8 February 2013

Namibia: Of Gay Lists and Unhappy Collisions

WHAT started off as a threat to expose the clandestine activities of the former Mr Gay Namibia and his high-profile clients in a weekly paper ended with a prominent lawyer denying any link to the man.

The story revealed that Wendelinus Hamutenya, who was stripped off the Mr Gay Namibia title shortly before the end of his reign, allegedly because of a domestic violence incident, was reportedly in possession of a list of high-ranking men assumed to be gay.

A day after the story was published in the weekly The Villager, a list of names circulated and set social networks Facebook and Twitter abuzz with comments on the individuals named.

One of the names on the list was lawyer Sisa Namandje, who yesterday hastily arranged a press conference denying that he was gay.

"On Tuesday I was alerted that there was a list on which the name Namandje appeared," he said.

Namandje said he only started getting concerned when he started receiving phone calls from friends and family members saying people on social networks had started referring to this 'Namandje' on the list as 'Sisa'.

"People took to social media networks to attack and post defamatory comments about me," he said, adding that he cannot remember having had any dealings of a personal nature with Hamutenya.

"I am not gay. As a lawyer I see people enjoying the constitutional right to be gay, but they should not drag me into it," he said.

He said it would be easy to pursue civil cases against those who distributed and commented on such lists. "It is easy to identity these people, we can easily get the police involved, there are laws that have been implemented we can used."

Namandje said he got confirmation from The Villager that his name was not on their list. He said the police can easily investigate and discover who is spreading the fake list.

In a bizarre twist of events, The Namibian yesterday received a statement from Hamutenya distancing himself from the contentious list and article.

"I hereby distance myself from the so-called Mr Gay Namibia list which has been circulating all over the country and especially on social networks," the statement read.

Hamutenya also denies giving a list to any publication, and claims that all the mentioned allegations published in Monday's edition of The Villager are "false, deceitful and highly slanderous".

"My position as former title holder for Mr Gay Namibia should not be confused and used to fuel unnecessary agendas," Hamutenya said.

When contacted for comment, the managing editor of The Villager, Confidence Musariri, said the paper had posted a disclaimer on its Facebook page saying the list that was circulating did not come from the newspaper and that it was a fake list. In an editor's note at the end of the article, with Hamutenya's byline and photo, The Villager asked the public to go to the website and vote on whether the list should be revealed or not and claimed that they would take a position once they had more than 10 000 responses.

Around 17h00 yesterday the paper had 429 votes on a poll: "Should The Villager reveal the list of Namibia's top leaders involved in homosexuality".

Regarding Hamutenya's accusations that he neither wrote the article nor provided the paper with a list, Musariri said he thinks it is due to pressure.

"He must be under a lot of pressure, maybe he has even received threats, but we signed an agreement when he revealed his information to us, we have his signature."

When The Namibian got hold of Hamutenya late yesterday afternoon he said he was fearing for his life. He claimed the police had been to his house to intimidate him.

Shortly before The Namibian went to press Hamutenya claimed he was seeking refuge at the United Nations offices.

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