Johannesburg – Gender activists in South Africa say the recent refusal by some sadc countries to allow controversial dancer Rebecca Libram aka Zodwa Wabantu to perform in their countries is oppression of a woman’s talent.
“March is a month to celebrate the success of women. Zodwa is a talented artist who makes a living through dance. Denying her access to do her work because of an underwear is a mere violation of her right.” said human rights lawyer Alice Tshuma.
“The problem within Africa is low self-esteem. Zodwa is being victimised but if it was any artists from Holly coming to perform in Africa naked, everyone will be peeping to have a glimpse,” added Tshuma.
Journalist Miriam Torou lambasted Zodwa’s critics saying putting on underwear is a personal choice and one should not be persecuted for the choices they make.
“I really fail to see the reason why people farce about undergarments. It is a personal choice. It is just simple if you do not want to see a pantiless dancer, stay at home. Zodwa has got plenty of fans within South Africa and beyond. Denying her permission to perform is also violating the rights of her fans,” she said.
“It is vital for us as women to support another woman’s cause. Zodwa really needs support. Remember she was again denied permission to perform in Lesotho and Zimbabwe for some fun[ny] reasons.”
Zodwa was scheduled to perform in Zambia recently but she was denied the opportunity as she was deported on arrival at the airport. Reports say the concerns about Christian morality and fears that her performance would undermine national values were the reasons for her deportation.
Speaking after the deportation, Zodwa said she would not bow to pressure from outside to do what she is not comfortable with.
“I think everyone wants me to change, you know? I’m a woman, I’m free, I’m able to do what I want, it’s my body. It’s my choice not wearing a panty. But you know everyone makes it as if I go on stage and say, ‘hi everyone I’m not wearing a panty’ as if I’m showing my p****. I don’t wear the panty – that’s all.”
Zodwa added that as long as her fans are happy with her decision not to put on undergarments she is not moved.
“My fans say, ‘Zodwa we see you are not wearing a panty; we love you because you are not wearing a panty. I’m an entertainer, as in allowing my fans to tell me what to do – not people who aren’t party-goers and who don’t support what I do.”
The Zambia incident sparked a battle on social media with #TeamZodwa taking on #Team Zambia.
Zodwa, however, urged her supporters to remain calm following reports that they were planning to intimidate Zambians living in South Africa.
“I had people saying things about Zambians that they would confront them or fight them. I don’t want that. We are all Africans and we are all brothers and sisters. I am not fighting and I don’t want my fans to either.”
Zambia is not the first country to deny the dancer access to perform. Last year she was banned from performing in Lesotho and Zimbabwe but she says she is undeterred.
“As long as there is a contract and I am getting paid, I will go. They must turn me back at the airport and then deal with it. I will be turned away a hundred times if need be, but I won’t stop trying to see my fans in Africa.”
People speak on Zodwa
Because it is women’s month, The Southern Times took to the streets to hear what the public thinks about Zodwa:
Grace Ziko, a Grade 12 student, said: “I heard on the news that she has been banned in Africa. That is not good, shame. I attend her shows and I like her.”
While Vusimuzi Mandla, a shop owner, said: “It is unfortunate that Zambia deported Zodwa. I think us South Africans are too lenient. They come here and do what they want we never ask them whether they are going to church or not. We are watching!”
However, Nokuzola Dhlodhlo, a hairdresser, had a different take on Zodwa. “Zodwa is just a complicated being. Why can’t she just dress up properly and dance? Seriously, the way she dresses up is intimidating,” she said.
Jerry Mukho, a bank teller, had this to say about Zodwa: “She is a wonderful entertainer. I am one of those who do not miss her shows. I like her as a dancer.”