Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Zambia’s President Pardons Gay Couple

By Paul Shalala
The two men talk to their lawyer Daniel Libati shortly 
after they were convicted in Kapiri Mposhi in 2018.
-Picture courtesy of The Punch
Six months after they were sent to jail to serve a 15 years sentence, two men who became the first Zambians to be convicted for homosexuality are now back home, thanks to a Presidential pardon.
Steven Sambo and Japhet Chataba found themselves among 2,984 prisoners who were pardoned by President Edgar Lungu on the eve of African Freedom Day (Africa Day) which was observed on Monday.
According to the Government Gazette number 6,874 published on Friday last week, Chataba and Sambo are listed as number 2,561 and 2,562 respectively on the list of pardoned prisoners.
In August 2017, the two men found themselves in a bitter fight at a lodge in Kapiri Mposhi where they allegedly had sex.
Kapiri Mposhi is a transit town in central Zambia which has had three court cases involving homosexuals, two of which ended in acquittals.
In a video which went viral on social media in 2018, Chataba was filmed forcibly dragging Sambo back into a room at a lodge as he allegedly tried to run away from his partner.
As the two men fought each other and ended up back in the room again, lodge workers and onlookers filmed the episode on their mobile phones, footage which later proved to be critical evidence during trial. 
The Government Gazette which carries names of 
those pardoned, including Sambo and Chataba.
A day after the incident, the two men were arrested and charged with practicing what the Penal Code describes as “unnatural acts.”
During trial which took a year, several witnesses were called to the stand.
They included workers at the lodge, a medical doctor and the arresting officer.
It was alleged that the two men had carnal knowledge of each other.
Sambo and Chataba were convicted by the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrate’s Court on 3rd August 2018 but were only sentenced by the High Court in November 2019.
The 15 year sentence sparked a diplomatic row between Zambia and the United States of America.
Then US Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote expressed support for the two which led to a sharp reaction from the Zambian government.
Later, the United States government recalled Mr Foote back to Washington, DC.
According to the Penal Code, homosexuality is illegal in Zambia and it carries a 15 year sentence.
Zambia is a largely conservative country which outlaws homosexuality.
Its powerful church mother bodies do not approve of homosexuality.
However, the country has a handful of organizations which champion the rights of homosexuals who are estimated to be in their hundreds. 

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