Steven Monjeza announced last week that he and Tiwonge Chimbalanga had split because he, Monjeza, is now with another woman. But a report from Malawi's Nyasa Times that Monjeza's new girlfriend is a prostitute might help bolster some gay activists' claims that Monjeza and Chimbalanga have been forced apart by political pressure and threats in the antigay country.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga came to the world's attention last December, when they engaged in what Malawi officials considered an illegal same-sex engagement ceremony. They were immediately imprisoned and, in May, sentenced to 14 years in prison. The couple was pardoned and released soon after their sentencing at the urging of U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.
Chimbalanga, who identifies as a male-to-female transgender woman, says she still loves Monjeza and hopes they can remain together, but both she and Chimbalanga have acknowledged that they've been threatened with prison if they resume their relationship. Last week, Monjeza told the press that he had been coerced into the relationship with Chimbalanga, that he had never had sex with Chimbalanga, and that he was now dating Dorothy Gulo.
Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay-rights group Outrage! was in communication with Monjeza and Chimbalanga throughout their incarceration and tells Modern Ghana, "It is a tragedy that homophobic threats and abuse have forced this couple apart. They were deeply in love.
"The pressure has got to Steven. Very understandably, he wants a quiet, safe life. This would not be possible if he remained with Tiwonge.... Both would be at risk of violent attack. Some people have threatened to kill them."
Tatchell added: "I respect their decision to split. It is up to them... I feel very sorry for these star-crossed lovers. Like Romeo and Juliet, their love has been destroyed by prejudice and hatred."
The Nyasa Times reports that many people in Malawi were excited by the news that Monjeza was dating Gulo. One such person, businessman Sudi Adak Sulaiman ha, was so excited that he tried to find Monjeza in order to give him money for a wedding a new business, and to help him start a family.
But according to one of Monjeza's neighbors, when Sulaiman found Monjeza he was too drunk to lift his head to speak with the businessman.
The Nyasa Times also reported that when reporters "tried to find out about Monjeza's new sweet heart, it was discovered that she is a prostitute (hooker) who stays in a one roomed apartment behind one of the bars."
Monjeza's family refused to speak with the paper, aside from saying they know nothing of Gulo.