Vice-President Guy Scott

In addition to insulting South Africans as “backward”, Zambia’s outspoken vice-president has dismissed the issue of gay rights as “self-indulgent” and justified the arrest of a human rights activist.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Vice-President Guy Scott said: “The South Africans are very backward in terms of historical development. I hate South Africans. That’s not a fair thing to say because I like a lot of South Africans but they really think they’re the bees’ knees and actually they’ve been the cause of so much trouble in this part of the world.”

The statement has angered the South African government, which has asked Zambia’s high commissioner to explain the comments.

In the interview, Scott also discussed the recent arrest of human rights campaigner Paul Kasonkomona, who was grabbed by police as he left a Lusaka television station for speaking out in favour of LGBT rights on live television.

Kasonkomona was charged with “inciting the public to take part in indecent activities” and was released on bail four days later.

Scott commented: “The problem with this guy going on television was that we had to do something because if we had done absolutely nothing we would have got a bollocking from all these evangelical churches plus damn idiots. On the other hand, we didn’t want to give him a particularly hard ride.”

The vice-president asserted that the issue of LGBT rights was not a priority in Zamiba. “I think you’ve got so much cleaning up to do of killings and defilements and this and that, it’s almost self-indulgent to think, ‘Well, why don’t we sit here and talk about gay rights?’

“It’s indulgent politics that assumes yes, we don’t actually have seven million unemployed people. Realistically, I think even an average gay, if you gave him a list of all the concerns Zambia had, would not necessarily put gay rights on top.”

Scott went on to say that gay people in Zambia should be satisfied with their lot and not cause trouble.

“There’s tonnes of gay joints in this town. Well, not tonnes but they’re there, well known. It’s entirely the same phenomenon you get anywhere else. It’s live and let live. Stirring up and making it worse, that is the biggest danger. Let sleeping dogs lie is an easier policy,” he said.

Consensual adult same-sex acts are criminalised in Zambia. Offences such as sodomy, or sex between women, carry a minimum sentence of 15 years or a maximum of life in prison. Attempts to have sex without being successful are punishable by a minimum sentence of seven years or a maximum of 14 years jail time.

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