The late Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza
Malawi’s President Mutharika has praised anti-gay Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, who passed away last week.
Zuza, 59, who was bishop of the Mzuzu Diocese and headed up Malawi’s Episcopal Conference, died from injuries sustained in a car accident last week.
He was known for his anti-gay views and, according to Malawi 24, was “a conservative and promoter of culture and traditions” who “expressed concerns over Western influence affecting African culture, particularly on the issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.”
The cleric perpetuated the misguided but widely held belief that homosexuality is foreign to Africa and is being imposed on the continent by Western governments or groups.
Zuza represented Malawi at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family in Rome in October last year, which controversially backtracked on a report that initially stated that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community.”
African bishops were blamed for being among those who watered down the final version of what could have been a ground-breaking gay-affirming Catholic document.
At the time, Zuza spoke on Vatican Radio and accused foreign funded NGOs in Malawi of “using money to influence young people to promote same-sex unions.”
“They are using our poverty to get their agenda fulfilled,” he claimed.
At the bishop’s burial on Monday, attended by thousands of Malawians, President Mutharika, somewhat ironically, described Zuza as “very tolerant, generous, calm, understanding, knowledgeable and courageous.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, with penalties of up to 14-years imprisonment, with or without corporal punishment. In July last year, Malawi’s Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General, Dr Janet Chikaya-Banda, told a UN human rights committee that the government had suspended arresting gay people until a review of its anti-gay laws are complete.
Despite the announcement, three men – Amon Champyuni, Mathew Bello and Mussa Chiwisi – remain jailed on homosexuality charges. They were sentenced to prison terms of between six and 12 years, with hard labour, by a magistrates’ court in 2011.