Sangomas say gay life is traditional

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

Staunch Africans believe the beautiful ones are dead and that the ending is nearer than we thought.

This is whenever the subject of homosexuality is brought up. Names like Ongqingili, Izitabane, osisi-bhuti and many such derogatory labels are still largely used, sometimes on homosexuals.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has called homosexuals "worse than dogs and pigs".

Yet, the male sangomas - first- hand scholars of the African tradition and culture, have come out in numbers saying they have forever been sleeping with men.

In a film flighted on BBC last year, entitled Four Rent Boys and a Sangoma, viewers are given tales of the many reasons other men have sex with other men.

One of the boys is Fihlo, a sangoma from Orange Farm.

Fihlo says in the film that he receives sex from men as a spiritual exchange of energy. "A man's semen gives me power," he reveals.

Fihlo believes it is his duty as a traditional healer to have sex with men. He says the ancestors prefer him to be submissive like a woman.

Such utterances don't bode well with affluent gay people. They feel the media has exploited the term and the gay community.

Many feel that the people who end up giving interviews on behalf of the gay community don't hold the candle for them.

Thulani Mhlongo, a founder member of the Soweto HIV-Aids Counsellor Association (SOHACA), says that homosexuality is as African as Maskandi music.

"I am as Zulu as they come and I consider myself a real Zulu. That I'm gay doesn't make me less of a Zulu. My grandmother told me that there has always been gays.

"There were gays in history, in the villages, there were gays in the struggle, that's how we got to know about Simon Nkoli, the former Umkhonto we Sizwe veteran."

Mhlongo agrees that the onus to represent oneself lies in every gay person's palm.

"Of course all eyes are on us and we are harshly judged for everything, including the sins of our friends. It doesn't have to be that way, but it is.

"Maybe we need to participate more in dialogue involving us and our lifestyles," he says.

A sangoma who wished to remain anonymous says for him the homosexual lifestyle was not by choice.

"My chief ancestor is a woman and because of this little fact, I can't have a wife or a girlfriend and be a sangoma.

"I'm sure you have heard of this before. Some ancestors are jealous of spouses and to live like a hermit because of a calling is unfair."