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Anti-Gay Incidents In Southern Africa Cause Controversy

By Digital Journal Staff     Jun 8, 2001 in Lifestyle
WINDHOEK (dpa) - Stallon Shimanda's ear is hurting. A female "protector of the law" suddenly reached out and tore a decorative earring off the Namibian man's ear in a shopping centre in the city of Katutura.
A member of a special public morality force called "SFF", she told him that she was acting on the express orders of President Sam Nujoma.
"She claimed that it was a presidential order to take the earrings away from every man, and she asked me who I thought I was to try to resist a presidential order," Shimanda later told The Namibian newspaper.
One of the paper's staff found out about further victims of the SFF, but the special force members made threats and prevented any pictures from being taken.
Later, authorities responding to journalists' queries distanced themselves from the actions and returned the earrings. But the shock remained.
"Eleven years after our independence, the people's freedom is being violated and we must now live in a police state," opposition leader Katuutire Kaura said.
The "earring purges" in Namibia are the latest escalation in a witch-hunt against homosexuals, who through public statements by Nujoma have become targets.
On March 19 he warned students that homosexuality would not be tolerated in the country and that gays and lesbians would face arrest or deportation. Beforehand, Nujoma's interior ministr had made a call for homosexuals to be "eliminated from Namibia's appearance".
Such calls apparently fell on fertile soil among the auxiliary SFF force, which is largely recruited from among the war veterans.
The European Union saw itself obliged to send a protest message. It said that the recent government statements against ethnic and social minorities were unacceptable and a sign of growing intolerance.
The campaign against gays in the former German colony has its counterparts in neighbouring Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about homosexuals, who are among the several groups in his country which feel threatened by gangs of war veterans.
In South Africa, a war of words between the coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town was a cause for people to sit up and take notice.
Obed Mlaba, the mayor of Durban, which is known as a venue for international conferences, expressed his suspicions about a new conference center in Cape Town with remarks referring to its homosexual scene: "Cape Town should stick with its gays and lesbians."
Mlaba's remarks alarmed South Africa's homosexuals, fearing that the wrong signals were being sent. These could hurt the image of Cape Town, a city with a strong economic and political base.
Seeking to defuse the situation with humour, Cape Town mayor Peter Marais responded calmly with the remark: "Mlaba is simply green with envy about our pink community."
More about Homosexuality, Africa, Gays, Lesbians, Namibia
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