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Zimbabwe police move to shut down pro-LGBT group

GALZ website
GALZ website

Police in Zimbabwe are seeking to shut down the gay-rights organization GALZ as an unregistered enterprise.

The group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe disputed the police accusation, and did not state that it is shutting down operations. But the Zimbabwean news website said the police action forced GALZ to close Harare office,

The action against the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe followed two raids, which included the arrest and release of 44 GALZ members.

Police charge that GALZ has been operating an unregistered association, which should be licensed under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.

An attorney for GALZ disputed the charge.

“We are challenging the charges which they have pressed against our clients because they have been there for more than 10 years operating under the common law,” said attorney Tonderai Bhatasara.

“Intolerance within the society and political leadership here in Zimbabwe [has]  fuelled the vilification of gays and lesbians,” Bhatasara said.

GALZ said members from among the 44 arrested on Aug. 11 and released Aug. 12 have been followed and questioned by police near where they live.

Police seized computers, memory sticks, and pamphlets from GALZ during their latest raid.

Bhatasara said no court date has been announced for a hearing on the GALZ issue.

The following timeline of harassment of GALZ By the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was produced by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:

On August 11, GALZ reported that 44 of its members were arrested during the launch of a human rights report, GALZ LGBTI Rights Violation Report 2011,” at its office in Harare. Four ZRP officers disrupted the report launch and soon after were joined by 15-armed members of the riot police squad. Police arrested 44 people. GALZ noted police use of force during the raid, including destroying the electrical fence around the building housing its office, hitting some of those assembled with batons, and causing at least one activist to collapse. All of the people arrested were released in the early morning of August 12 without charge.

GALZ reported on August 17 that as of the previous evening police officers had visited the homes of 10 of its members who had been arrested during the report launch, and 3 others were summoned to police stations in their neighborhoods. The purpose of these visits and summons is unclear.

On August 20, according to GALZ, members of the ZRP arrived at GALZ headquarters and demanded entry. They confiscated the organization’s computers and publications.

On August 23, ZRP charged Martha Tholana, co-chairperson of GALZ, with running an “unregistered” organization, according to GALZ.

GALZ is not the only group facing police action.

Last month, police also accused Abel Chikomo, executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, of  leading an unregistered organisation.  In that case, a trial was postponed when the state prosecutor said he was not ready to proceed, RadioVop Zimbabwe reported.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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