HARARE – South African singer Kelly Khumalo canceled her performance at the last minute at a restaurant opening in Harare in solidarity with celebrity chef Somizi Mhlongo, who was dumped for being gay.
Khumalo had recorded a video confirming her planned appearance at the reopening of Garwe restaurant in Eastlea, Harare, before learning that she had been recruited to replace her friend Mhlongo.
Khumalo ended up not being shown, and event guests were given a detailed explanation of why the Empini hitmaker decided to stay away.
“Unfortunately Kelly cannot be with us tonight. She has decided to show solidarity with Somizi,” a spokesperson for the local said.
The restaurant closed in 2018 for a major renovation, reportedly after a $2 million capital injection.
Garwe owner Mandy Mvukwe-Chimhini is said to be a personal friend of Mhlongo and has invited the former Idols judge and host of a celebrity cooking show on South African television.
The Zanu PF youth league confirmed it had been in direct contact with Mvukwe-Chimhini and urged them to offload Mhlongo or face protests.
A group of apostolic churches also got involved, writing a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding that Mhlongo be excommunicated, saying it would lead to immorality among children if he came to Zimbabwe.
The Garwe restaurant with a capacity of 200 people is famous for its typical traditional dishes.
Zimbabwe considers sex between men an “indecent act” punishable by imprisonment, and same-sex marriage is banned by the 2013 constitution. Prevalent conservative views mean gay people face a lot of stigma.
South Africa was the first African country to legalize same-sex marriage – in 2006 – and its constitution protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.