The umnden gay pastor is not so liberal

Umndeni gay pastor
Umndeni gay pastor

#Umndeni – Moja Love (DStv channel 157) Saturday, 7pm
Enoch Kolobe is a sangoma and pastor of Zion Apostolic Church Brother Mission. But he’s also known as one of the protagonists of the popular reality show, Umndeni. The show, which airs on Moja Love, follows the pastor and his three gay partners, Malwande, Sesi, and Alfi – who are also sangomas and Kolobe’s “helpers” – as they navigate their polygamous union while carrying out their duties as traditional healers.
Kolobe has mentioned that he fathered his twenty children with two previous wives. Following the death of his first wife and his separation from his second, the Limpopo-based pastor decided to “live his truth” and marry his three partners. It’s worth mentioning that half of Kolobe’s twenty children are also queer – five are gay and the other five are lesbian.
Since first airing last year, the show has been lauded for its portrayal of what many consider to be non-traditional family values. Given that his partners are all gay, Umndeni complicates our perception of religion, spirituality and polygamy.
As someone who practises as both a sangoma and a pastor, Mkhulu (as he’s affectionately known) marries two worlds that are usually on opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum. Granted, the denomination of Christianity he adheres to blends African spirituality with the teachings of the Bible, but Kolobe is still pretty liberal (he first shot to fame in an episode of Our Perfect Wedding, where he officiated at a marriage between two men).
The collision of traditional and liberal values is explored at length in the show. In one episode, Malwande has a frank conversation with Sesi about not wanting to get circumcised.
“I feel like I’d deliberately be mishandled if I went to the mountain,” he says. “They’d probably try to rough me up in an attempt to bring out my masculinity and I don’t want that. I don’t believe in masculine laws. I believe in feminine law.”

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One of Kolobe’s wives Picture: Screengrab
Kolobe’s particular brand of polygamy is also unique because of his queerness. The practice has usually been the province of staunch traditionalists and is generally accepted as a straight man having multiple wives. Sesi, Alfi, and Malwande (his wives) have all spoken at length about how Kolobe takes care of their material needs and that he’s a man who’s equal parts, lover, and disciplinarian.
This isn’t to say the scenario is without its flaws. While Kolobe can be defined as sexually liberated, his marriage is still governed by traditional values. Each of his wives has certain duties in the marriage – cooking, cleaning, and such – and here Kolobe sets excellence as his standard.
“I don’t like a lazy person,” Kolobe once said in Sofa Silahlane (a sister show on the channel) before mentioning that he’s happy with his wives’ labor but feels they could still do a whole lot more.
But perhaps what’s most disappointing is Kolobe’s fierce tongue. During one episode, his wives show up late for a ceremony, and the sangoma-pastor calls them “harlots” and an assortment of four-letter words referring to their supposed promiscuity.
In these two instances, we see the liberalism of the union falling apart and the archaic view of the feminine framed as promiscuous and being good for nothing but household labor.
It’s rare for a TV show to feel both prognostic and outmoded at the same time, but Umndeni does. While the show forecasts what society could be if it wasn’t encumbered by traditionalism, it’s also held back by the very backwardness it aims to avoid.
In this regard, the show is definitely one society needs, but it could be a whole lot better.