“Push until something happens” is the payoff line for a new reality show in Zambia called Lusaka Hustle. And that seems to be exactly what MultiChoice Zambia is doing.
On Thursday night, reports the Lusaka Times, the show – featuring three young cultural celebrities and fashionistas – aired on Zambezi Magic despite the country’s Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) instructing DStv to withdraw the show with immediate effect earlier in the week, citing public outcry because the show “promotes a lifestyle contrary to Zambian values and culture”.
The show features the glamorous daily hustle of singer Mukuni Mulundika, better known as Kuni, hip-hop artist Cleo Ice Queen, as well as actress/media personality Thandi Vundamina.
But it’s Kuni who finds himself in the eye of the storm – and who has become Africa’s latest gay icon – after Zambia’s minister of national guidance and religious affairs, Godfridah Sumaili, complained that Lusaka Hustle’s promotional material features a character with “gay tendencies” and wears a dress.
Kuni wears a flowing white robe in the show’s posters.
Commentators believe that this is what led the IBA to instruct that the show be suspended, without even watching it.
Wrote the Lusaka Times: “IBA director general Josephine Mapoma said the authority has received several concerns from the public with regard to the show and as such directed MultiChoice Zambia to withdraw it in the public interest.
“Section 24(1) of the IBA Act, 2002, provides that all programmes by a commercial broadcasting service shall, subject to the conditions of a licence and regulations of the authority, reflect the culture, character, needs and aspirations of the people in the areas they are licensed to serve,” she said.
Kuni’s fame rose by the minute, especially after Zambezi Magic aired the show. The channel said it was “judged on social media without an informed assessment of the content or a clear indication of which aspects of the show are unlawful”.
It said the three are featured on TV all the time in a similar context and that Lusaka Hustle is respectful of Zambian values and culture. MultiChoice Zambia is reported to have said it will “resolve the matter in a constructive way and will join key stakeholders for a viewing session of upcoming episodes”.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal for both men and women in Zambia.
This is not the first censorship battle to face Zambezi Magic since the channel, a southern African version of Mzansi Magic, took to air. In November 2017 the show Talk with Kwangu was pulled off air following pressure from the Zambian government. The show, now back on air, had ruffled feathers, it seems, after focusing on press freedom and on police brutality.