STAFF REPORTER, Lusaka
REBECCA Libram, the South African socialite and pantyless dancer, popularly known by her stage name Zodwa Wabantu, thrives on controversy, and so, her coming to Zambia was surrounded with enough of it.
She was deported hours after she landed at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) on Friday.
Zodwa came to the fore through her revealing outfits, which usually leave little for imagination, with nothing else but a beer bottle or a hand to cover her essentials as she dances her vosho dance. The dance, which involves the butterfly movement of her legs, is in itself very seductive.
Earlier in January, Zodwa managed to get even then South African President Jacob Zuma infuriated when she advised women to use their bodies to get what they wanted.
President Zuma rebuked her for her dress sense and encouraging young women to use sexuality to get what they want.
Zodwa has also come under heavy criticism from some South African artistes. One of the most recent and strongest criticisms came from comedian Celeste Ntuli.
In an interview with Power FM, Ntuli said Zodwa’s dancing and dressing was disgusting and degrading to black women.
Zodwa herself admits that she does not know how to dance.
Isibaya actress Ayanda Borotho agrees.
“If walking around naked is being liberal and being a feminist, then I clearly didn’t get the memo. Where are the men who dangle their private parts? If you wouldn’t like to see your own daughter do the same, then don’t call it freedom of expression,” Ayanda wrote on Instagram.
Ayanda added that Zodwa’s advice to women could result in them being objectified.
“We are perpetuating the very core stereotype of patriarchy that objectifies women and at the top of that list is ‘sexual objects’. We cannot say it’s ok to perpetuate such a dangerous narrative. We are already not safe as women and girls. And now, we are telling men we deserve it.”
But this is how the 32-year-old mother-of-one makes her living. She boasts of making R35,000 for one night of dancing.
“Society even judged me on my poor English but I don’t care because I make more money than those who have degrees and are better speakers of English,” said Zodwa.
In one of her Facebook postings, Zodwa said: “You can go to school for 20 years and you get R8,000 as your salary. But someone can wake up and dance holding a Savanna and get R30,000 per night. That’s how unfair life is.”
“My son and I are living a stable life from the money I make from stage appearances. As a result, I built a house in Nelspruit,” she said.
But for Zambia, this Zodwa episode has sparked a whole new debate about our country’s own morality.
While the Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili, who slammed the door on Zodwa, thinks she might corrupt the country’s morals, others think different.
Zodwa Khumalo, a Zambian salsa dancer and film actress does not see anything wrong with the Zodwa brand.
“Every person is different and every person has their own comfort zone. I cannot judge her or condemn her because I think she is comfortable with what she does,” Ms Khumalo says. “I don’t mind her doing it. That’s how she makes her money.”
Ms Khumalo thinks it was hypocritical to stop Zodwa from performing on the basis of morality because, according to her, there are worse things happening in Zambia.
“I think we have more extreme and explicit things happening in Zambia than Zodwa dancing without undies on stage,” she says.
Ms Khumalo says she has seen videos of Zambian women stripping at parties and nothing is being done to stop it.
“I have witnessed a few of these things happening. They literally strip and remain naked. That I have seen with my own eyes so, I wouldn’t condemn Zodwa because it happens in my country,” she says.
Zodwa herself likes to take on what she terms her haters – the people who oppose her style.
When she appeared on SABC 3 talk show Afternoon Express, she said: “You can say I’m a monkey, donkey, I’m ugly. You can name it, there’s nothing that can make me go home and say I’m sad.”
Referring to the haters, Zodwa said: “Rather be worried that since I left home when I was 16, I’m now on SABC 3 at Afternoon Express. Be worried about where I’m gonna be in five years’ time. That means I’m gonna be a millionaire.”
She also addressed the viewers at home who disagree with what she’s doing, and said:
“Guys, listen to me SABC 3 and people out there. I don’t kill anyone, I’m a genuine person, I’m raw. I know I’m not like you. You know, you are so fake anyway. You act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
“I am a role model for a lot of people. People are able to face their challenges because of the example I set,” she said.
In September last year, after much controversy, Zodwa was not allowed to perform at a tourism festival in Zimbabwe.
Zodwa earlier refused to bow to demands from the Zimbabwean government that if she had to perform, she would have to wear panties.
“I told them if they want me to wear a covered outfit and panties, then they must buy it for me because I don’t have any. I won’t change my look just for Zimbabwe. I have so many people who admire me and book me because of my look. Should I change that I’ll lose a lot of money over one gig? I can’t risk that.”
“I would never have compromised because I’ve worked so hard to build this brand that I am today,” she told the Daily Sun.
Zodwa claims underwear makes her uncomfortable.
“I don’t feel sexy when I’m wearing panties. It’s a preference. And people should deal with it.”
She reportedly had packed shows in Bulawayo with some women imitating her style.
That she has managed to divide opinion in a Christian nation, with some people crying for her to be allowed to perform, should perhaps cause more concern to the Minister of Guidance and Religious Affairs about the country’s values.
For Zodwa, who thrives on controversy – just like any socialite – this whole episode may only have added to her popularity.
Zodwa is not the first artiste to be barred from visiting Zambia, and for similar reasons.
In the 1990s, Congolese songbird Tshala Muana was stopped from visiting Zambia because her dancing and dressing were deemed too suggestive.
But maybe next time she is invited to visit Zambia, she will remember at least to carry her panties and keep them on.
STAFF REPORTER, Lusaka