Continuing harassment from Zimbabwe police hasn’t succeeded in silencing the activist group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe.
After repeated police raids, arrests of dozens of its members and seizure of its office equipment, the rights group says it closed its office to minimize the risk of further arrests. But it continues to counsel and defend the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
GALZ says the issue of homosexuality is being used for political gain while the country is the process of drafting a new constitution.
The ZANU PF party is proposing that same-sex marriages should be prohibited, along with “homosexuality, gays and lesbian practices are prohibited,” GALZ says.
GALZ also says the police actions are based on an incorrect reading of Zimbabwean law, as indicated in the following statement, which GALZ issued today:
The Zimbabwe Republic Police on Thursday 23 August 2012 charged The CoChairperson of GALZ for running an “unregistered” organisation. Detectives at the Law and Order Section at the Harare Central Police Station on Thursday 23 August 2012 charged GALZ that was represented by Martha Tholanah, the organisation’s co-chairperson with running an “unregistered” organisation in contravention of Section 6 (iii) of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act. The Police advised the GALZ Co-Chairperson that they would proceed by way of summons. To date there has been no communication from the ZRP around the issue.
GALZ also faces an additional charge of “undermining the authority of the President” in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23.This charge was initially pressed against two GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi when they were arrested in May 2010 but were never prosecuted. Ms Tholanah signed a warned and cautioned statement for this charge and the State also indicated that they would proceed by way of summons.
The charge of contravenining the PVO Act is similar to that of the Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Mr. Abel Chikomo. Mr Chikomo had been summoned to The State on Wednesday 25 July 2012 withdrew summons issued against Abel Chikomo, to stand trial on charges of running an “unregistered” organisation.
LEGAL STATUS OF GALZ
GALZ is recognised under the law as an association or a universitas. In terms of Zimbabwean Common Law a universitas is a juristic person or legal persona. GALZ, an Association of LGBTI in Zimbabwe, is a voluntary association.
A voluntary association is a universitas if:
1. it has the power to acquire property or other rights and to incur liabilities distinct from those of its members; and
2. It has perpetual succession in that it remains in existence despite changing membership.
The Constitution of GALZ provides in clause 2.1 that it has the power to acquire rights and obligations distinct from its members and that it has perpetual succession. Accordingly, in terms of the Common Law of Zimbabwe, GALZ is a universitas. As such it has no need to register in terms of any legislation or under any statute in order to acquire legal personality or for it to constitute a juristic person for the purposes of Zimbabwean law.
Following the raid eight GALZ staff computers were seized together with all other information and materials. To date this equipment and materials are still in the possession of the Police. We are in the process of trying to have the seized equipment and materials returned. We are working to repair the damage caused during the raid on our premises.
There is continued surveillance on the GALZ Resource Centre, making it difficult for GALZ staff to resume operations normally. The GALZ office remains closed to minimise the risk of arrests. We continue to work with our Membership. Providing support, counselling, advice and the much-needed services.
Intimidation of GALZ members continues unabated. GALZ members report continued police visits to their homes and places of work too. Police are calling and threatening members for no apparent reasons. GALZ views this as a disguised attempt to intimidate our members and further isolate them from GALZ services.
The external environment in which GALZ operates in continues to be more hostile. There is increased state sanctioned homophobia churned out through state media channels. There is increased focus on the subject of homosexuality and the constitutional process now and at least during the run up to the referendum and elections. LGBTI individuals are not the direct target but are being used as an instrument to settle political scores.
Amongst the revisions to the draft COPAC constitution, ZANU PF put forward amendments to section 4.36 on Marriage rights and added item (4) Same Sex Marriages are prohibited. (5) Homosexuality, gays and lesbian practices are prohibited.
This is a worrying development and one which needs attention. …
The safety and security of the LGBTI community in Zimbabwe remains our top priority between now and the culmination of the constitutional and electoral processes in Zimbabwe. GALZ is working to ensure that its members are not exposed to continued intimidation harassment and violence during this period.
GALZ remains resolute in its quest to represent and protect the rights and interests of all LGBTI citizens despite such unprecedented challenges on its human rights defenders. We continue to work towards contributing to a just society that protects the human rights of all LGBTI people as equal citizens in Zimbabwe.
We thank you all for your continued support during this very difficult time for GALZ.
- Zimbabwe police move to shut down pro-LGBT group (76crimes.com)
- Zimbabwe police raid office, arrest 44 gay activists (76crimes.com)
- Report: Another Zimbabwe police raid on LGBT rights group (76crimes.com)
- Protest greets Zimbabwe police raids (76crimes.com)
- Zimbabwe: End Attacks on LGBT People (hrw.org)
- Zimbabwe: Halt police intimidation of LGBT activists (bikyamasr.com)
- Damning LGBT report on Zimbabwe, plus a call for change (76crimes.com)