A same-sex couple and their son, who’ve been refused recognition by Namibia as a family, are fighting for their rights – with music!
Namibian Johann Potgieter, 45, a businessman and director, and South African Daniel Digashu, 28, an IT graduate and entrepreneur, have been raising a 10-year-old boy named Lucas since his mother, Daniel’s aunt, died in 2014.
Unfortunately, their 2015 South African marriage is not legally valid in Namibia, where they live, as the country does not recognise same-sex unions or marriages.
As a result, the Windhoek couple have faced abuse from discriminatory immigration authorities who refuse to give Daniel permanent residence to live and work in Namibia with his husband.
The men challenged their situation in the courts in December 2017 but the matter has not yet been finalised. Initially, Daniel was forced to go to neighbouring South Africa every three months to renew his visitor’s visa, severely disrupting the family. Thankfully, last year, the Namibian government allowed him to renew the visa from within the country.
“We are a family, a real one,” Daniel tells MambaOnline. “We were a family before we arrived here, so I don’t see how changing a geographical location can have any effect on us being a family. We are not playing house and our family is very valid.”
Lucas is super proud about having two dads
In response to the denial of their rights and the legal limbo in which they find themselves, the family have now created an uplifting musical plea for equality.
They recorded a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s Arms of an Angel and produced an accompanying music video featuring the family. It’s part of a campaign called #IAmLucas that aims to raise funds to keep them going.
Because Daniel is not able to work in Namibia, times are tough. “This has meant one salary to carry all of us,” he explains. “It’s a big financial mess up. On top of the household, we still have the court case which is not cheap at all.”
Daniel is an opera singer and the couple have been singing together for some time but the clip, dedicated to their son, is their first professionally recorded song and video.
“We hope to touch a few souls and change a few hearts with the video,” says Daniel. “It is also a way to put a face or faces to all the stories and articles. Music is our thing and it is such a universal and emotional language, whatever language it is in.”
Daniel says that one of the hardest parts of their experience has been “having to explain to our child a couple of times that his dad is not allowed here in Namibia and having to explain in terms that a child understands.”
Paving the way for LGBTIQ Namibians
Despite their difficulties, Lucas is thriving. “Our son is a loving, respectful and kind little human being and we could not be any more proud and honoured to be his parents. That Lucas is super proud and verbal about having two dads, still amazes me. Even knowing his parents’ challenges, he still walks tall and owns that fact. He is a really good rugby player and that makes us as his parents proud, but the biggest shock was how well we got accepted just as we are [at his school].”
What would they like to achieve with their video? “Firstly, we would like to see me getting permanent residency here so all this mess can come to an end,” replies Daniel. “We would also like it if our marriage is recognised just like others between a man and a woman. That would already grant me the freedom to live [in Namibia] and also for our entire family to be.”
Daniel ultimately hopes that their journey will help change attitudes in Namibia, where homosexuality is illegal but not actively prosecuted. “People are born LGBTIQ+ identifying or not and society needs to accept that. You do not have to understand someone to be kind. We hope that our case is paving the path for today’s and future generations of LGBTIQ+ people in this country.”
To show your support for Lucas and his family, share this article or the video using the hashtag #IAmLucas to let the Namibian government know that equality and justice must happen now.