Written by Siliziwe Mapalala
Chesterfield Samba is a gay activist and director of GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe). He is a living legend in the queer activism field since 1996. Chesterfield has been vocal for years on the importance of equality and freedom for all humans; his belief being that humans should not be prejudiced on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. Chesterfield shared his views based on the years of experience, as well as the changes he has witnessed over the years.
GALZ has existed for over three decades, and the objective of the organisation has evolved over the years. However the core mission (which is striving to attain full and equal human, social and economic rights and participation in all aspects of life by LGBTQIA+ persons) has remained the same.
When asked what changes he has witnessed over the years in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, Chesterfield provided a response that is honest but also provides hope:
“Zimbabwe, as with any society, has a long way to go to appreciate differences, not only with sexuality issues, but also gender, race, tribe, religion and political affiliation to mention a few. Zimbabwe’s younger generation are more alive to issues of diversity and are becoming tolerant and inclusive unlike in the past. Information is becoming much more easier to access, more people are coming out and becoming visible, also choosing to simply live their life authentically.”
The above has contributed to changes in attitude, policy and thinking around LGBTQIA+ lives. We are also seeing this in some parts of the continent, and Chesterfield hopes this positive trajectory builds momentum so we witness the eradication of unjust laws.
What keeps Chesterfield going is seeing more people coming out, being visible and challenging the phobias that threaten our very existence. He acknowledges that oppression remains ubiquitous so the fight is not over. We need to continue taking up space; writing, speaking and seeing ourselves into existence. Chesterfield’s words of wisdom to the next generation of queer activists are that the fight is not over, even in places where oppressive laws have been eradicated. We need to keep living out so we can ensure the next generation can live with dignity and equality.
Chesterfield’s energy is infectious, and when he is not fighting to change the world for the better, he enjoys tending to his rose bushes, and he finds cooking therapeutic. Chesterfield also adds:
“I am having a good laugh just to make it uncomfortable to those who push a reductionist agenda on queer lives!”