South Africa’s Zodwa Wabantu arrived in Lusaka, Zambia on Friday around 15:30, to a long wait at the airport office.
This was followed by the entertainer, whose real name is Zodwa Libram, being asked to go to a hotel room provided for her where she was told that she would be deported back to South Africa the next day on the first 05:20 GMT flight.
According to Reuters, the dancer was deported on grounds that her performance would “undermine national values”. She received a letter from the National Zambian Arts Council upon her arrival in the country which read: “Based on the preview of some of her shows in other countries, the continuation of the show will be contrary to public interest and will undermine our national values.” The report was confirmed by her promoter, Lucky Munakampe who told AFP News of the Zambian authorities’ decision to send back Wabantu to her home country. Wabantu is popularly known for performing without an underwear in a way that has been termed ‘indecent’ and ‘immoral’.
This is not the first time that an incident like this has happened mostly in relation to women especially celebrities and entertainers in public eye as religion is intertwined with the state in most African countries.
Barbadian singer/songwriter, Rihanna, who was scheduled to attend a conference on education in the Senegal in February alongside the French president, Emmanuel Macron, exercising her role as an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education was declared persona non grata by a group of religious organisations who accused the singer of intending to promote homosexuality in collusion with the Freemasons.
It is seen as a form of justice for a woman to be stripped naked for acts which involve stealing or going to the market where there’s the reality that you can be jailed, and, depending on where you live or what religion you’re affiliated with, your career can be threatened or quickly over, meanwhile the issue of indecency with regards to male counterparts are reserved for appearing to be like women in dressing or in relation to other men.
Renowned writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on a bill that sought to legalise repercussions for “indecent dressing” in Nigeria regarded these acts as an act of hypocrisy, stating that “a bill that seeks to stop women dressing indecently shows how warped our notions of culture have become.”
Zodwa, who was booked to perform in Zambia on Saturday but didn’t, spoke to DRUM about the ordeal saying, “I think everyone wants me to change, you know? I’m a woman, I’m free, I’m able to do what I want, it’s my body. It’s my choice not wearing a panty. But you know everyone makes it as if I go on stage and say, ‘hi everyone I’m not wearing a panty’, I don’t wear the panty – that’s all.”
Zambia’s constitution states that it is a Christian nation, and the morally driven state has revealed its disinterest when it concerns accommodating individuals who do not follow the defined code of morality. This was reiterated by the country’s Religious Affairs Minister, Godfridah Sumaili.
“Zambia is a Christian nation where morality and ethics have to be followed. We don’t expect a woman to dance without underwear,” Sumaili mentioned in a chat with AFP.
This has raised mixed reactions, some agreeing with the decision of the state and others, arguing the priorities of the Zambian government citing the challenges most African nations face in terms of roads, health care, energy, education, unemployment, and national security among others.
“I know I have been criticised all over but other people still appreciate me and respect what I do.” Zodwa continues, “My aim is not to offend anyone but merely to entertain because I make a living out of it.
Zodwa has chosen to focus on her upcoming performance in Namibia.