THERE is a rather horrifying story of a seasoned broadcaster in newly-independent Zambia committing suicide.
He was hardly into his mid-40s, a good broadcaster in a country whose presumed ambition was to launch a new dispensation in public broadcasting, away from the stultifying fare of the former federal broadcast outfit.
It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Broadcasting in the three federal territories was controlled by the Federal Broadcasting Corporation, as racist as the concept of “partnership”.
The Africans would be the horse, the whites the rider.
It was doomed from start to finish. In any case, all three territories, once independent, had nothing even remotely resembling free broadcasting in the true pluralistic sense.
But our story originated in a lavatory, which should not detract from its overall thrust of bathos.
The broadcaster and a colleague ended up arguing over an alleged homosexual advance.
He was reportedly disgusted enough to threaten legal action — unless there was penance,in the form of “compensation”.
But I know enough to suspect there was much gnashing of teeth among many in the fraternity at the time.
The white broadcaster preferred a gesture of private, total, final capitulation than the indignity of the public glare. There are probably only a few of us still alive who remember the pain of being partly responsible for the needless death of a colleague.
There was little we could do to forestall his decision: this was hardly a matter in which an individual summons colleagues to a “summit”.
To this day, I have no idea how the man who felt offended reacted to the suicide.
It’s hard to imagine he felt some sort of vindication. I was reminded of this incident by the recent brutal murder of a lesbian in a South African town.
This was so savage it made me wonder if all of us Africans feel the same so-called revulsion towards gays and lesbians.
If we do, then we need a thorough investigation into a new concept of what is and what is not vital for our survival as a continent of decent, God-fearing, law-abiding human beings.
My primary concern is always that poverty is such an enormous burden for us it should take precedence over such a matter as how to punish two adults indulging in acts which do not harm others, except those so steeped in antiquated cultural mores, it is they who ought to be rehabilitated.
South Africa made a few serious mistakes after the advent of democracy in 1994. But none of it could ever take away from the leadership the introduction of a law decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults.
Older readers will remember how the British tackled that issue, along with that of prostitution, after the Wolfenden report of 1957.
Admittedly, not all the sociological baggage related to both prostitution and homosexuality was laid to rest after that report.
Yet the occasion did allow for a free exchange of views.
Many Africans, remembering the ill-will with which the colonialists approached our demands for independence, will be aghast at the idea of borrowing from the former colonial masters.
But there is need for a brief pause here: how do we remain blind to the savage practice of female genital mutilation?
Even in the dubious cause of “preserving our culture”, this practice ought to be declared illegal and a crime against humanity.
One of the alleged arguments in favour is that many women would feel “incomplete” if they were excluded from this “rite of passage”.
Then, you have to dig back to the bride price. Has this practice been declared illegal?
It may be a little extreme to allege that this is a crime against humanity, but it has rendered many African women second-class, if not third-class, citizens for generations.
It is true that, in spite of it, many African women have still advanced their cause.
But there cannot be any doubt that until women stop being sold like cattle at a meat market, there will not be any real equality among the sexes on the continent.
A real sexual revolution is called for, probably on a scale equivalent to the liberation struggle.
Bill Saidi is a veteran writer based in Harare