The Mercury

Row over Shembe gay slur

- Thami Magubane

SHEMBE church leader Mduduzi Shembe has been heavily criticised for his remarks that gay people are responsibl­e for the drought crippling the province.

The gay and lesbian community has slammed him over his comments made at a function in Nongoma at the weekend, saying they were “un-leader-like and inflammato­ry, while the provincial government said such remarks were unfortunat­e and unacceptab­le.

The Shembe church, however, moved quickly to distance its leader from the allegation­s.

Shembe, from the Ebuhleni faction of the church, was speaking at a gathering at Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma, which was also attended by Premier Senzo Mchunu and King Goodwill Zwelithini.

The Shembe church is split into two main factions, the Ebuhleni and Ekuphakame­ni. There is an ongoing court case in which they are contesting for leadership of the church.

Mduduzi Shembe allegedly said the drought was an act of vengeance from God because people had defied him. He said men marrying other men was an act of defiance.

Speaking in Zulu, he allegedly said the people had gone against God’s wishes to procreate.

“Men are now marrying men, and that is why we are currently facing this curse of a hot sun and drought”.

But a church spokesman yesterday tried to distance the church from the controvers­y, saying he never spoke on any matter involving gay people.

Sbo Khumalo, of the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre, said: “We would like it if there was a press conference where we would be represente­d and he would be there too, to explain exactly what he meant.” She said the claim was rubbish. “There are so many things happening in the world (that could be responsibl­e for drought). Why did he pick on the gay community as being responsibl­e?”

Leaders, Khumalo said, should refrain from speaking out of turn and making remarks which could cause harm.

“A person who is openly gay could be attacked by someone, saying that they are responsibl­e for the drought. What he said is discrimina­tion; there are no two ways about that.

“There are people in his church who are gay. If he speaks like this how are those people supposed to feel?

“Right now, he and members of his church are fighting over their God; they are chasing each other with hammers in court. He is not commenting on that. He has not commented on all the pastors misbehavin­g and mistreatin­g people.”

A member of the church, who did not want to be named, said, “We saw the story in Isolezwe with other members of the Nazareth (Shembe). We thought to ourselves: ‘Here comes trouble;’ we are going to see a march now.”

Pastor Mhlaliseni Hlatshwayo, speaking on behalf of the Ebuhleni, said Mduduzi Shembe had not said anything about gay people.

“He was reading a scripture that people should procreate. People are defying God in this. He then made the example of men marrying other men.”

Thamsanqa Ngwenya, the head of provincial government communicat­ion, distanced the provincial government from the remarks.

“South Africa is governed through a constituti­on that guarantees fundamenta­l human rights. Under the Bill of Rights, no one must be discrimina­ted against because of his/her sexual orientatio­n, religion or creed.

”Such prejudicia­l statements are regrettabl­e and are not consistent with the dictates of the constituti­on. They are a recipe to instigate prejudice against the lesbian and gay community.”

NAIROBI: African gays who often face persecutio­n in the streets and sometimes prosecutio­n in courts have a simple plea for Pope Francis before his first visit to the continent: bring a message of tolerance even if you will not bless our sexuality.

Francis travels to Kenya and Uganda, where many conservati­ve Christians bristle at the idea of the West forcing its morality on them, especially when it comes to gays and lesbians. He will also visit the conflict-torn Central African Republic on a tour that will start on Wednesday. While Francis has not changed Catholic dogma on homosexual­ity and has reaffirmed the church’s opposition to samesex marriage, his more inclusive approach has cheered many gay Catholics while annoying conservati­ves.

“I would like the pope to at least make people know that being LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgende­r) is not a curse,” said Jackson Mukasa, 20.

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