses of democracy, not its definition. It should be known to you that you are using the weakness to your selfish advantage. If you are sincere about democracy, as you are claiming in this part of the ‘poem’, then you could have avoided building an argument using its weak part. Democracy, as President Abraham Lincoln of America said, is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. This summarizes it all. It is embracing than the wrong definition you have chosen to use. The government cannot always listen to the majority, otherwise a situation can turn into the tyranny of the majority. Stop being obsessed with the reasoning that since the majority is saying no then it is right.
Sixth Quote: “Choyamba mathanyula ndi tchimo lomwe Yehova, Mphambe, Ngwazi, Chiothamisi, Chilengathambo wosaodzera, Madala Madala, Kumtunda, adana nalo koopysa ndipo amatha kulanga ndi osachita nawo omwe bola ngati ali m’dzikolo.” (First, homosexuality is a sin before God and He can punish our country for it).
Response: Mr. Chiwamba, for once, be serious. With due respect to all those who fear and believe in God, do not push your belief onto others. Let not others be dragged into your relationship with Him. People again have to realize that bringing God into this debate is a vain attempt of hiding their human perceptions behind a Being who cannot come down to clear His side. For that, can we please just sort this out as human beings? Yes I understand that you use the Bible to come to this conclusion. But homosexuality is a civil matter. We are not a theocracy and we cannot use a religious book to conclude on this civil matter. Moreover, not every one of us believes in the Bible. There can be total chaos if we start using the Bible to make our national decisions. If you say it is telling you against homosexuality, it is telling you as its believer. It is not telling someone who does not believe in it. On the point of God punishing Malawi because of homosexuality; Mr. Chiwamba, as a learned man, be serious and reasonable enough.
Seventh Quote: “Mathanyula amatsutsana ndi chikwalidwe cha chi Malawi komanso cha umunthu… Kodi ngati tiribe chikwalidwe chathu, unduna wa chikhalidwe timakhala nawowu ngwachikhalidwe cha kuti, kapena ku Djibouti? Foolish!” (Homosexuality is against our culture and human nature… If you say there is no Malawian culture, then our ministry of culture is for which culture, maybe that of Djibouti? Foolish!).
Response: There you go, calling the other side of the debate and their point of view, foolish. As earlier on said, when people have exhausted all their reasoning and objectivity, that is what they resort to; personally degrading their opposite side. It is not Mr. Chiwamba only. Actually, he is the prefect representation of the anti-homosexual side. On the point of culture, it seems he was haunted after thinking about it. He knew that by talking about culture the question of the modern day dressing will rise up. Is how our girls, for example, are dressing these days, our culture? The answer is no. This is Western dressing transferred to us through the media and people who travelled. But we have come to accept it. Although Mr. Chiwamba mentioned it, he chose not to address it and quickly jumped to ask about the culture the ministry of culture represents. He did not address his own question for a reason: It is complex for him. Culture is always on the move. Today it may easily be said and accepted that “This is not our culture”, but in the next century, time and space will have changed and the same thing will be accepted as the culture. A wise person, knowing such changes in the way of life and behavior of people, will refrain from making such remarks and let the time and space define what is accepted and not accepted. So Mr. Chiwamba, be careful and wise when you are making statements regarding culture. The problem is you abandoned all your reasoning skills because you were desperate to defend your perception. This should not have been the case.
Eighth Quote: “Mathanyula ali ndi kuthekera kothetsa mtundu wa anthu a m’dziko lathu poti ana samabadwa m’menemo.” (Homosexuality has the potential to depopulate our country since in such unions no children are born).
Response: In Malawi, a country of seventeen million people, the population of homosexuals is said to be around forty thousand. For a country which is struggling to control its rapid population growth, according to Mr. Chiwamba, these forty thousand people can depopulate us. This is some top class reasoning.
Ninth Quote: “Ndiye akumadzakhalanso ndi ti mfundo tina ati zochitika pakati pa anthu akulu akulu woti agwirizana ku chipinda, zitayeni, sizikukukhudzani, Chiyani!? Bwanji mchemwali akagona ndi mchimwene wake ngakhale ali aakulu timamanga? Pachifukwa chomwechinso zitikhudza ndipo awa tiwamanga.” (They also have the point saying what happens between two consensual adults in their privacy should not be our concern. What!? Why do we arrest people when a brother and a sister have sex even though they are consenting adults? For that same reason we will also arrest the homosexuals).
Response: Mr. Chiwamba, incest, because it is done between close relations, has high chances of having the baby born with biological deformities. One reason why incest is not allowed is to protect the unborn child from such occurrences which are avoidable when one has a child with someone who is not a close relation. This is some basic knowledge which I am surprised eluded your mind.
Tenth Quote: “Asiyileni a Malawi apange okha malamulo.” (Let Malawians make their own laws).
Response: This is a desperate expression. To his reasoning, if Malawians are going to make their own laws they will be against homosexuality. He does not care what the plight of the minority will be. All he wants is the majority to make the laws so that in the end it satisfies all his hate and perceptions.
Last Quote: “Komatu musamale mafana. Ulendo wina sadzakupititsaninsoni ku Police anta. Adzangokuthyolani Mphafa.” (But be careful boys. One day people will not take you to the Police. They will just beat you).
Response: Mr. Chiwamba, this is tantamount to hate speech. That is why this ‘poem’ of yours is not fit to be the point of reason as far as this issue is concerned. As a Christian, how can you wish someone beaten by the mob, for the mere fact of him / her practicing what you do not like? If it was Jesus Christ, the founder of your religious tradition, in his three and a half years earthly ministry, could he have opted for that? The surprising thing with this last quote is that throughout the ‘poem’ he has been using the pronoun ‘We’, meaning that he was part of the large group against the act basing on the raised points. But on this last part, where he is threatening the homosexuals to be beaten, he has used the pronoun ‘They’, meaning that he will not be part of the beating. Mr. Chiwamba, you have sounded strong and convinced throughout. How come only on this part you are sounding like a coward who is expecting others to do the dirty work for you?
With due respect to all your handwork and passion, this is not poetry. In short, you lack the poetic language and expression in it. It has also been proved that there were emotions and perceptions in your piece of work. Art should represent the higher expressions of humanity, but not in the way you have done it. You are losing the plot.
Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript developer and editor