OPINION: Jailing gay people should qualify Zambia as an apartheid state


I am utterly convinced that the "apartheid state" concept is too narrowly defined if it is restricted to South Africa and by pro-Palestinian groups, to also include Israel.

Let me be clear that this column will not be about discussing the merits or otherwise of describing Israel as an apartheid state. There are and there has always plenty of outlets to discuss that subject to the satisfaction of either view.

The goal of this column is to argue the principle of what constitutes an apartheid state, and to assist in drawing up a template by which any country, anywhere in the world, can be objectively declared an apartheid state, if it is found to tick the given boxes. And if it does, have the same economic and cultural sanctions campaigns visited on it as was the case with apartheid South Africa. The international world should discourage sporting ties with or entertainment tours to countries that have in their legal code the treatment of certain categories of human beings as less than human.

The higher the country scores on its discriminatory and repressive laws, the more severe the sanctions package should be.

The definition should be expanded to include any state that unfairly discriminates against other human beings for simply being who they are. Any state that oppresses and makes second-class of its own people for having lost the proverbial gene lottery and being born with attributes that the ruling classes regard as inferior or undesirable.

Very often the news media is presented with an example of what, by the expanded definition, would fit the characterisation of an apartheid state.

The latest such example of an apartheid state is Zambia jailing two men, Japhet Chatapa and Steven Samba, to 15 years’ jail for the crime of being born with a sexual attraction to people of the same sex as themselves.

Being gay, like being black, a woman, tall or short is something none of us can determine for ourselves. Whereas skin creams can make us lighter or darker, they cannot in themselves make us what Home Affairs classifications refer to as being “white” or “black”.

To therefore discriminate, and in the case of Zambia, jail people for a sexual orientation, is as bad as apartheid South Africa punishing black people for being black and denying them rights otherwise given to others for no other reason than being born in what is in the eyes of the dominant class, regarded as “acceptable”.

While no law can make people bigots and for such people to be “disgusted” by shows of public affection by people of the same sex, a commitment to Human Rights should trump over our personal sensibilities, especially Neanderthal ones like thinking your own gender identity is morally appropriate.

As South Africans, especially those of us who know first-hand how it feels to be declared second-class citizens, we have a moral duty to pay forward the solidarity the world gave us. We cannot watch idly as countries such as Zambia practice their own apartheid. If it was the world’s business what the apartheid states did with “its blacks” it is our business what countries like Zambia do with “their homosexuals”.

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an independent journalist and former editor of The Mercury and The Witness.