This may possibly be a first in Africa – the first legal traditional gay wedding between old friends and now partners, Tshepo Cameron Modisane and Thoba Calvin Sithole.
Modisane and Sithole, both 27, met several years ago while studying in Durban, but lost contact with each other. A chance meeting at a gym in the suburbs of Johannesburg led to them becoming training partners, then a couple. After three years as boyfriends, Mr Modisane proposed in June 2012.
South Africa legalised same-sex marriage in 2006, but the pair still drew media attention as the area’s “first legal gay wedding”.
On 6 April the pair were married in a ceremony drawing on traditions from both Mr Modisane’s Tswana and Mr Sithole’s Zulu ancestry. Both wore traditional regalia, asked their ancestors for blessing, and a cow was slaughtered. Gifts were presented to the parents of both men as thanks for raising them.
Speaking to ENCA at the ceremony, Mr Modisane said the wedding went “against the idea that being gay isn’t African. Being gay is as African as being black.”
Mr Modisane said: “People are still ashamed because the vast majority of the black community is not accepting of being a homosexual. They see it as largely being a ‘Western trend’ that is in fashion lately.”
The most notable recent example of the prevalent view that homosexuality is a Western trend came in March from the Ugandan President blaming European culture for encouraging “deviant” gay behaviour, such as “luring of young people using money into gay acts.”
The couple hope their wedding sets an example against this view, said Mr Modisane: “If people are inspired by our love and actions and want to do the same to follow in our footsteps then we don’t mind being labelled as ‘role models’ in the LGBTI community.”
Mr Sithole agreed: “Hiding who we are is what makes people judge us even more and makes them not accept us for who we are. If we can just live life openly then in time people will get used to the idea that gay and lesbian people are part of society and we are here to stay.”