Mugabe threatens gays; LGBT Zimbabweans respond

President Robert Mugabe lights flame at the National Sports Stadium to mark Zimbabwe's 34 years as an independent country. (Photo by Kudakwashe Hunda courtesy of The Herald)
President Robert Mugabe lights flame at the National Sports Stadium to mark Zimbabwe’s 34 years as an independent country. (Photo by Kudakwashe Hunda courtesy of The Herald)

LGBT persons in Zimbabwe have once again been reminded that they have a long way to go to win justice and fair play in their native land.

Thousands who gathered today in a Harare stadium and elsewhere to mark 34 years since the country’s independence from Britain once again heard vociferous homophobic rhetoric from the country’s octogenarian leader .

In his speech, aired live on national television, President Robert Mugabe threatened unspecified action against LGBT rights groups and their allies. He also promised to expel any foreign diplomats who are homosexual and gave his support to the harsh new Anti-Homosexuality Law in Uganda.

Mugabe denied that repression of LGBT people is a violation of human rights, arguing that same-sex love is inhuman.

In response to the speech, local LGBT people said they feared it would encourage Zimbabweans to attack them.

Mugabe said in his speech:

“Kune organisations dzinouya dzinodzi ndedzema homosexuals, (Those  organisations that are said to be homosexual groups,) take care. Warn them.

“Some years ago, l was warned that there was some secret organisation of that nature, which was addressing young men varimumauniversity nemuzvikoro (in universities sand schools) [urging them] to join them as homosexuals. This nonsense is from Europe. Keep their homosexual nonsense there and not cross over with it.

“We did not fight for this Zimbabwe so it can be a homosexual territory. We will never have that here. And, if there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse. We won’t even listen. Kungoti chete ava vari homosexual, risati radoka tinenge tavakanda kunze kwenyika ino. (On any signal that they are homosexual, we will kick them out of the country before sunset.)”

Mugabe sympathised with Uganda and took a swipe at the West for supporting decriminalisation of sodomy and supposedly pushing for same-sex marriage:

Banner at the National Sports Stadium celebrates  Zimbabwe's 34 years as an independent country. (Photo by Lloyd Gumbo courtesy of The Herald)
Banner at the National Sports Stadium celebrates Zimbabwe’s 34 years as an independent country. (Photo by Lloyd Gumbo courtesy of The Herald)

“They even refuse today that, if a man has sex with another man, it’s wrong …

“If you pass a law that rejects homosexual marriages, [nations in the West say,] ‘We will punish you’ like what they are doing to Uganda and us. And they say they want you to believe that if a man gets another man and they have a homosexual relationship, they have human rights to do so.

“But that act is inhuman. It’s not human and human rights cannot derive from acts which are inhuman. That does not exist in jurisprudence. …”

“What is wrong is wrong and cannot be right. But they say, ‘No, human beings are free to marry each other.’

“Look at the absurdity of it all. When God created the world, we learned from the Bible, He created animals, forests, lastly He created man. Because man was lonely, He got from the side of man, a rib and created a woman … that’s the start of society as we know it from the Bible.”

Commenting on Mugabe’s remarks LGBT rights activists expressed mixed reactions. Some LGBT rights groups chose to remain silent for fear of being targeted.

A gay man from Masvingo said, “I attended the independence celebrations in Masvingo. The musicians there were chanting homophobic slogans with songs such as ‘Burn Homosexuals’ taking centre stage. People even started complaining that they are tired of hearing about homosexuals.  One thing’s for sure — this will influence people to attack us as and when they feel like. We are not only exposed but also made to feel vulnerable by such speeches.”

L.M., a gay man from Harare, said, “34 years of independence and all Mugabe can talk about is homosexuality and threatens human rights groups and defenders. This is a clear reminder that there is no freedom in Zimbabwe. You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you this. He said it loud and clear.”

C.G., a human rights defender, added, “Mugabe acts like Zimbabwe is his personal fiefdom. People want solutions to the many challenges facing Zimbabwe — 90% unemployment — yet all he can do is attack a minority group and threaten those advancing human rights. I am sure people are tired of this homophobic rhetoric.”

A.M., an activist, said:

“Much as they are repeated over and over again, we cannot underestimate the power of such homophobic speeches. LGBT people will face violence, media and police will perpetuate homophobia, which is coming from the state.

“Instead of preaching love, peace and tolerance, 34 years later he is spreading targeted violence on a vulnerable group of people.”

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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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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