Zimbabwe police again raid LGBT rights meeting

Bronte Hotel in Harare
Bronte Hotel in Harare

Police in Zimbabwe today stormed a local hotel where human rights defenders were attending a media training workshop by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

They arrested two of those at the meeting and brought the meeting to an end.

About 20 participants were in the session, at the Bronte Hotel in Harare, when the police arrived and requested to see the organizers of the meeting.   They also insisted on seeing the IDs of participants and took down their names and addresses.

Martha Tholanah, chairperson of GALZ. (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)
Martha Tholanah, chairperson of GALZ. (Photo courtesy of Front Line Defenders)

Subsequently two human rights defenders — the GALZ youth coordinator and the training facilitator — were taken to central police station where they were questioned and charged under Section 25 (5) of Public Order Security Act (POSA) before being released.

Section 25(5) is notorious for being selectively applied to target critics of President Robert Mugabe and non-governmental organizations that are deemed “pro-Western.” It states that the “organiser of a public meeting, demonstration or procession who fails to give the police advance notice in accordance with POSA is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of level 12 [currently US $2,000] or a year’s imprisonment or both.

GALZ, which continues to be a target of state retribution, is yet to release a formal statement.

Police conducted their raid despite the organization’s victory in two court cases against the state in the past two months. In January, GALZ won a case in High Court against police following a raid in which police confiscated computers, materials and publications from GALZ. In February, GALZ Chairperson Martha Tholanah won dismissal of charges that she was running an unregistered organization.

SW Radio Africa reported:

The police arrested Natasha Dowell and Tawanda Maguze at Bronte Hotel in the capital and detained them at Harare Central police station. The two were attending the workshop organised by GALZ, which focused on using social media and media tools.

Dowell, a local activist and advocate for homosexual rights, was the only one charged by the police for allegedly convening an ‘unauthorised’ meeting.

Her lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara, told SW Radio Africa that she was charged with contravening a section of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), with the police claiming she should have first sought ‘permission’ from the force.

Maguze was profiled by the police before being released without charge. Dowell has denied the charges laid against her, and insisted that her organisation was exempt from complying with the provisions of POSA.

“She was released after charges were pressed against her. The police indicated that they will proceed by way of summons if they intend to pursue the matter,” Bhatasara said.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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