It was love at first Skype for Francistown business manager Marc Omphemetse Themba and Ricardo Raymond Amunjera – popularly known as Mr Gay Namibia.
Same-sex marriages are not yet legal in the couple’s home countries so the love-birds travelled to Johannesburg last week to tie the knot in a civil ceremony.
On Saturday they will celebrate their nuptials and Ricardo’s 30th birthday with a glittering reception at Windhoek’s Hilton Hotel.
The relationship began as a cyber-romance last year.
Marc saw Ricardo’s photograph on a friend’s Facebook page and decided to contact him.
But Ricardo ignored his messages for two months, dismissing him as “just another crazy person”.
Marc wasn’t deterred. Eventually his persistence led to a whirlwind Skype romance.
” I could hear that he was humble and genuine,” says Ricardo. “I just wanted him to keep on talking.”
Soon, the couple was spending three hours a day on the phone.
When Ricardo decided to take the plunge and visit Botswana, Marc was thrilled – and a little apprehensive.
He laughs as he describes rushing past Ricardo at the airport so he could take refuge in the bathroom.
In the end it turned out to be simple. “Ricardo is the first meaningful relationship of my life,” says Marc. “He’s a beautiful shy person. He sometimes comes across as fierce, but he’s a sweetie”.
Marc has never hidden his sexuality. He just doesn’t “shout about it from the hilltops”.
He and his two siblings lost their parents long back, and were raised by Dithapelo Sibona – a family friend.
Marc says he is humbled by the way she welcomed the news of his marriage, because “you don’t necessarily expect someone of her generation to be so open”.
Ma Sibona told The Voice that she regards Marc as her own child. She wasn’t surprised when she heard about his sexuality.
“That is how God created him, so people out there should accept him the way he is,” she said.
For Marc, marriage means moving to Namibia. He doesn’t want to leave Botswana, but he can’t wait to build a life with his new husband.
Ricardo is a geological supervisor at Langer Heinrich Uranium mine, so it would be harder for him to relocate.
Both men feel that the future for gay people is looking brighter in their countries. “Attitudes are slowing changing,” says Marc. “Maybe one day the law will too.”
Ricardo uses social media to transform negative thinking. “People are afraid of the unknown. But when we connect on Facebook we respond to each other as individuals,” he explains.
Meanwhile this weekend is party time, and about 70 of Marc’s closest friends and relatives will travel to Windhoek to help him celebrate.
Vows will be exchanged, but they won’t be scripted. Marc will “just look into Ricardo’s eyes and speak from the heart”.
“I think it’s going to be a lovely reception,” said Francistown-based Amo Bogacu.
“In Botswana, gay couples are not always true to themselves.
Because of our culture, it’s hard for them to take the risk of losing everything, maybe even their families, for the sake of just one special person.”
For Ricardo, Marc is that person. “When I’m with him I want to be the best I can be,” says Mr Gay Namibia.