Behind the Mask LGBT African website
Gay Rights and History from Wikipedia
Reports: Part 1 Gay bashing in Zimbabwe (1996); Part 2 Gay bashing in Zimbabwe (1996)
Gay Oral History Project in Zimbabwe: Black Empowerment, Human Rights, and the Research Process (1999)
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
12 Zimbabwe, Long Destitute, Teeters Toward Ruin 5/05 (non-gay story)
Zimbabwe’s gays live in fear of the future
Bart Luirink visits Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe’s homophobic outburst and finds the gay community in fear
It’s clean-up time in Harare. Irritatingly enthusiastic policemen chase
the last hawkers and beggars from the pavements. Harare is preparing tself for the All Africa Games and poverty gets deported to the outskirts of the town. Thousands of visiting sports officials walk past in the blissful belief that Zimbabwe is doing well. The country is more or less bankrupt, but no outsider would notice.
I am looking for Michael, whom I met last year in one of Johannesburg’s gay bars. We became friends and tasted "pink Jo’burg" together. He was 21 years old, black and he had a sense of humour. He returned to Harare in April last year to finish his training as a dress designer. We kept up telephonic contact until June this year, but, since then, he hasn’t answered the phone. After President Robert Mugabe’s call for an anti-gay witchhunt, I started to worry.
Mugabe’s attack caused sharp reactions from famous authors, like Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka, Archbishop Tutu and the gay organisations in South Africa, but in Zimbabwe he enjoyed warm and fairly general support. Those ministers present at the notorious Harare Book Fair’s opening almost wet themselves laughing listening to Mugabe attacking gays as an "association of perverts and sodomists". The Anglican Women’s League, whom Mugabe addressed days later, also twittered with joy. At a rushed session of parliament, one MP after another parroted the president. Only one member expressed some caution by saying: "How do we explain this hours-long debate on homosexuality to our constituency?"
At the office of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in Harare, I am told that the organisations’ archives have been transferred to a "safe house". What’s left is a postbox number. Shirley, who runs a nearby curio shop, admits to stopping her active membership. She tells me to contact "Evelyn". "As lesbians, we were a bit shocked to hear the president accuse us of sodomy," says Evelyn grinning. When asked about Galz’s demise, which followed the resignation of two-thirds of its executive, she sighs deeply. She finds it increasingly difficult to "associate" with her fellow white, gay compatriots.
"They saw Galz as a picnic-party club. They are scared to death of politics, they don’t want to get involved. But what risk would we actually be taking?"
During the book fair, one of the remaining Galz members spotted a police car in front of her house. "But after being offered some coffee, they quietly moved away," she says. "Of course black gays are also scared and they have all the reasons in the world. But a few black members were a lot more combative after Mugabe’s speech than the whites were. Maybe because they are part of a tradition of resistance against the former regime? Maybe because they don’t have as much to lose?"
Until July this year, gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe lived relatively undisturbed lives, even though the number of gay bars in Harare was limited eventually to one. And to use the term "homosexuality" in the media was not done. Maybe the gay movement’s "coming out" by applying for a stall at the book fair, and its first publications appearing in Shona and English, were going just a step too far. Maybe it was seen as a provocation by those in power. Maybe the economic misery and the approaching presidential elections next year created a need for a new scapegoat. Maybe the South African winds of change shook nerves in Harare’s presidential offices.
But Evelyn’s explanation is more psychological. She suspects that Mugabe himself, when he underwent a 12-year prison sentence under Ian Smith, may have been sexually abused. "It happens all the time in our prisons. Moreover, his white adversaries once smeared him as a ‘moffie’."
It is because of the absence of any dialogue on the issue, Evelyn believes, that many Zimbabweans associate homosexuality with sexual abuse. "The most typical thing in black culture is the taboo on sexuality — any sexuality. Aids and HIVcounsellors tell me a lot about this. There are no Shona words for genitals or orgasm. There is, however, a Shona word meaning gay — ngochane. That proves that our sexual preferences are not ‘alien’ to black culture."
A few days before my arrival in Harare, Galz-member Paul’s mother received a phone call from a police officer. Paul, a real "queen", is known in the townships as "Yvonne Chaka Chaka". The policewoman ordered Paul’s mother to send her son to the police station for interrogation. He also had to bring Z$1 000 with him, she said. Taking Evelyn’s advice, he approached a lawyer, didn’t take the money, and asked for the policewoman’s ID-number. She refused, but also, suddenly appeared to have no time for "interrogation" anymore. Paul would be "contacted" later.
According to Evelyn, the incident shows the danger of blackmail unleashed by Mugabe’s speech. A complaint has been lodged with the authorities, after which an investigation was promised. "I am not too afraid of the police, who still have to adhere to certain rules. Homosexuality is in itself not against the law here. You are not allowed to ‘practice’ it and to be prosecuted you have to be caught ‘in the act’." She is more terrified of the ruling party’s Youth Movement. "If they get mobilised for this campaign, it will really be a witchhunt." Said The Guardian Newspaper.
29th June 2001
Death Threats for Zimbabwe Gays
Zimbabwe’s leading lesbian and gay organisation has received death threats on the eve of their pride celebrations. The offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were daubed with anti-gay graffiti and death warnings at the weekend. During the week the group were sent further threats, telling them to get out of Harare. GALZ programme manager Keith Goddard released a statement in which he said: "Within the growing culture of violence in Zimbabwe, clearly these threats form part of a wider pattern of lawlessness and assault against non-government organisations and other groups in civil society.
As in the past, GALZ will not be bullied and will not give in to intimidation." GALZ has removed membership lists and private information from its offices. Robert Mugabe, the Zimbawean president, has made frequent homophobic attacks on the gay community.
[The last e-mail address on record for GALZ is firstname.lastname@example.org]
Homosexuality in Africa
September 5, 2001
Tatchell Looking Forward to Brisbane
by Samuel Mungadze, Harare
British gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, has lauded the Australian government for refusing to bar President Mugabe from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), scheduled for October in Brisbane. Tatchell, who once effected a botched citizen’s arrest on Mugabe in London in 1999, told The Standard that if the Australians yielded to popular pressure, his plan to arrest the president would be scuttled. "Let him come to the Commonwealth summit and when he arrives, arrest him on charges of torture.
Given Mugabe’s appalling human rights record, I understand why some Australian politicians are calling for him to be denied entry. But exclusion will achieve nothing. It would be better for Australia to allow Mugabe to attend Chogm, and then arrest him when he lands in Brisbane," said Tatchell who was floored by Mugabe’s bodyguards when he tried to arrest him in Brussels, Belgium, in March.
"Australia and most other Commonwealth countries have signed the UN Convention Against Torture 1984. Under this convention, the signatories pledge to arrest any person who commits an act of torture anywhere in the world. This is the legal basis for my bid to have Mugabe arrested by the Australian authorities. If they refuse, I will try to bring a civil action against Mugabe, and if that does not work, I will attempt a citizen’s arrest," said the gay rights activist.
He cited the abduction and torture of Standard editor, Mark Chavunduka, and chief writer, Ray Choto, in January 1999 as the reason for apprehending Mugabe. "I will be taking with me to Australia, signed affidavits from Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka, attesting to their torture by the Zimbabwe authorities." He said the affidavits would be handed to the Australian attorney-general to obtain permission to arrest Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe government is taking Tatchell’s threat seriously as he has managed to elude Mugabe’s security web on two occasions — in London and Brussels. The Standard is reliably informed that the president’s close security personnel are undergoing intensive training under the guidance of a Russian instructor. Mugabe is also reported to have beefed up his security with agents from Libya who normally guard their paranoid Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.
April 5, 2002
Outed in Africa: chief executive of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) caught in sex act with a man
by Colin Richardson
As resignations go, Alum Mpofu’s is a corker. The chief executive of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has been brought low after allegations that he was caught in a sex act with a man in a Harare nightclub. It must be embarrassing for him to have details of the alleged incident made public (a bouncer chained him to a fire hydrant). But given his role as chief propagandist for President Robert Mugabe’s campaign against gays, it is humiliating.
This is not the first time an anti-gay campaigner has been accused of being gay, and it is unlikely to be the last. In 1950s America, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man was lawyer Roy Cohn. When it came to red-baiting, queerbashing and Jew-hating, he made his boss look like a softie. But–you’re ahead of me–Cohn was both gay and a Jew. It is possible that Senator McCarthy was not as straight as he seemed. And FBI boss J Edgar Hoover, who introduced Cohn to McCarthy, and conducted covert operations against gay activists, loved to dress in women’s clothing. That much we know. But what does it mean?
Some see in such histories, and will also divine in the sorry tale of Mpofu, vindication of the theory that the more vocally homophobic people are, the more likely they are secretly to be homosexual.
A few years ago, US psychologists published the results of a study that suggested 80% of men who expressed anti-gay sentiments were harbouring secret same-sex yearnings. They reached this conclusion (and I’d advise sensitive readers to look away at this point) by attaching electrical apparatus to the members of the members of the study group. They then showed the wired gentlemen homoerotic pictures and measured their reaction. But there are problems with the "all homophobes are homosexuals" theory. For one thing, it lets heterosexuals off the hook, implying that they all just love, love, love gays. For another, it reduces homophobia to a matter of personal inadequacy, suggesting that it stems from the closeted homosexuals’ attempt to resolve an inability to accept their sexuality by projecting their self-loathing on to others. Worse, the theory seems to bring out the fruitcake in people.
People like the historian Lothar Machtan who, in his tome ‘The Hidden Hitler’, argued that Hitler was gay. He produced some evidence that the young Hitler was close to several men; the evidence was hardly conclusive, but it was kind of interesting. That is, until Prof Machtan got on to the night of the long knives. For me, it all went to pot then. Apparently, Hitler slaughtered thousands of Brownshirts for fear that their leader (Ernst Rohm, who was gay) would bitch about der Führer’s youthful dalliances. That’s the thing about closeted gay men: you look at them funnily and the next thing you know, they’ve gone and invaded Poland.
If Alum Mpofu is gay, then his behaviour as head of the ZBC is, if not commendable, at least explicable: since an ambitious man will have to find some way of accommodating the official ideology, even if it is personally distasteful. And if he is not gay, then his current predicament is also understandable. Accusations of homosexuality are a handy way of politically destroying someone.
But to say this is not to fall into the trap of saying that Africa is irredeemably homophobic. It is true that Mugabe’s anti-gay tirades have been matched by similar utterances by President Museveni of Uganda and President Nujoma of Namibia; but it is also worth remembering that Zimbabwe’s biggest neighbour, South Africa, was the first country in the world to enshrine in its constitution equal rights for its lesbian and gay citizens.
So what is Mugabe’s real problem? In the 20 years since he came to power, African sexual culture has changed beyond recognition. AIDS has devastated the continent. The spread of HIV has claimed millions of African lives, but it has also taken its toll of old traditions. To combat the virus, governments have had to talk to their people in sexually frank terms.
At the same time, AIDS is itself a marker of how much Africa has changed: the continent’s urbanisation, wars and civil strife have all created the conditions for HIV to spread. This disruption to traditional ways of living, however, also gives many more people the opportunity to live openly gay lifestyles. Perhaps Robert Mugabe’s hatred of gay people stems not from some secret lust for Will Young, but from panic at the changes in his own society.
Colin Richardson is the former editor of Gay Times magazine. CDRedit@aol.com
July 2, 2002
Mugabe to Root Out Gays
by Walter Marwizi
President Robert Mugabe, embarrassed by allegations of homosexuality levelled at members of his administration, has ordered a witch hunt to flush out gays and lesbians in his government,
The Standard has learnt. Official sources told The Standard last week that Mugabe, who caused outrage among homosexuals worldwide – including gay rights activist Peter Tatchell – by describing them as "worse than dogs and pigs", issued the order for the crackdown on "sexual perverts" two weeks ago. "The president made it clear that the world would see him as a hypocrite if he attacked British Prime Minister Tony Blair for having a cabinet full of gays when these very same people are said to be in his administration. He indicated that Mugabe had long been advised that everyone who wined and dined with him was of the ‘right’ sexual orientation," said the sources.
Mugabe has, in the past few years, openly paraded his deeply entrenched hatred for homosexuals attacking them relentlessly over a practice he considers repugnant. During the March presidential election, an embattled Mugabe, facing criticism from Britain and other western nations, turned the heat on Blair calling him a "gay gangster" and blasting him for having homosexuals in his cabinet. At many of his country-wide rallies Mugabe actually boasted that his own cabinet was full of amadoda sibili (real men) who could distinguish between "Adam and Eve and Adam and Steve." Little did the veteran politician – whom critics say has lost his grip on his beleaguered administration to young opportunists handpicked for his government in July 2000 – realise that hardly two months after the presidential poll one of his worst nightmares would become a reality – one of his right hand men would be accused of involvement in a homosexual relationship.
Testifying in the High Court last month, MDC legislator Job Sikhala said he had heard of a rumoured homosexual relationship between Moyo and Alum Mpofu, the disgraced former chief executive of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), while the two were still in South Africa. At that time of the alleged affair, Moyo was a lecturer at the Witwatersrand University while Mpofu was a researcher at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Moyo, however, dismissed the allegations as mischievous saying he had only come to know Mpofu when he attended an interview at the ZBC last year. "Mugabe’s order leaves no sacred cows. Everyone in government from junior ministers like Jonathan Moyo to vice president Simon Muzenda is under the microscope. It is clear that anyone who is caught on the wrong side will go.
Mugabe is uncompromising on that matter," he said. Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, the Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity told The Standard that the position of the party on the matter of homosexuals was clear. "Our position is very clear. It has been spelt out by the president and the central committee on several occasions," said Shamuyarira who however said he was not aware of a witch hunt in government. Last month, MPs from both Zanu PF and MDC called for a probe into allegations of homosexual tendencies said to be prevalent at the state-run broadcaster. The allegations surfaced when Mpofu, whose appointment to the ZBC had been sanctioned by Mugabe, following a recommendation by Moyo, was caught in a lewd act with another man at Tipperary’s night club in Harare. Mpofu resigned in disgrace a few days later following the publication of the scandal in The Standard. A month later, a disc jockey with 3FM, Kevin Ncube, was fired from ZBC after a man claimed he had tried to sodomise him.
8th March 2002
Gays Face Zimbabwe Election
Zimbabwe’s largest lesbian and gay group has expressed resignation over the result of the country’s forthcoming presidential election, which has been steeped in controversy and accusations of corruption. President Robert Mugabe has compared homosexuals to animals, and accuses Britain of being run by a "gay mafia". He has been accused of human rights abuses and of unfairly manipulating the media in the run-up to the election.
Keith Goddard, Programmes Manager for GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) told RainbowNetwork: "The elections are not the great watershed that everyone believes they are." He said that whilst most people declared support for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in public, many held different views in private. Goddard remarked: "The constant violence against citizens of this country has led to a situation where people will publicly state allegiance to ZANU-PF whilst waiting for the day to put their cross next to Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party." Goddard said that an election victory by Tsvangirai would be the most preferable outcome. He continued: "If Morgan wins the election, we are home and dry because we will be given carte blanche to educate the public using all the most powerful communication tools of state.
If Mugabe wins the election, we will continue with the slow but sure process of normalising ourselves in society and waiting for the day when the dinosaurs become extinct." Goddard added that GALZ had not adopted a party to support. He said: "We didn’t bother to educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community about which way to vote in the election. There hardly seems any point in explaining the obvious to people since ZANU-PF and the MDC have both made their positions very clear regarding our issue. We just told people that they should register and vote on the day. It seems very many have done so."
Zimbabwean lesbian tells tales of her struggle
by Carlyn Zwarenstein
" It is claimed that the homosexuality does not exist in our culture — that it is the white person’s disease": Tsitsi Tripano, GALZ member. The quest for lesbian and gay rights in Africa has only begun, according to Zimbabwean activist Tsitsi Tiripano. ‘ Out and proud’ in Zimbabwe is practically non-existent, where President Robert Mugabe has publicly described gays and lesbians as “lower than pigs and perverts.” “ It is claimed that the homosexuality does not exist in our culture — that it is the white person’s disease,” said Tiripano, a member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). The organization has grown to include 320 black members.
Tiripano recounted her story at an event organized by Amnesty International at the Bloor Street United Church last Thursday evening. “ Gay women do exist in Africa, believe it or not,” said Tiripano, a lesbian and the mother of two teenage boys. At the age of 15 she was forced into marriage to a man 40 years her elder. She left the marriage six years later to return to her female lover. In 1996, Tiripano was volunteering at a GALZ stall at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare when a mob of students assaulted her. “ There came the Zimbabwe university students demonstrating, throwing bananas,” she said. She and other GALZ members were attacked and their literature was burned. She faced similar persecution in her hometown. “ Down with homo sex, down with homo sex,” was the chant coming from villagers who greeted her upon her return home after the Book Fair assault.
After the demonstration against her, she appealed to a local governor for help. “ He said to me he is not going to help me because my own president is against me,” Tiripano said. In recent election campaigns, Mugabe has incited hatred against gays and lesbians. However, things may be changing. “ There are people who are not homophobic to the extent that the president is,” said Tukiso Muzondo, who came to hear Tiripano speak on Thursday. Muzondo’s family is from Zimbabwe. Alexis Kontos, Amnesty International’s coordinator for Southern Africa, noted that the new South African constitution is the first in the world to explicitly provide protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
GALZ has conducted research into the early history of lesbians and gays in Africa, disabusing the myth that homosexuality is a Western phenomenon. “ Where does the word in Zimbabwe for gays and lesbians come from, if there all the time were no gays and lesbians?” Tiripano asked rhetorically. Despite these positive signs, lesbians and gays continue to be at risk of human rights abuses. Kontos pointed out that in Namibia, Swaziland, and Gambia, leaders have threatened to enact anti-gay legislation. And while groups in Southern Africa are working together, threat of harassment is still alive.
“ We are so, so worried about the East Africa and Central Africa people,” Tiripano said. GALZ and other organizations are growing, conducting outreach to rural areas, and counseling both straight and gay people. “ We bravely stand up and challenge discrimination,” Tiripano proclaimed. She emphasized that Canadians can help. “ We need your ongoing support and effort to speak out for us when we are under pressure and being attacked,” she said. She urges Canadians to contact Amnesty International and write to President Mugabe and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri. “ It’s not a Western thing and it’s not from white people only,” concluded Tiripano. “ I will never change,” she told the audience, to appreciative laughter. “I’ve got feelings towards women, more and more and more feelings towards women.”
January 5, 2003
Pianist rejected by Britain fears Mugabe’s police
Talented gay Zimbabwean musician is refused asylum as anger over cricket World Cup trip grows
by Vanessa Thorpe, arts and media correspondent, The Observer
He is one of the most promising young pianists playing in Britain. Now he faces the threat of violent persecution after Britain refused his application for political asylum and decreed that he should return to his native Zimbabwe. Michael Brownlee Walker, 25, who is gay, received a letter from the Home Office last month turning down his application for asylum and informing him he must leave the country, in spite of his fears of victimisation.
Brownlee Walker, who won a place five years ago to study classical piano at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, is the great-grandson of one of Zimbabwe’s earliest white settlers. His family ran a large farm near Bulawayo in the south of the country, but last Easter the property was overrun by supporters of President Robert Mugabe. His parents and brother have since fled the country. As the son of a prominent former landowner, Brownlee Walker believes that his surname alone is likely to ensure he is harassed and possibly detained if he goes back to Zimbabwe.
What is more, in recent months the accomplished accompanist has attended several protest events organised in London by exiled members of the opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change or MDC. But Brownlee Walker says it is his sexuality that is prompting his greatest fears about his safety in Zimbabwe. Attitudes to gay people there have always been oppressive, he argues, but with the recent deterioration of law and order in the country reported incidents of organised violence have increased. ‘There is no rule of law any more,’ said Brownlee Walker. ‘If the police say they want to detain you, there is very little you can do.’
Mugabe once denounced homosexuals as ‘worse than dogs and pigs’, and asked police to help ‘root the evil out’. Gay activists, members of the organisations Gay and Lesbians in Zimbabwe and GayZim, suggest that they support any Zimbabwean’s right to seek asylum. In Britain, the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also supports Brownlee Walker’s case. ‘Victimisation of the gay community is universal and constant in Zimbabwe,‘ Tatchell said. ‘But every gay person is at risk of being picked on and made an example of. In these circumstances no one is safe.’ Brownlee Walker, who has lost a lot of weight and received hospital treatment during the period of his asylum application, now has no income. His £29.89 a week asylum seekers’ allowance was stopped before Christmas and he is no longer allowed to accept offers of work. He is living in London at the home of the acclaimed concert pianist, Leslie Howard, an old family friend.
Howard believes Brownlee Walker has an unusual musical talent and would be unable to pursue a career in Zimbabwe. ‘There are only a few people around who can sight-read and accompany singers quite like Michael can,’ said Leslie. ‘I would say a dozen at the most. It would be terrible if he had to drop his career at this stage, and, of course, he can’t play professionally in this country either now.’ Brownlee Walker was able to perform publicly while in this country as a student and he immediately applied for asylum when he left college in August 2001. ‘I wanted the chance to work again,’ he said. ‘At the time of my original application my parents were still on the farm but things were looking grim. It was a matter of time until it affected them.’
In the following months his mother was frequently intimidated in her shop by supporters of the ruling Zanu PF party and levels of poaching on the farm increased dramatically. Then 200 armed ‘war veterans’ invaded the farm and forced his parents to dance in the yard, chanting ‘Down with the Brownlee Walkers’. ‘I have no family there now,’ said Brownlee Walker. ‘They were all advised to evacuate because it was so dangerous. They had started to kill farmers including people we knew. My parents are in South Africa, so I don’t have to worry about that. But I worry for myself.’
His first refusal from the Home Office came through in November 2001 and an appeal was launched that resulted in a court appearance late this summer. The court decision was upheld at a subsequent tribunal and, while Brownlee Walker can still vote or be called to sit on a British jury, he cannot work or pay tax. He has already had to turn down concert work in Prague and a contract to play on a cruise ship because he would not be allowed back into Britain afterwards. ‘Either friends have to continue to help him or he goes to a detention centre,’ said Howard. ‘I am very angry. I know we can’t afford to take in six million starving Zimbabweans, but it does astonish me that we haven’t stood up more to what is going on.
We should be saying that this is now the most awful regime.’ For Brownlee Walker there are few avenues left, although he is hoping to send in a fresh application for asylum on the grounds that his family circumstances have radically altered. The Home Secretary suspended enforced deportations to Zimbabwe a year ago, following a series of articles in The Observer, but the threat is still there. ‘Everything turns on this situation for me now. I have spent all my adult life here, but if everything was all right in Zimbabwe I would love to go there, to help develop music,’ he said. Howard is organising a Concert For Zimbabwe at St John Smith Square on 30 April. Money raised will go into a charitable trust to promote classical music in Zimbabwe.
25 February 2003
Mugabe "enraged" over cricket world cup transsexual
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe was yesterday reported to be "enraged" after discovering that the country’s cricket team were led out into the world cup’s opening ceremony by a transsexual.
The televised ceremony, which took place in South Africa, involved models carrying placards bearing the names of the countries. Zimbabwe’s model, Cape Town resident Barbara Diop, is a Senegalese national who, it transpired at the weekend, was born male. Mugabe’s views on homosexuals and transsexuals (which include him describing them as "pigs fit for slaughter") are well-known.
A series of demonstrations led by Peter Tatchell and Zimbabwean activists marked the president’s visit to Paris last week. Reports suggest that Mugabe has demanded an explanation from the World Cup organisers, and has threatened to bring his players home. Neil Vincent, Barbara’s agent told South African newspaper the Cape Times that he found it "extremely funny" that she was chosen to lead Zimbabwe. "I don’t know what will happen, but the fact is that old Mugabe will not be happy about the issue and she is not even from Zimbabwe," Vincent told the paper.
October 14, 2003
Zimbabwe-prisons-AIDS-health: Homosexuality rampant in Zimbabwe’s prisons: report
Up to 70 percent of Zimbabwean prisoners are involved in homosexuality in jails where the HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be 60 percent, the state-owned ZIANA news agency said Tuesday. The news agency cited a doctor from a government referral hospital who said many prisoners who seek medical attention have been involved in homosexuality, which is illegal in the southern African country. " Out of all the prisoners that we attend to on a daily basis, about 60-70 percent of them admit to have had sex with other males at one time or the other," Blessing Mukumba was quoted as saying.
Sixty percent of the prisoners admitted to the hospitals are infected with HIV, according to research done by the referral hospitals, ZIANA said. A prisons officer said was widespread in the overcrowded jails, but said it was difficult to detect despite regular patrols.
In 1993 a lawmaker and now deputy speaker of parliament, Edna Madzongwe, suggested the provision of condoms for prisoners to curb the spread of HIV, but was rebuffed because such a move would be tantamount to legalising homosexuality in prisons.
In January the country’s prisons held 24,500 inmates, far exceeding their capacity of 16,000.
The government in July revised the HIV/AIDS tally putting the percentage of Zimbabwean adults infected with the HIV virus or AIDS at 24.9 percent, down from 33.7 percent recorded in 2000 by the United Nations. It however remains one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic in the world. An average of more than 3,000 AIDS deaths occur each week in Zimbabwe.
December 4, 2003
Police hamper efforts to help hiv+ gays
by Musa Ngubane
Alfred (his name has been changed to protect his identity) is a 26 year old gay man from Harare. He stays in central Harare and he is in the export/import business. He also does a bit of counselling and is a volunteer with GALZ. Towards the end of November he fled Zimbabwe and arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa because he is trying to lay low from the Zimbabwean police who have been harassing him for the past two weeks. Alfred intends to go back to Zimbabwe so as not to be in contravention of his visa, but fears further harassment from police there.
It all started when his friend died from AIDS. The man was diagnosed in 1993. "That was a real eye opener for me, I cared for my friend so much – that’s why his death inspired me to try and help the other gay people I know who are infected.Then I started putting up posters asking for funds because for me to be able to help the needy I need to have funds. The posters had all my details, physical address and telephone numbers," he says. Then the police started harassing him – and not for the first time. He has been in and out of jail several times before, hence he needed to be out of his country to get away from the torment. "They would come to my place around two in the morning, making noise. The last time they were there they took me in for two days," says Alfred. "Then I decided to get away for a while, a week to clear my head, so to say."
Then I asked him if he has any intentions of leaving Zimbabwe for good. " No, Zimbabwe is an unfavourable country economically and politically especially politically if you’re gay, but I’m not scared and I won’t run away – its MY country." Alfred is a very outspoken person, who, when he came out to his parents at the age of fifteen was thrown out of home. Then he lived as a street kid in Zimbabwe and after a year or so he managed to get himself to South Africa, illegally of course, where he again lived on the streets. He was a sex worker for one and half years before he was deported back to his home country. When he got back to Zimbabwe he felt alone. He didn’t know anybody who was gay and that’s when he tried to commit suicide, twice. He was taken to hospital and while there the staff tried to talk to his mother who since then is trying to understand Alfred’s sexual orientation. Shortly after he was hospitalised he got to know about GALZ and he has been with the organisation since.
He says the fact that he is outspoken has got him into trouble with the police in more situations than he cares to count. Because when the general community fuss to the police about gay men, then the police come running to pick them up and they will end up spending a night to two in jail without any charges. But if they go to the police to report some hate crime then they’re told the police have better things to do. Often the police raid clubs, if they have heard that there are gays in them and when the police get there Alfred says that he isn’t afraid to engage with them – but then he is arrested for being impolite and being gay and he will be charged 50.000 Zim dollars. "This is how life is like if you’re gay in Zimbabwe" He believes that there are more gay people in Zimbabwe than it is believed. "People are afraid to come out because they see how other gay people are being treated in the country, therefore people don’t come out".
I asked him what it is like for him to be involved with GALZ. "I enjoy being in a space where I’m surrounded with people of my orientation because even where I stay, I stay with my two other gay friends. Another thing, I hate to see people suffer in any way. From my teen experience I know how it is like to suffer. So if there is anything I can do to make people from the organisation suffer less I try to make it so. But the thing is members are dying and mostly it is from HIV/AIDS related illnesses"
I asked him how rife HIV is within the organisation and how is the organisation tying to deal with it?
" We have about thirty members who are out about their status and they formed a program by the name of GALZ positive which is not only for positive people but still I feel that not everyone within the organisation is using the services because we have other members who are assumed to be HIV positive but they’re not part of GALZ positive." I know medication is a massive problem everywhere in Africa but I asked him how accessible it is in Zimbabwe. " With the price of medication it’s not really easy for the organisation to organise it for the members who’re infected, because it is really difficult for individuals to afford, but there is this American doctor who visits the country once every three months and he brings with him medication only enough for two to four people, and again it depends if you’re in the program that he works with. A couple of our members were on the program and they got medication and now they’re feeling better."
He also went on to mention that in as mush as he loves GALZ he wishes that there could be other LGBT organisations in his country that can work on supporting and caring for the LGBT people on the more personal level. "And I wouldn’t mind being the originator of such an organisation," Alfred says with hope and enthusiasm. Alfred is one of many hopeful and hard working concerned LGBT people in Zimbabwe and it is a miracle that such people survive in a country famous for the homophobic outbursts of its leader and where political and economic turmoil characterise daily life and police harassment hinder even the slightest efforts to bring relief to those suffering from HIV/AIDS- especially if they are gay or lesbian. None-the-less he and other carry themselves with pride and dignity and hold up their heads and carry on trying to make small changes in the struggle against oppression.
‘Mugabe’s spokesman is gay’
by Staff Reporter
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s spin doctor is gay, according to sensational new claims by a former adviser and international spokesman for Mugabe’s regime. Dr David Nyekorach Matsanga said he had obtained fibres from Moyo’s hair which had been scientifically tested and proved that Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe’s Information Minister, had female hormones.
Mugabe has recently been attacking gays whom he blames for Africa’s ills. He has also described them as “worse than pigs and dogs”. If allegations against Moyo are proved to be true, it will be a major embarrassment for Mugabe, coming after the high profile resignation of the chief executive of the state broadcaster after being found to be gay last year. Moyo has previously attacked gays, saying it was only British politicians who saw being gay as a way of getting votes. He has, however, not reacted to suggestions that he is gay himself.
“I got all the samples of his hair from his own house,” Matsanga said in a statement released to international media on Wednesday afternoon. “I took private forensic tests on Moyo’s samples of hair and samples of his cloth, and tests were carried out by Professor friends of mine in a London hospital. The purpose of those hair samples was to match with the data of those already confirmed as homosexuals which showed 94% of hormones matching that of Moyo’s cells as female gay.” Matsanga had a mighty fall-out with Moyo after he orchestrated a Sky News television interview with President Robert Mugabe, strongly opposed by Moyo who at some point ordered the news crew’s deportation.
Days later, Matsanga was manhandled and claims to have been robbed by Moyo’s agents deployed at the Harare international airport before being deported back to Britain. Matsanga went on: “The biological specimen strata in Moyo hate women naturally and that explains the beating and cruel punishments to his plastered housewife.”
In a telephone interview with New Zimbabwe.com, Matsanga said he had obtained evidence that Moyo was constantly beating up his wife. Late last year, police were called to Moyo’s hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, after his wife bolted from their room crying and frantically waving to hotel staff to call in the cops. Matsanga also promised a “tremor and earthquake” in his war with Moyo, vowing to “bring total isolation to the whole government of Zimbabwe.” “As a result of the negative postures and the bad blood that the blood-thirsty gay rant Moyo has exhibited against me, I have decided to embark on the first phase of a full scale combative action that will embarrass those who act as his insulators,” said Matsanga.
The Herald’s shadowy columnist Nathaniel Manheru, whom Matsanga claims is Moyo, also came under heavy attack. Matsanga said the use of the word “Kwaheri”, Swahili for “go well”, in the Nathaniel Manheru column which appears every Saturday suggested the writer was Moyo because he had lived in Kenya where Swahili is spoken. He said he was also investigating claims that Moyo bribed a judge in Kenya to influence the outcome of a case in which he is accused of defrauding the American Ford Foundation of millions of dollars. Matsanga also says Moyo might have fallen foul of Zimbabwe’s corruption laws which bar the externalisation of foreign currency through the acquisition of a R7 million mansion in Johannesburg. The mansion has since been auctioned to recover debts.
27 January 2005
Zimbabwe gay group GALZ wins international award
The grassroots gay and lesbian association in Zimbabwe, GALZ, is awarded international recognition for their human rights accomplishments. Despite arrests and intimidation, GALZ had made a great effort to promote the rights of Zimbabwe’s gay and lesbian community, according to the award. The group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is to be honoured with this year’s International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission’s (IGLHRC) Felipa de Souza Award. The IGLHRC announced this after a New York meeting today.
The Felipa Award recognises "the courage and impact of grassroots groups and leaders dedicated to improving the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other individuals stigmatised and abused because of their sexuality." Now in its tenth year, the award carries with it a US$ 5,000 stipend to assist and strengthen the ability of grassroots human rights groups to do their work.
GALZ has been a creative and fearless human rights leader not just in Zimbabwe but throughout Africa and for all of us who share the struggle for social justice and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said Paula Ettelbrick, the executive director of IGLHRC. "At a time in which democracy and governmental respect for human rights are closing down even more forcefully in Zimbabwe, GALZ continues to provide life-saving services and programmes," she added.
Formed in 1990, GALZ was the first organisation in the country to provide services to and push for the human rights of the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe. GALZ was also one of the first organisations in Zimbabwe to provide counselling services and HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns at a time when the Zimbabwean government was in denial of the disease’s existence.
Despite arrests and intimidation, GALZ made a submission to the government-led Constitutional Commission in 1999 for the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause in a new national constitution. Ultimately the words "sexual orientation" were not included, but through GALZ’s efforts, the phrase "natural difference or condition" was included and widely interpreted to include sexual minorities.
With what the IGLHRC called "the closing of democratic space, the worsening political and economic situation, and the HIV/AIDS crisis in Zimbabwe," GALZ had turned its attention away from direct legislative lobbying in 2000 and focused its efforts on upgrading social services, including providing training in activism as well as in HIV/AIDS care and prevention to both local and pan-Africa organisations and activists.
Today, GALZ provides these kinds of services as well as offering its members professional and educational training and legal assistance. We are honoured to receive the 2005 Felipa Award, said Fadzai Muparutsa, programme manager for gender at GALZ. "Our work to improve the lives of sexual minorities in Zimbabwe is extremely challenging but critically important," Ms Muparutsa continued. "This recognition from the IGLHRC will boost our resolve in the face of adversity and is a wonderful gesture of solidarity from the international community."
GALZ continues to work within a climate of impunity, according to IGLHRC. Zimbabwean President Mugabe has consistently iterated that homosexuality is "un-African" and that gays and lesbians are "worse than dogs and pigs." GALZ has been banned from both radio and television since 1994.
With the passage of the Public Order and Security Act in 2000, which strictly controls the holding of public meetings, GALZ members have been arrested on at least two occasions. Most recently, the Mugabe government is attempting to pass a new law that bans any foreign non-governmental organisation from registering in Zimbabwe if the group’s principle objective is political advocacy, such as human rights work.
Similarly, Zimbabwean organisations working on such issues would be barred from receiving "any foreign funding or donation." While GALZ is not affected because it only provides services to its members and thus has classified itself as a "social club", the new legislation will place serious restrictions on GALZ’s freedom to speak out on issues of good governance and human rights.
The Award embodies the spirit and story of Felipa de Souza, who endured persecution and brutality after proudly declaring her intimacy with a woman during a 16th century inquisition trial in Brazil. Previous African Felipa Award winners include: Simon Tseko Nikoli, the famed activist from South Africa and Maher Sabry, the Egyptian activist who notified IGLHRC of the arrests of the Cairo 52.
May 21, 2005
Zimbabwe, Long Destitute, Teeters Toward Ruin (non-gay background story)
by Michael Wines, Bulawayo Zimbabwe
In the weeks before parliamentary elections in March, the leaders of this threadbare nation threw open the national larder, wooing voters with stocks of normally scarce gasoline and corn and a flood of freshly printed money. Gasoline has become scarcer since the voting. It may have helped: the ruling party, President Robert G. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, was installed for another five years. But Zimbabwe’s Potemkin prosperity has evaporated since the elections, replaced by penury and mounting signs of economic collapse.
Here in the second largest city, lines of cars stretch a quarter mile and more at fuel-parched service stations, and drivers spend the night in their cars’ back seats lest they lose their place in line. Milk, cooking oil and, most of all, corn, the national staple, are a distant memory at most stores. At one downtown grocery, tubes of much-prized American toothpaste are kept in a locked case.
Zimbabwe’s currency, which traded on the black market at 120 to the dollar in April 2002, went for 6,200 to the dollar last December, 12,000 on April 1, and 17,000 in early May. By mid-May a single American dollar brought as much as 25,000 Zimbabwean dollars, though the rate has since steadied at about 20,000.
[Zimbabwe’s government steadfastly maintained an official exchange rate of about 6,100 Zimbabwean dollars per American dollar until Thursday, when the nation’s reserve bank announced a devaluation. But business managers here say the new official rate – 9,000 per American dollar – is unlikely to have more than a brief impact on the economy.] "It’s running out of control," one Bulawayo manufacturer said in an interview. "When you’re going down a path of destruction, you can keep putting patches on the tires – patch, patch, patch – but eventually the tire is going to burst." Business executives interviewed for this article almost uniformly refused to be named, fearing that criticism of economic policies would doom their scant chances of receiving government assistance.
One persistent critic, John Robertson, a former government economist, said the government appeared to have exhausted its reserves on the feel-good campaign before the parliamentary elections and was now paying the price.
For years, of course, Zimbabwe’s economy has been a chewing-gum and baling-wire affair, with 70 percent unemployment, triple-digit inflation and a currency no foreign creditor will accept. Prosperity has been receding since the late 1990’s, when the government’s attacks on international creditors and its seizure of commercial farms set off a cascade of economic backlashes. Past economic plunges have provoked food riots, gas-line protests and government crackdowns. This time the government has sent the police to quell mobs outside groceries and gas stations, and started rounding up street merchants who deal too openly in black-market goods and selling currency at illicit rates.
Yet some say that the current crisis, perhaps the worst since the economy began foundering, may mark a turning point. Zimbabwe’s main economic problems – capital flight, a dire shortage of foreign exchange with which to buy imports, and turbocharged inflation – are now so severe that they are eroding what remains of the industrial and agricultural base. Manufacturing has slowed to a trickle, hamstrung by shortages of fuel and imported components. Businesses have been driven to barter and the black market, adding to the inflation. Appeals for government help are mostly fruitless. The government is all but broke. " The scarcities now are coming from manufacturers who can’t deliver enough to retailers to fill their shelves," Mr. Robertson said in an interview in Harare, the capital.
Initially the problem was that manufacturers could not cobble together enough supplies to make their products. "Now that there are more critical shortages in things like fuel," he said, "it’s almost academic whether they can get the material, because they can’t deliver the products anyway. The end result of the shortages is that prices are rising." In Harare in the second week of May, rumors that a shipment of sugar had arrived created a line half a mile long outside one suburban supermarket. Yet the problem, Mr. Robertson said, was not so much a shortage of sugar as a shortage of the imported polyethylene bags that hold it.
Coca-Cola is being rationed because the gas used for carbonation is in short supply and the local bottler cannot find foreign currency to buy the imported syrup. Virtually any product made of steel is hard to find, because most rolled steel is imported from South Africa, and South African steel mills are demanding cash up front from Zimbabwean customers. "It’s what I call a chain-link economy," said one Bulawayo maker of a basic steel commodity. "Company A manufactures parts for Company B, and Company B manufactures a part for Company C, and so on until company F makes the finished product. What’s happening is that the links are falling apart."
That manufacturer offers a line of 25 products. Only four are being made, because he cannot find paint, abrasives and braces to make the others. "They’re all imported," he said of the materials, "and if there’s no foreign currency, then my supplier can’t buy them to sell to me." Zimbabwe’s immediate problem is that it has run out of foreign currency. But that is only one domino in a long chain that threatens to bury the economy.
Agricultural exports were an economic mainstay. But in the last five years, Zimbabwe’s parceling out of 5,000 commercial farms among squatters and peasants has caused the collapse of commercial farming. That has destroyed the businesses that supported it, from tractor sales – the nation needs 50,000, and has fewer than 400 working ones – to irrigation suppliers. That only deepened the export tailspin: Zimbabwean tobacco production is down two-thirds in five years, for instance, and the quality, once world renowned, is so poor that buyers are scarce.
Falling exports made foreign currency more expensive, causing exchange rates to rocket. But the government has generally chosen to print more money instead of readjusting the value of its currency; Zimbabwe’s money supply rose 226 percent in 2004. The result has been hyperinflation and a thriving black market in money and goods. Hyperinflation and the artificial exchange rate, in turn, have crippled gold mining, Zimbabwe’s other big export industry. Production fell 18 percent in the first quarter of 2005. [The government’s latest devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar sets special, higher exchange rates for exports of gold and cotton, two major industries facing collapse in the current crisis. The loss of either would crimp foreign-currency receipts even more; a collapse in cotton would pull Zimbabwe’s textile industry down as well.
[The higher exchange rates effectively are subsidies, costing the government the equivalent of scores of millions of American dollars. Asked how the government would get the money to subsidize the two industries, the economist, Mr. Robertson, said, "My feeling is that they’ll print it."
[The government said Friday that it would also budget more money to import grain, hoping to avert what some experts say is a looming famine when the harvest that ends in May – by all accounts a dismal failure – has been consumed. [Zimbabwe needs about 1.6 million tons of grain a year, and officials say they intend to purchase 1.2 million tons. But corn imports from South Africa, Zimbabwe’s only supplier of note, totaled a bare 37,500 tons in the last month, far short of demand. It is unclear where the government will find the foreign currency it needs to buy grain abroad.]
Starved for foreign currency to import crucial supplies, the government now requires all businesses to trade 25 percent of their foreign income at the official exchange rate. That hits businesses with a double whammy: they have less foreign money to buy imported raw materials, and they must raise prices to make up their currency losses.
If that seems a formula for more shortages and more inflation, few business managers here would disagree. Tony Rowland, the chief executive of Bulawayo-based Zimplow, employs 400 people to make animaldrawn plows from steel rolled at one of Zimbabwe’s few domestic mills. To hedge against the constantly rising price of domestic steel, he reinvests his profits in something that rises with inflation: nuts and bolts.
"I’ve become a steel dealer," he said. "I’ve had to expand my business to things beyond my core business to keep going." Were he forced to buy and sell at the official exchange rate, he said, "I’d be dead in the water." Mr. Rowland and others say that even partial devaluations of the currency by the government will not revive the economy or save businesses and that an economic overhaul that reflected reality would impose unacceptable suffering on ordinary citizens who already undergo too many hardships.
"Something’s got to give," said another Bulawayo manufacturer, a major exporter. "The problem is that the decisions to be made are so radical, and would affect the average man so badly, that they’ll never be made. Not under the current environment, anyway."
So Zimbabweans muddle through. In Harare, the chief of a major consumer products company said recently that he had junked his accounting software until programmers could adapt a Turkish version to his requirements. The problem: the Zimbabwe spreadsheets cannot accommodate the flood of zeros required for transactions that now run into the billions – even the trillions – of Zimbabwean dollars. "We’ve run out of noughts," he said.
August 15, 2006
New Blow for Gay Rights in Zimbabwe–Activists struggle on as legal clampdown on same-sex relationships comes into force.
by Joseph Mandigo in Harare – (Joseph Mandigo is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.)
When Tracy Mhara, a 32-year-old lesbian from Harare, travels the 150 kilometres to visit her family’s rural home she goes accompanied by a married male friend whom she introduces as her husband-to-be. When they ask why he has not paid the customary lobola, a set amount paid by a prospective husband to the bride’s family, of a dozen or more cows, he smiles and pleads poverty.
Constantly urged by her grandparents to start a family, Mhara is now seeking a friend who is willing to father a baby so that she can fulfil a revered custom of the Shona people that the first-born in any family produces a child. " My grandparents have been pestering me for a grandchild," said Mhara, whose round face and broad smile give her a deceptively cheerful appearance. "I will do it just to hush them up and cover my tracks."
Paul, a 34-year-old Bulawayo teacher, has married twice and has a six-year-old daughter. Paul said he was forced to marry by his parents, and that both his wives left after discovering that their marriages were just fronts. He attends church regularly "to pray for his sin" but is unable to abandon his lifestyle. He said he was "born gay" and feels "insulted by people who think this is a prank".
Being openly homosexual in this southern African country is considered such a disgrace that coming out entails maintaining a delicate balancing act between modern freedoms and the age-old traditions of the majority Shona-speaking people. Gays in Harare’s closely-knit community who spoke to IWPR said they preferred to stay underground because of growing official hostility and ordinary people’s intolerance towards them.
Chesterfield Samba, 33, told IWPR he has been in love with another man for ten years. "What I want to say is that it is possible to be black, gay and Zimbabwean," he said. "People should stop equating us with Satanists. We are discriminated against and live in fear of being victimised."
President Robert Mugabe has described homosexuals as "worse than dogs and pigs". That statement, reported around the world, was made a decade ago but it still reverberates in the country. Mugabe charges that homosexuality is unnatural and "un-African", saying it is an alien culture practised only by "a few whites" in his country. When he wants to attack his favourite foreign political target, British prime minister Tony Blair, he refers to "Blair’s gay cabinet".
Until recently, homosexuality was not illegal in Zimbabwe, although the statutes outlawed sodomy. However, a new law that came into force in August makes "physical contact between males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act" a criminal offence.
In a terse response to the new law, Keith Goddard, programme manager for the group Gays and Lesbians in Zimbabwe, GALZ, said, "Lesbians and gays are there and have a right to their sexual preference. Sexual preference is a human right." Geoff Feltoe, a professor of law at the University of Zimbabwe, said the amendments represented a hardening of attitudes towards same sex-relationships. "A seemingly intimate embrace or hug between two men would presumably be construed as a crime now," said Feltoe. "It would seem the impetus for such legal transformation was the sensational sodomy trial of the late Banana."
Zimbabwe’s first post-independence president, the Reverend Canaan Sodindo Banana, died a publicly disgraced figure after a high-profile sodomy conviction. Testimonies during his 17-day trial revealed him as a closet homosexual who abused male subordinates while in State House. Banana, a Methodist minister and a father of four, denied the charges. But a string of state witnesses testified that he used everything from drugged soft drinks to the chance of career advancement to secure sexual favours. He was jailed and died in November 2003.
So angry was Mugabe with Banana’s homosexual trysts that he did not forgive him even in death, refusing permission for his body to be interred at the national shrine where Zimbabwe’s "national heroes" are laid to rest. Even with the satisfaction that comes with standing up to Mugabe, being openly ngochani (gay) in conservative Zimbabwe means being increasingly lonely, ashamed and riddled with self-doubt.
" Mugabe has successfully created the impression that gays are enemies of society," said Reverend Levee Kadenge, a school chaplain who preaches tolerance toward homosexuals. "I am not saying that homosexuality is acceptable in Shona culture, but there have been ways of accommodating it. In our culture, when people do something that isn’t the norm, we say the spirits are making them do that, and we accept there must be a purpose."
In some communities, said Kadenge, there is even a belief that having sex with another man, particularly a young one, can bring good fortune to the older of the two. " By doing such an extraordinary thing, you get power from it," said Kadenge. "But the power remains only if you keep it under seal. If you talk about it or show other people, the strength goes. That is our tradition." Mugabe agrees that homosexuality is best dealt with quietly, but he rejects any suggestion that it is homegrown, insisting that gays and lesbians are remnants of colonialism.
His crusade, capped by the latest legislation, has generated a climate of fear in which gays feel more threatened than ever. The country’s small number of outspoken gays and lesbians – there are fewer than 200 fee-paying members of GALZ in a country of 11.5 million people – say the new law will harden public attitudes and make homosexuals’ lives "hellish". A recent fundraising event for GALZ was cancelled after an organiser was beaten up at a nightclub where it was to be held. Tim Francis, not his real name, who was there when his colleague was attacked, said police refused even to take a statement once they realised the victim was gay. " Something that would have happened 30 or 35 years ago in America is happening now in Zimbabwe," said Frankis, 32, who aspires to eventually be Zimbabwe’s first openly gay member of parliament. "We are very much in the Dark Ages here."
Except in neighbouring South Africa, where homosexuals of every creed and colour are visible, well-organised and entitled to equal rights under the liberal state constitution, there is little precedent in Africa for those trying to promote gay activism in Zimbabwe. In 1999 when the government attempted to write a new constitution, GALZ pushed for the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause, which was refused. The draft constitution was itself rejected in a referendum, albeit for a host of different reasons than that of homosexual rights.
Goddard told IWPR that since the Nineties, GALZ’s priority has been preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst gays – this despite fears that a close association with AIDS awareness efforts would cause the disease to be perceived as a "gay plague". The group stepped into the fray because it was concerned that information about preventing HIV transmission appeared to be aimed at heterosexuals in a country where a quarter of the population is infected with HIV.
" The gay and lesbian issue is completely ignored," said Goddard. However, he said the association was pleasantly surprised when it received a small sum of taxpayers’ money from the government-run National Aids Council recently. "An audit found that we were one of the organisations which put the money to good use," said Goddard.
At present, GALZ is one of the few lobby groups in Zimbabwe that has a treatment plan up and running for people with full-blown AIDS. "Our members can die in traffic accidents or from any other cause, but we don’t want them to die of AIDS," said GALZ health manager Martha Thodlanah.
Before the end of the year, the association intends to have all its registered members taking an HIV test. It will also distribute posters warning people about the ways in which gays are vulnerable to AIDS.
Taking its agenda a step further, GALZ has also applied to present a paper at the national AIDS conference later this year. Police harassment has driven one of GALZ’s founders, Kudah Samuriwo, out of the country. He has become a drag performer on the London theatre circuit with his show "The Queen of Africa". One of his favourite jokes goes, "I don’t know what Mugabe has against pigs and dogs. He must have had the worst sex ever with them."
In a recent BBC interview, Kudah said his uncle, a soldier, raped him in the early Seventies at the age of 14 the night after his relative had returned from Mugabe’s military crackdown on the minority Ndebele people of western and southern Zimbabwe. His show charts his personal story, including Mugabe’s oppression of the gay community, with homosexuals repeatedly bribed, detained, beaten and sometimes raped by the authorities. Kudah intends to take his show back home to Zimbabwe one day as part of a new liberation struggle. "After all, a Queen must protect her subjects, even if the president refuses to do so,” he said.
26 October 2006
Zimbabwe Homophobia raises HIV risk for gays
Efforts to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Zimbabwe’s homosexual population are being frustrated by homophobia in the government and society. This is according to the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), a national network of 6,000 gay men and women formed in 1989 to champion and protect the interests of the gay community in Zimbabwe. Men who have sex with men are at high risk from HIV/AIDS, but Samuel Madzikure, GALZ programme manager for health, said the government’s attitude towards homosexuals had made it extremely difficult for his organisation to target the gay community with prevention messages.
Zimbabwe’s Sexual Offences Act forbids homosexuality and President Robert Mugabe has lambasted gays and lesbians on several occasions, describing them as "worse than pigs and dogs". " Our government is rabidly anti-gays, and this makes it almost impossible for us to reach out to our membership, some of whom would not want to be known because of the pervasive anti-gay sentiments in government and society in general," said Madzikure.
Tongai (last name withheld), an HIV-positive member of GALZ, said he had experienced great difficulty in accessing treatment and counselling at public health institutions and nongovernmental AIDS service organisations. " Most AIDS service organisations in this country do not want to be associated with gays. Once they know you are gay, they will not help you – they will try to frustrate you so that you don’t come back," he said.
Such discrimination is even more pronounced in public health institutions. "Last year, I was nearly refused treatment at a local clinic because ‘I was behaving like a gay’. I was suffering from tuberculosis (TB), coughing persistently. I was finally treated, but they had humiliated me," said Tongai. Madzikure alleged that the government intentionally excluded gays and lesbians from national HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment programmes. "If you walk into any government health institution now you will find that there is no information or literature on gays and lesbians."
The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa, refuted these allegations, saying all Zimbabweans were accorded the same status by health institutions. "When a person goes to a health centre, that person is not asked his or her sexual orientation," he told IRIN PlusNews. Efforts by GALZ to obtain government assistance in establishing the exact number of gays and lesbians infected by HIV have been frustrated, as have their requests to meet with Parirenyatwa.
GALZ’s attempts to advertise its services in the media have also met with resistance. The sole national broadcaster, ZTV, and national radio stations have refused adverts by GALZ. Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) spokesperson Sivukile Simango refused to comment but an official from ZBH, who requested anonymity, confirmed that it was the organisation’s policy not to accept adverts aimed at gays and lesbians.
Many gay people, particularly in rural areas, were unaware of the HIV counseling and education services offered by GALZ, and lacked information on how to protect themselves from the virus. "A lot of gay men in Zimbabwe have died silently through ignorance and multiple stigmatisation of homosexuality and seropositivity. As a result, there is a growing sense of urgency to extend services to this community," Madzikure said.
Chitiga Mbanje of the Centre, a nongovernmental organisation that provides counselling, training and home-based care to people living with HIV/AIDS, confirmed that HIV prevalence appeared to be very high in the gay community. " Lack of information means they expose themselves not only to AIDS, but to many other diseases. This is a direct result of homophobia in our country," Mbanje commented.
Despite the pervasive homophobia in Zimbabwe, GALZ has seen its membership rise steadily, with about 400 new members joining each year. " It is apparent that homosexuality exists throughout society, including rural areas," said Madzikure. "Even if Mugabe does not accept it, it [homosexuality] is there, and it will not go away. We have to accept that it exists, so that we can work together in addressing HIV/AIDS among the gay community."
Chairman of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV (ZNPP+), Benjamin Mazhindu, called for legislation on homosexuality to be changed. "What we need to do is fight for a change of laws so that gays are given recognition. Without that, fighting AIDS among homosexuals will be futile."
21 November 2006
The new struggle for equality: Gay rights (and wrongs) in Africa–South Africa has legalised same-sex marriage – but despite this pioneering measure, the rest of the continent remains one of the most homophobic places in the world
by Alex Duval Smith
Deep in the Sahara one of the world’s most extraordinary tribal exhibitions takes place every year when young men of the Wadabi tribe adorn themselves with beads and face paint to woo their future wives. At the end of the all-night ceremony the most effeminate of them all is given the pick of the virgins. This extravaganza in Niger is considered to be one of Africa’s most treasured heterosexual rituals. But almost anywhere else on the continent, any flirting with sexual boundaries is deeply taboo. Being gay in Africa is not easy.
When the South African parliament voted last week to legalise same- sex marriage, Mongezi Chirwa, a resident of Alexandra, near Johannesburg, was quick to pipe up that he was looking forward to becoming one of the first men to tie the knot with his boyfriend. His declaration came shortly after Lindiwe Radebe, 25, and Bathini Dambuza, 22, two women from Soweto who have been engaged for a year, went public on television about their decision to be wed.
The debate that followed in the South African media was not so much centred on the old arguments that homosexuality is an "abomination" brought to Africa by the colonisers. Neither has there been much quoting of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s view that gays and lesbians are "worse than dogs and pigs". Guardians of tradition, such as Mr Chirwa’s grandmother and spiritual healer Nokuzola Mndende, argue that the real problem presented by the new South African law – which is expected to be passed by the National Council of Provinces before being signed into law on 1 December – is that it is going to be difficult for African families to adapt their traditional rituals to their new gay and lesbian in-laws.
Mrs Mndende, who is the director of the Icamagu Institute, said: "There’s the issue of lobolo [dowry]. Normally the man pays it. In this case, who is going to pay?" She added that when a man announces that he wishes to marry a woman, the families meet and an unozakuzaku is formed – a delegation that negotiates lobolo for the groom. "Who is going to be unozakuzaku?" she asked. Mrs Mndende is disappointed that South Africa’s black-led government – which passed the Civil Union Bill by 230 votes to 41 – is setting out to "destabilise tradition".
But according to Mogezi Guma, of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, traditional practices are inventions which can easily be adapted. "Communities have always accommodated emerging challenges. For instance, cattle were used before as a way of paying lobolo but today money and cheques and receipts are exchanged." Africa remains one of the most homophobic places in the world and even in South Africa – with the exception of gay tourism spots in Cape Town – it is not advisable for same-sex couples to walk hand-in- hand in the street. There are occasional moments of liberation from this rule, such as during Johannesburg’s annual gay pride event, which has been staged every September for the past 16 years. Zimbabwe’s annual Jacaranda Ball was a similar event, until the drag queens got too frightened to go out of doors.
African archbishops, especially Nigeria’s Peter Akinola who has 17 million Anglicans in his flock, have led the schism in the Anglican Communion since the election of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop in New Hampshire, in 2003. Churches in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have followed suit, principally by refusing grants from the American Episcopal Church. Critics of the South African Civil Union Bill point out that its fatal flaw is that religious leaders may still, on grounds of "conscience, religion and belief" refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings. The churchmen have been supported by politicians such as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who last year changed the constitution to introduce a ban on same-sex marriage. A radio station that invited three activists to comment on the ban was fined 1.8m shillings (£800).
In Nigeria – which enforces powerful anti-homosexual laws from the colonial era, including five years’ jail for consenting sex without the option of a fine – the Federal Executive Council also approved a bill in January seeking to outlaw gay marriage. In October 2004, a Sierra Leonean lesbian activist, Fannyann Eddy was raped and savagely beaten, and died from a broken neck, after being assaulted in her office. A man was arrested but escaped from detention.
In Cameroon, 11 men are currently in prison on the basis of their presumed sexual orientation after nine of them were found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment at a trial in June. At a separate court hearing, four suspected lesbians were given suspended six month sentences for "sodomy". At the same time, Cameroon’s media has launched an aggressive "outing" campaign. Its victims have included the Franco-Cameroonian former tennis star Yannick Noah, 45, the singer Manu Dibango and two cabinet ministers.
In Zimbabwe, the ritual homophobic destruction of the gay and lesbian stand at the Harare International Book Fair took place again this August. President Mugabe believes that "gay gangsters" – some of whom he sees belonging to the British Government – are conspiring for regime change.
In Ghana, four men were jailed for two years in 2004 for alleged "unnatural acts". Gays and lesbians in the west African country still only agree to speak anonymously about their experience. One man said: "People imagine that gays are paedophiles and criminals. You are taunted as a child. I had a friend who was recently told he was evil and would not go to heaven. Pentecostal churches perform exorcism rites on people seen as being gay. I was beaten up a couple of years ago. I met this guy on the beach and agreed to meet him at the market. When I got there several men and women accused me of forcing their friend to have sex. They beat me and took everything I had. " They said gays were evil people who made God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. They said they would beat out of me the evil spirit of homosexuality."
African homophobes justify their actions with the claim that homosexuality is a white colonial import. The former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi said it himself in 1999: "It is against African tradition and biblical teachings, I will not shy from warning Kenyans against this scourge." The Namibian former president Sam Nujoma said: "Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected. Homosexuality is a behavioural disorder that is alien to African culture".
But activists say homosexuality and gender-bending is as old as Africa. They say that what came with the colonisers was homophobia in the shape of morally charged legislation that aimed to tame "savage" practices such as shows of affection between people of the same sex. Activists quote the Garawal – the annual extravagant marriage ritual of the flamboyant Wadabi tribe. Historians say that in ancient traditional communities homosexuality – which in the Shona language of Zimbabwe has a name, ngochani – was widespread and acceptable. Men who wished to adopt traditional female roles and who found male partners were not frowned upon because they did not represent a threat to other men. Same-sex relationships only came under threat at times of extreme poverty or famine when there was an urgent need for procreation.
But if South Africa last week became the first country in Africa to legalise same-sex weddings it is not because the country has a better grasp than others on African anthropological history. It is because the country has an organised gay and lesbian movement – including influential websites (such as mask.org.za) that have provided a lung of expression for people in all English-speaking African countries – and political influence. It was as a result of a case brought by gay and lesbian campaigners that the South African Constitutional Court last year gave the government until 1 December to create the Civil Union Bill that legalises same-sex weddings.
Despite its lobbying power, the South African gay and lesbian lobby would not be where it is today without a man called Simon Nkoli, to whom the ruling African National Congress owes a profound debt of gratitude.
Nkoli, who was 41 when he died from an Aids illness in November 1998, united black and white gays and lesbians and initiated the first South African Pride march in 1990. More importantly, as an anti-apartheid campaigner, he spent four years in jail with leading ANC figures Popo Molefe, Frank Chikane and the current Defence Minister Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota. Nkoli profoundly influenced the future decision-makers who were his fellow inmates to incorporate gays and lesbians in the dream they held for a democratic South Africa, free from all forms of discrimination.
The playwright Robert Colman, who has written about Nkoli’s life, said the gay activist had a profound impression on the other prisoners. "There was a scandal in the prison when a warder delivered a note which was proof that one of the treason triallists was arranging a meeting for sex with a common-law prisoner. Political prisoners at the time had a code of conduct whereby they did not indulge in those practices. They set themselves above other prisoners because they did not see themselves as criminals. " The issue of the note had to be discussed among the 22 political prisoners. Because of the homophobic reaction of some of the men, Simon came out. This step confronted the other prisoners with a dilemma. Some of them thought Simon would turn state witness. They thought the state would use Simon’s sexuality as a weakness to manipulate him with. I believe that incident had a very direct bearing on the equality clause in the South African constitution."
Last week, before the vote in South Africa’s parliament, the Home Affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the Civil Unions Bill marked another step in the country’s rejection of its brutal past. Ahead of a vote in which all ANC MPs were required to vote, she sought to shift the debate’s focus from the emotional to the intellectual. " The challenge that we continue to face has to do with the fact that when we attained our democracy we sought to distinguish ourselves from an unjust painful past, by declaring that never again shall it be that any South African will be discriminated against on the basis of colour, creed, culture and sex."
Mr Lekota, an unrepentant heterosexual, told MPs: "The question is not whether same-sex marriages or civil unions are right or not. It is whether South Africa is going to suppress same-sex partners or not. " Men and women of homosexual and lesbian orientation joined the ranks of the democratic forces in the struggle for liberation. Same-sex unions should be afforded similar space as heterosexual marriages in the sunshine of democracy," said Mr Lekota.
Africa and homosexuality
On 14 November South Africa became the first African nation to legalise same-sex marriage. Under apartheid, sex between men was outlawed. Even today 63 per cent believe that homosexuality should not be accepted.
Male homosexuality is illegal and since 1995 President Robert Mugabe has pursued a "moral campaign" against homosexuals. He has said being gay is a "white disease". "Unnatural sex acts" carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Male homosexual activity is illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape, if "in public or with minor". Two months ago a gay rights conference was banned.
Homosexuality is illegal and can be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine of up to £75, but the law is seldom enforced, and homosexual activity is fairly common, especially in the resorts.
There is no law against being gay. Homosexual behaviour is not mentioned as a criminal offence in the penal code. However, homosexuality is considered immoral and is a taboo subject.
The law prohibits homosexual acts by both sexes, with a penalty of up to three years in prison. This may be increased by five or more years when the offender "makes a profession of such activities".
There are no laws against homosexuality, but it has started to become illegal de facto under various laws such as "offences against public morals" and "violating the teachings of religion".
Homosexual behaviour is banned between men, which is referred to as "carnal knowledge against the order of nature". The penalty is five to 14 years’ imprisonment. The age of consent is 16. Lesbian relations are not prohibited by law.
December 08, 2006
Zimbabwe parliament lashes out against homosexual remark
A Zimbabwean parliament session during which South Africa’s same-sex marriage law was discussed has caused an uproar, the International Herald Tribune reports. The country’s leaders were appalled when lawmaker Moses Mzila-Ndlouvu called top government leaders homosexuals, though he later apologized, saying that he did not name names. As in most other sub-Saharan countries in Africa, homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, acting leader of the parliament’s ruling party, told the media and lawmakers that the country does not support gay marriage. " In Zimbabwe we are very clear that men marry women and women get married to men," he said, adding, "We have no duty to criticize laws passed by another parliament."
19 Apr 2007
Gay activist goes into hiding after disclosing afffair with government minister
The dreaded Zimbabwe state security agency the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) has launched a manhunt for gay activist Dumisani Dube after the activist made a stunning disclosure to ZimDaily last week that he had a love affair with cabinet minister and Mugabe loyalist Stan Mudenge who infected him with the deadly HIV virus five years ago.
by Fikile Mapala
The hunted gay activist who fears for his life has gone into hiding and says he is making arrangements to flee the country before he is captured. The CIO is well known in Zimbabwe for their rank brutality and savagery when dealing with suspected culprits.
Dube, a member of a fringe association Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has threatened to expose names of six well known cabinet ministers, priests and several ZANU PF bigwigs who he claims are gay and have solicited sex from his friends and other GALZ members over the past ten years.
The HIV positive gay activist is a long-standing member of GALZ which was established in 1989 and has a membership of over 500 people most of them black Zimbabweans. It has offices in Milton Park, Harare and its executive director is Keith Goddard a well-known, gay activist. Dube phoned this reporter on Tuesday complaining that the story posted by ZimDaily a few days ago had created unnecessary problems saying the CIO are now on his trail. Dube faces possible arrest and prosecution.
The activist revealed that he was not a “closet homosexual” and was not ashamed of his sexual orientation and HIV status. “ I am not saying that you exposed me or anything like that. But I feel my life is in danger now. I went public about my homosexuality over ten years ago and about my HIV status some five years ago. The Lord is my Shepherd and he knows I am gay”, declared Dube.
Dube added that if people continued bothering him about his sexuality he was going to spill more beans and embarrass a lot of big people who pretend to be straight in public when they are gay in private. He added that he was currently worried about his security although he was making plans to slip out of the country without delay. He promised to “spill the beans” as soon as he is safe and out of the country.
Asked about his destination Dube said there were many gay friendly countries in the world and he would choose one.“ If people continue phoning me, abusing me, harassing me and bothering me like this I am going to embarrass some people who think they are being clever by joining the band wagon of gay bashers. I know several government ministers, including priests and top ZANU PF officials who are gay. In fact I know about six ministers and former ministers who are gay. Some of them have slept with my friends.
Ask Morgan, Chesterfield, Samuel and Lewis at GALZ and they will tell you that they have gone out and slept with government ministers at one time or the other”, said the soft-spoken Dube. He said his friends could be easily located at GALZ center in Milton Park. He added that one of the cabinet ministers had actually bought a car- a Nissan Sunny sedan – and was presently renting a flat for his friend Chesterfield Samba in Harare’s Avenues area adding that the two are deeply in love. Samba is also the programs manager at GALZ.
When pressed by ZimDaily to reveal the names of the six gay cabinet ministers, priests and ZANU PF officials Dube referred ZimDaily to his four friends saying they were better placed to name their partners. However efforts by ZimDaily to contact the four were fruitless as their cell phones were either unreachable or went unanswered on Tuesday. Dube has gone into hiding after plain clothed man who identified themselves as security agents paid him a visit four times at his Marlborough home on Monday night and Tuesday morning. The CIO have also visited his friends’ houses and GALZ offices looking for Dube. Dube was not home all the time and the state agents traveling in an unmarked white Nissan truck left a message that he should report at Harare Central Police Station without fail.
The gay activist says he suspects the CIO wants to interrogate him over his claims that he had a sexual relationship with Minister Mudenge for a period of six months in 2002 or even arrest him. He disclosed to his friends that the minister had infected him with HIV. Dube was recently fired by GALZ as its publications manager on allegations of recklessly infecting 12 other homosexuals with HIV. GALZ executive director Keith Goddard confirmed Dube’s dismissal. He has since been replaced by Millicent Tanhira a lesbian formerly a reporter with The Sunday Mirror.
Sources in government have said that the revelations by ZimDaily of Mudenge’s homosexuality has embarrassed and angered President Robert Mugabe who has publicly called for the arrest of all homosexuals in the country. Mugabe has on several occasions said that homosexuals are “worse than pigs and dogs”. Mugabe has also referred derogatorily to the British cabinet as “Blair’s gay cabinet”. Critics however say Mugabe is a pretender and a hypocrite who has readily accommodated homosexuals in his government and ruling party while bashing gays in public.It remains to be seen how the unpredictable but vindictive Mugabe is going to deal with the latest revelations that his cabinet and party is packed with homosexuals.
12 Jun 2007
Zimbabwe – Possible changes to LGBTI laws?
GALZ reports on the recent news on possible changes to the decriminalisation of sexual acts between men: The National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe (NAC) recently published its National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan (ZNASP) and it contains some astonishing good news for the LGBTI movement in Zimbabwe.
Through the intense lobbying efforts of former GALZ Programme Manager for Health, Martha Tholanah, and other GALZ staff, our National AIDS Programme now calls for specific HIV/AIDS interventions amongst Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and even calls for the decriminalisation of sexual acts between men. It argues that ‘punitive measures’ serve only to drive MSM underground, making intervention efforts more difficult. It also breaks the automatic link between homosexuals and prostitution which characterised the interpretation of homosexuality in the original 1999 version.
The following is the important paragraph on page 20:
‘While homosexuality remains illegal in Zimbabwe, there can be no doubt that there are men who have sex with men. They are at risk of HIV infection and passing on the virus to their partners, including female partners. Furthermore, international experience has shown that ignoring this group or adopting punitive approaches will only serve to drive MSM underground and reduce opportunities to dialogue with this group. An assessment of MSM partners, meeting points and behaviours will therefore be carried out, and adequate public health interventions developed on the findings.’
Although the document fails to mention Women who have Sex with Women (WSW), this is still a significant victory for GALZ and the wider LGBTI community and puts significant weight behind GALZ’s HIV/AIDS programmes and other campaigning. But what is astounding and almost beyond belief is that the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan carries a foreword by and the hefty signature of none other than the National President himself, a man world famous for his epithet ‘worse than dogs and pigs’. Perhaps, after all, pigs do fly in July – but, then again, did he read it.