Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga made their first public appearance together since Saturday's presidential pardon from their sentence of 14 years' hard labor. The couple was convicted of "unnatural acts" and gross indecency for holding an engagement ceremony. At a brief news conference in Lilongwe late Wednesday, the couple thanked President Bingu wa Mutharika, reports AFP.
"The president has demonstrated that he is a caring father, a considerate and tolerant president. We wish him good health in his everyday endeavours as he continues leading the country to respecting human rights and to economic prosperity," the couple said in a statement.
"The couple asked the media and the general public to respect their privacy. 'So much has been said and written about us, both positive and negative. We think this is the time for us to be given an opportunity to enjoy our freedom,' they said. They called their ordeal 'the most stressful period in our lives.' Chimbalanga told AFP in a phone interview that he was in Lilongwe to 'have a breather', while his partner had returned to his village.
"Mutharika on Wednesday asked the country to stop talking about the couple's 'satanic' wedding. The public mood in Malawi has generally been in favour of the heavy sentence and against the pardon. ;The story ends there,' Mutharika told reporters. 'I don't want to hear anyone commenting on them. Nobody is authorised to comment on the gays. You will spoil things.' "
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were released to their home villages and human rights groups are trying to find jobs for them. Earlier this week, Patricia Kaliati, Malawi's Minister of Gender and Children, told the BBC that Monjeza and Chimbalanga's release "does not mean" they can continue their relationship.
The pardoned couple appeared on Television Malawi. The video needs translation but it is fascinating to watch the couple and the press coverage. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...