Behind the Mask LGBT African website
Gay Rights and History from Wikipedia
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)
27th February 2008 – PinkNews
African lesbian conference demands equal rights
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Lesbians from across Africa have held a conference in Mozambique to highlight the homophobia and prejudice they face across the continent. Most nations in Africa criminalise same-sex relationships and in some countries gay people can be put to death. The Coalition of African Lesbians conference was attended by more than 100 delegates.
Women from 14 African countries gathered in Namibia’s capital Windhoek in August 2004 to develop the Coalition of African Lesbians. Lesbian organisations and a number of individual women from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia are members of the organisation. "Our main goal is that lesbian and homosexuality can no longer be seen as a criminal offence," the group’s director and conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi told Reuters. "You should not be arrested and charged for how you use your own body."
The coalition lobbies for political, legal social, sexual, cultural and economic rights of African lesbians by engaging strategically with African and international structures and allies and to eradicate stigma and discrimination against lesbians. South Africa, one of the few countries on the continent where gay men and lesbians are allowed to marry and legally protected from discrimination, has been rocked by several murders of prominent lesbian activists.
Sizakele Sigasa, 34, an activist for HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights, and Salome Masooa, 24, were discovered dead at field in Soweto, Johannesburg, on July 8th. They had both been shot and, it is suspected, raped. On 22nd July Thokozane Qwabe, 23, was found in a field in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal with multiple head wounds. She was naked and it is thought she was also raped.
April 27, 2008 – The New York Times
In Zimbabwe Jail: A Reporter’s Ordeal
by Barry Bearak
Harare, Zimbabwe — I had never been arrested before and the prospect of prison in Zimbabwe, one of the poorest, most repressive places on earth, seemed especially forbidding: the squalor, the teeming cells, the possibility of beatings. But I told myself what I’d repeatedly taught my two children: Life is a collection of experiences. You savor the good, you learn from the bad. I was being charged with the crime of “committing journalism.” One of my captors, Detective Inspector Dani Rangwani, described the offense to me as something despicable, almost hissing the words: “You’ve been gathering, processing and disseminating the news.” And I’d been caught at it red-handed, my notes spread across my desk, my text messages readable on my cellphone, my stories preserved by Microsoft Word in an open laptop.
At one point, 21 policemen and detectives milled about my room at a small lodge in Harare, the capital. They knocked against one another as they ambled about, some kneeling, some on tiptoes, searching for clues in the cabinets and drawers. Men with rifles guarded the door. They immediately found my two United States passports, ample evidence of subterfuge. One contained work papers indicating I was a reporter; the other, the one with my visa, said I had entered the country as a tourist.
“But you’re actually a journalist?” I was asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“And you are not accredited in Zimbabwe?”
“No, I’m not.”
I had concerns well beyond myself, for certain Zimbabweans had been assisting me. Messages between us lived on in the phone. Whatever bad times lay ahead for me, I imagined things would undoubtedly be worse for these others, these friends. One of the cops gripped the phone. “You’re in terrible trouble,” he admonished. His tone was menacing but there was also an odd curl to his smile that I took to be an invitation. “Can you help me?” I whispered.
His right thumb was nimbly working the keypad of the phone, but then it dropped to his side and he used it to massage his forefinger, sign language for the universal lubricant of the greased palm. In a few minutes, I negotiated safe passage to the bathroom and left him $100 in my shaving kit. Then we stood shoulder to shoulder. “What’s this?” he’d demand accusingly as we scrolled through the messages. Each time I’d nod yes, he’d hit delete. The crowded room was hot. Already, I felt jailed. I needed a breath of air, but when I moved toward the door, Detective Jasper Musademba, a well-built man in a jacket and tie, stopped me. He had been the most threatening of the police. “If you try to go outside…” he said sternly, stopping in midsentence. He made his hand into a gun and pulled the trigger.
“You’ll kill me?” I asked.
“Good,” he remarked wryly. “Then you’ve seen that movie.”
An Electoral Limbo
I’d come to Zimbabwe to cover the March 29 elections, momentous times in a contentious country. History was taking a gallant turn against long-shot odds. Robert Mugabe, the enduring political chameleon who’d led the nation since its liberation from Britain in 1980, seemed on the cliff edge of defeat. Day after day, Zimbabwe languished in a peculiar limbo. While the government refused to release the results of the presidential race, totals already had been posted at every polling station and there were solid reasons to think that Mr. Mugabe, the 84-year-old president, had suffered an unexpected comeuppance. This must have come as a shock to the “old man,” as Zimbabweans call him, not only since the election apparatus was so slanted in his favor but because he considered himself the father of his people. Knowledgeable sources told me the rebuke had at first left President Mugabe depressed and ready to concede.
His power had flourished through methodical cruelty, including the murder of thousands of people in the dissident stronghold of Matabeleland. As he and cronies then acquired lavish mansions and enormous bank accounts, he thrust the nation into a calamitous economic meltdown, the main precipitator being a misbegotten takeover of productive farms from white landowners. Mr. Mugabe, who holds the genuine bona fides of a liberation hero, likes to present himself as one of freedom’s great champions. Maintaining a veneer of democracy is important to his image. Civic groups are permitted to meet so long as their messages fail to reach the masses. Courts can convene so long as Mr. Mugabe reserves the right to sweep aside inconvenient decisions. Elections can be held so long as political adversaries survive beatings and jailings and torture — and the results can be reliably rigged. On April 3, the day I was arrested, my means of observing these mechanisms oddly shifted from a vantage point outside to one within. My own freedom would depend on those remnant smidgens of civil liberty still granted the citizenry — and on the many brave people who carry on unbowed against relentless intimidation.
The veneer of freedom Mr. Mugabe permits the press is applied with the thinnest of coats. Though some independent weeklies are allowed to publish, the state controls the only daily newspaper and television station. Most Western reporters are routinely denied entry. I was new to Africa. My wife, Celia Dugger, and I arrived in January as The New York Times’s co-bureau chiefs in Johannesburg. With elections coming in Zimbabwe, I soon made two trips to Harare, each time taking ritualistic precautions for safety. I left my credentials and laptop at home, entered the country as a tourist and interviewed people only behind closed doors. Each night, I destroyed my notes after e-mailing their contents to myself at an Internet cafe. I wrote my articles only upon returning to Johannesburg. But the presidential election presented new complications. Daily articles needed to be filed. I had to openly work the streets, then go back to a room with a reliable wireless link to transmit from my laptop. Over time, normally wary reporters began taking risks that mocked earlier prudence, announcing their names and affiliations at opposition news conferences.
Necessity numbed my own caution. My articles required continuous updating for The Times’s Web site, so there I’d be in downtown Harare, a backpack slung over my shoulder, dictating quotes from my notebook and spelling names into the wavering connection of the mobile phone. Early on, I had asked that my byline be kept from the articles. But other reporters were less guarded about revealing themselves in print. I eventually followed suit. I was staying at York Lodge, a collection of eight cottages spread around a lovely expanse of shrubs and lawn. At age 58, after 33 years as a reporter, I’d like to think I have a nose for trouble, alert to danger like some frontier cavalry scout who tenses up at the sound of a suspicious birdcall. But the police had been at the lodge for 45 minutes before I knew a thing. I was filing another update for the Web site when I left the room for a breather about 4 p.m. Maria Phiri, a tall, wiry detective in hoop earrings and a red dress, called out, “Hey you!” I was stunned.
Several men hurried my way. Their very first question had me reeling.
“Who are you?”
A Land of ‘No Law’
Two reporters were rounded up at York Lodge; two others were warned away before returning from the field. The other unfortunate was Stephen Bevan, 45, an able British freelancer who works for The Sunday Telegraph. We were taken in a pickup truck to the Harare Central Police Station, a large colonial-era complex colloquially known as Law and Order. The detectives’ evident glee at our capture was soon tempered by the arrival of a familiar and implacable foe, Beatrice Mtetwa, the nation’s top human rights lawyer. She is a striking woman with rectangular glasses and a neatly trimmed Afro. “There is no crime called ‘committing journalism,’ whether it is with accreditation or without,” she informed us privately in her exaggerated, lawyerly diction. This was actually news to us — and quite a relief. In fact, the law had been amended in January. It was now only illegal to falsely claim to be accredited, and neither Stephen nor I had done that.
But Ms. Mtetwa also explained the sinister realities of a woebegone place: “Ultimately, there is no law in Zimbabwe. Your governments can’t apply pressure; the British and the Americans have negative influence here. The police will hold you as long as they want.” She was president of the nation’s law society. The police had beaten her with truncheons the year before. Her colleague, Alec Muchadehama, had recently spent time in the Harare Central cells that now loomed before us. “This is one of our worst places,” he told us gravely. “You’ll need to brace yourselves.”
The human mind is actually good at such things. It doesn’t take much time to think of greatly admired people who have been wrongly locked up in the jails of the world. I already knew a dozen civic leaders in Zimbabwe with horrid tales of time in custody. Some were beaten, most often around their torsos and the soles of their feet. Some were simply held in the vile cells. I managed to call Celia with a borrowed phone. My wife somehow knows how to all at once be emotionally distraught and serenely levelheaded. She was already strategizing about how to free me; at the same time she was getting ready to assume the newspaper’s Zimbabwe coverage from Johannesburg.
“Don’t worry, whatever the cells are like I can handle it,” I told her, attempting a tough guy’s bravado. I added a reporter’s inside joke. “Really, anything is better than having to file four stories a day for the Web site.” Not long after midnight, Detective Musademba escorted Stephen and me to the jail. Electricity no longer works in much of the decrepit complex. The hallways were entirely desolate and silent but for the squeaking of our shoes and intermittent drips from exposed pipes. At such an ominous time, my senses felt eerily deprived, except for smell. With every step, the odor of the urine-soaked lockup grew a bit stronger.
The Cell Door Slams Shut
The uniformed jailers wrote our names in a ledger and asked us to empty our pockets. I was flush with $4,000 cash, an amount meant to last weeks in a nation where credit cards were of little use. About $150 of that had been converted into the ludicrously inflated Zimbabwean currency; crammed in my pants were bundles of $10 million bills that piled up four inches high. The jailers patiently counted the sum before stashing it in a safe. There was never an attempt at a shakedown. Bribery was more on our minds than theirs. Stephen doled out $40 for the tenuous privilege of spending our initial hours on a wooden bench in the admittance area instead of the dreaded cells. Sleep was impossible. The bench was hard, the room cold and noisy. Near dawn, one of the bribed night crew, fearing his supervisors, rousted us from the bench and hastily herded us upstairs into an unlighted empty cage.
“You can’t be found wearing your socks,” he warned urgently. “It’s not allowed. You can’t wear more than one shirt either. Hide these things.” The heavy bars then clanged shut; a padlock clicked. We couldn’t really observe the surroundings until morning, when the first sliver of sunlight pierced the one narrow window at the ceiling. The cell was about 7 feet wide and 15 feet deep. Three bare shelves of rough concrete extended a body’s length from both of the longer walls. Only the top slab left enough space for a person to sit upright, albeit with slouched shoulders. There was a circle of concrete in a corner to be used as a toilet. Behind it was a faucet. Stephen tried the knob. It did not work. The floor was filthy. The odor of human waste infected the air. More bothersome were the bugs. “Cockroaches the size of skateboards,” I quipped. This was hyperbole. The insects were mostly tiny and black, others short, white and wormy. We were soon sharing our clothes with them.
About 7 a.m. the cells were emptied for “the count,” a routine taking of attendance in a large room farther upstairs. I clumsily hid my socks in my pants and buttoned one shirt to completely cover the other. There were about 150 inmates, many of them staring our way. We were older; we were the only whites. We joined them on one side of the open room. As names were called, prisoners were obliged to acknowledge their presence and shift to the opposite wall. I parroted some of the others, using the Shona word “ndiripo” when my turn came. The gesture drew some cheers and applause. It seemed an icebreaker, and before the session was over, we were being tutored in how to say “mangwanani,” or good morning. Prison movies had made me fear predation. But the inmates were instead a forlorn lot, a fair selection of Harare’s downtrodden, people who’d once had decent jobs and who’d now been reduced to scrounging and worse. Two of the more personable ones were car thieves. Only because their families were starving, they said. Two others, Donald and Lancelot, were accused of poaching after cutting the hindquarter off a deer that had been hit by a bus.
We mingled easily, swapping stories and comparing bug bites. Most were in a worse fix than we were. None said they’d been beaten; they weren’t political types. But few had lawyers — and many were jailed without their families knowing. This had dismal implications. The jail provided prisoners no food. If no one knew you were there, no one knew to bring you something to eat. At breakfast, Stephen and I were allowed downstairs and pointed toward a well-stuffed wicker bag. The empathetic wife of the British ambassador had personally overseen preparation of our first meal. Sandwiches of bacon and eggs were triple-wrapped to hold their warmth. Tea, coffee, cocoa and sugar were packed in little bags to use with a thermos of hot water. There were juice boxes, soda cans, chocolate bars, hard candies and breath mints. Neither of us had much appetite, but we were enormously grateful. Thwarted as journalists, we now had renewed purpose. We could feed the hungry.
A Deadline Looms
It was a Friday, and Fridays held a fateful deadline. If we didn’t get bail, we’d be locked away all weekend. We were relieved to be sent back to Law and Order, where we again found Beatrice Mtetwa, our lawyer. The night before, I had wanly told her that the case against me seemed hopelessly open-and-shut. I had written articles, and anyone who Googled my name with “Zimbabwe” would have all the proof that was needed. She harrumphed at that, insisting that even a simple database search was beyond the technical expertise of the Harare police. I now realized she might be right. The Criminal Investigations Department had only a few computers, a shortage of chairs and no functioning toilet. Detectives who earlier had seemed so competently fearsome now reminded me of the beleaguered gumshoes on “Barney Miller.”
Detective Musademba hunt-and-pecked on an antique typewriter, making triplicates with carbon paper. He’d sometimes shake away his boredom by breaking into song and pounding out the beat with the palms of his hands. Detective Inspector Rangwani, in charge of the investigation, was lamenting his need for a copy of the updated statutes. “May I use yours?” he asked our lawyer, who took the opportunity to hector and berate him. “This is a police state,” Ms. Mtetwa said brassily. “The law is only applied when it serves the perpetuation of the state. How does it feel, Inspector Rangwani, to be used this way by the state?”
The browbeaten cop looked bedraggled, his head sagging from his neck like a wilted house plant. He replied meekly, “Madame, I agree with you and I have made a recommendation just as you have stated to drop the charges.” Suddenly, the nightmare seemed to be ending with a yielding snap of the finger. The inspector forwarded the matter to the attorney general’s office, and the appropriate official there advised the police to set us free. But there was then an odd delay, then an abrupt reversal, the pretense of a working justice system lost in a maddening flicker. “The law only applies when it serves the perpetuation of the state,” Ms. Mtetwa repeated. Two South African television technicians had been arrested the week before on similar charges. That morning, a magistrate found them not guilty. Yet instead of being released, they were rearrested. Someone in the government thought this a useful time to suppress the zeal of interfering foreign media.
Clemens Madzingo, the police’s chief superintendent, himself gave us the news. He is a huge, pit bull of a man. He stood in the doorway with a triumphant grin. New charges were forthcoming, he said. Proof of our misdeeds would soon be excavated from files in our confiscated laptops. “Until then, you’ll be back in the cells.”
The Hard-Liners Prevail
Things had turned badly for us; more important, things were more hapless for Zimbabwe. The government now bizarrely announced a recount of its unannounced election results. The hard-liners had apparently steeled Mr. Mugabe to fight on. In a fine Orwellian touch, they had accused the opposition of cheating. They now appeared set to finagle an election victory. Did our incarceration somehow suit such purposes? That possibility set us into anxiety overdrive. Our wives, our editors, our embassies: they were all working hard to get us out. And while these welcome efforts supplied hope, they also left us vaguely embarrassed. If pressure could be applied on Mr. Mugabe, it ought to be for Zimbabwe’s sake, not ours. Jail, once so forbidding, now seemed merely dreary and depressing. How would we keep warm? Was there a way to get clean? When will this end?
I was fortunate to have Stephen as a comrade. I once observed that while we were amply accompanied by every sort of insect, the jail lacked rodents. “Why would rats stay here?” he responded with his wonderful dry wit. “There’s no food. They’ve left the country the same as everyone else.” More than a quarter of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people have fled. The nation’s primary income is the cash sent home by this diaspora. Soon to follow are many inmates and guards from the jail. They wanted our phone numbers in Johannesburg — and pleaded with us not to forget them. We had befriended a few jailers, but those who allowed us favors would end their shift, followed by jailers more stern, some wielding lengths of rubber hose. Our socks went on, our socks came off. Sometimes we were left alone; sometimes we were stuffed in with many others. I delivered a parental lecture to a young cellmate who’d cut a man with a beer bottle in a bar fight.
We continued to share our food. But even this enjoyable gesture of charity could trigger regret. During the two daily “counts,” we’d try to note who seemed hungriest: The acrobat? The peddler? The guy in the “69” T-shirt? At meals, we were permitted to select only a few inmates to join us downstairs. A short, emaciated man in a red jersey had meekly asked to be included. “Stay close to me when they come for us,” I told him. But then I forgot. “I was near you,” he later muttered disconsolately, “right near you.”
A Blanket, Then a Fall
Sleep escaped me. The concrete was too hard, my body too bony. I had never so craved a pad and blanket. The insects were most annoying at night. In my wakefulness, I’d pull my sleeves over my hands but then the stretched fabric exposed my midriff. One time, when able to wander the bleak corridors, I found what once had been a bathroom, with the remnants of sinks and showers. In one corner was a heap of blankets, stiff and moldy and fetid. I was tempted to take one but they were simply too disgusting. I wasn’t yet that cold or tired. Still, I had a fixation. Surely, a blanket was obtainable. We hadn’t paid any bribes since that first night but we decided to raise the subject of contraband blankets with a favorite jailer. “Yes, this can be organized,” he agreed. The next day was Sunday; stores would be closed. He’d bring them from home.
That night, we awaited his footsteps. The jail possessed no flashlights. The guard used the tentative glow from a cellphone to find the right key. “I’m sorry but one blanket is very thin,” he quietly apologized. Stephen and I vied in self-sacrifice for the lesser covering, and I won with quicker hands. The top shelf in the cell was seven feet off the ground. I climbed up and smoothed the flimsy material over the concrete, but when I stepped down I lost my balance and grabbed a swatch of fabric instead of the sturdy ledge. I tumbled sideways, my hand grasping at empty air. I bounced off one concrete slab on the opposite side and then fell flat on my back. That was how I spent my fourth — and final — night in the Harare cells, in pain, slapping at bugs, still unable to sleep.
The Bail Hearing
Detective Musademba collected us in the morning for a bail hearing. The transport was an old pickup whose engine required a rolling start. He recruited Stephen to help push. I was excused because of my backache. The courthouse is called Rotten Row, after a nearby street. It’s a circular five-story structure built around four elaborate saucers that once fed into one another as a fountain. With the nation insolvent, there’s no money to maintain either ornamentations or courtrooms. Floors are filthy. Microphone stands have no mikes. The building’s clocks are each stymied at 7:10. Our hearing was pro forma; the magistrate released us each on bail of 300 million Zimbabwean dollars, about $7, and the police were ordered to surrender our seized passports into the custody of the bailiffs.
The real showdown only came later, a hearing when Beatrice Mtetwa would argue we never should have been arrested at all. I sat fretfully in the “dock,” the enclosed rectangle reserved for the accused. Across the room in the witness box stood Superintendent Madzingo, the brawny police chief who’d pledged to scavenge through our incriminating laptops. What did he have? Nothing, it turned out. He testified that “critical new evidence” had caused the attorney general’s office to reverse its initial decision to let us go, a hasty fiction that was not even loitering in the rough vicinity of the truth. When asked to provide documentation, he tendered the printout of an article scooped off my desk at York Lodge, something I’d brought to Harare as background for a possible feature article about a political candidate.
Ms. Mtetwa proceeded to hang up Mr. Madzingo like a side of beef. “Who is the author of that article?” she asked. The article wasn’t mine. It had been written by one of the all-time-greats of The New York Times, Anthony Lewis. “Can you tell us the date of that article?” It was published in 1989. Magistrate Gloria Takundwa first covered her giggles with fingers, then with the loose sleeve of her black robe.
Freedom, and Uncertainty
Beatrice Mtetwa said it was fortunate the case was before a magistrate. Most were independent, many were courageous. They were leftover gloss in Mr. Mugabe’s veneer of freedom. Justice was seldom found in higher courts. The magistrate announced her decision on April 16. While we had expected it to go our way, our minds were infused with our lawyer’s admonition: the law only matters when it serves the interest of the state. We suspected that the government intended to rearrest us, which turns out to be true. But whatever the intentions, we were better prepared. We fled quickly from Rotten Row, our car pirouetting through the streets until we were sure we weren’t followed. We waited in the parking lot of a pork production plant until word came that our passports had been recovered.
Then, by prearrangement, we rendezvoused with a driver in a fully gassed car, avoiding the country’s airports and heading northwest through the winding roads of the Matuzviadonha Mountains, toward the Zambezi River and a small border crossing into Zambia. I had left the cells with a case of scabies, an infestation of microscopic mites that swelled my hands and wrists to nearly twice their size. But I am better now, back in Johannesburg, with Celia, with our sons, Max, 17, and Sam, 12. In the meantime, Zimbabwe is beset with paroxysms of violence. Thuggery, torture and murder are familiar implements in Robert Mugabe’s tool kit. Political opponents are being brutalized, as are everyday people whose voting defied him. The presidential election results are still unannounced.
May 2, 2008 – PinkNews
Homophobe Mugabe beaten in Zimbabwean election
by Tony Grew
The results of last month’s Presidential election in Zimbabwe have finally been published. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, won 47.9%. Robert Mugabe of the Zanu/PF party won 43.2%, meaning there will need to be a second round of voting to determine the winner. The results have been delayed for a month, leading the UK and other counties to express concern that Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1981, was attempting to steal the election. The opposition MDC are likely to reject the results and argue that as their leader won the most votes, he is the rightful President. That gives hope to those desperate for an end to the 28-year rule of one of the world’s most homophobic heads of state.
Robert Mugabe, now 84, has terrorised many groups in his country, not least gays and lesbians. As his country crumbled around him, gay people became an even more victimised group, and he claimed homosexuality was "un-African" and a "white man’s disease." He told a cheering crowd of supporters in 2006 that gay marriages are a threat to civilisation and condemned churches that chose to bless same-sex relationships. That same year, as inflation rocketed and the standard of living of a nation once one of the richest in Africa fell to poverty levels, the government made it illegal for two people of the same sex to hug, hold hands or kiss.
Campaigner Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage! attempted to perform a citizens arrest on Mr Mugabe in Brussels in 2001. In 2004, Mr Tatchell requested at Bow Streets Magistrates Court for an arrest warrant for the Zimbabwean president over allegations of brutality, homophobia, and repression of civil rights. Mr Tatchell documented accounts of political opponents being rounded up and imprisoned. However, the magistrate, Timothy Workman, ruled that Mr Mugabe was entitled to immunity as a head of state.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2001 over allegations of fraud in the Presidential elections. Mr Tatchell was beaten unconscious by bodyguards employed by the Zimbabwean leader. Mugabe has targeted his country’s small gay population in recent years. MDC, while not advocates for gay rights, could hardly be worse than the current President.
For two people of the same sex to hold hands is against the law. He has previously described gay people as worse than "dogs and pigs", has warned against the dangers of homosexuality and threatened pro-gay clergy with prison sentences.
January 2008 – From: Galzette
The Position of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Zimbabwe
By Fadzai Muparutsa of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
Since 1995, discrimination against homosexuals in Zimbabwe has received widespread coverage and attention but specific forms of exclusion experienced by lesbians and bisexual women are often obscured by talk of the general oppression facing both sexes. Although homosexual men (including transgender men) are spurned by society, they still maintain the privileges that automatically accrue to them as biological males By contrast, lesbian and bisexual women suffer multiple forms of oppression, some of which relate to their sexuality but most of which relate to the general position of women in society. It is not possible to generalize about Zimbabwean culture but, on the whole, Zimbabweans of both sexes are expected to follow the predetermined path of marriage and the production of children. For both lesbians and gay men, whose relationships are not recognized, this often poses a serious barrier to freedom of choice. Nevertheless, the position for men is made significantly easier: men enjoy much greater access to public space and, both before and after marriage, are able to move freely in society and socialize. This advantage is automatically extended to gay and bisexual men simply because of their biological sex.
With freedom of movement, gay men are at an advantage when it comes to identifying and establishing relationships with other gay men and seeking support without the knowledge of or interference from their families and heterosexual friends. They have better access to conducive environments where their sexuality is affirmed and where they can take control over the processes of coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out. Women, on the other hand, are generally protected behind the chastity belt of the home and most are not at liberty to mix with whom they please and establish unsupervised relationships. This makes it more difficult for lesbian and bisexual women to meet with others like themselves whilst keeping their sexuality hidden from their families. Those who do come out are either extremely brave and highly determined or economically independent and belonging to those few families that are more tolerant of sexual difference.
Gay men enjoy greater opportunities to work and be economically independent: a large number of women rely exclusively on their families to survive. Women who do generate income often have their money controlled by men. This impacts more seriously on a married lesbian or bisexual woman than on a married gay or bisexual man. With control of the purse strings, a gay man is in a better position to survive the ordeal of being outed to his family; should a lesbian woman’s sexuality be discovered, she may lose her family, including her children, and be returned to her rural home. Understandably, lesbian and bisexual women are more visible in urban areas where they stand a better chance of enjoying greater economic independence and access to public space. In the rural areas lesbian and bisexual women remain firmly silenced. With no support network and no information, these women are far more likely to internalise their oppression and believe that they should conform to cultural norms of heterosexual marriage and the bearing of children. Although these women may outwardly concur with their position, they are still forced to accept a lifestyle, which runs entirely contrary to their emotional and psychological needs. Although spaces for lesbians and gay men remain limited, men are once again at an advantage. Whilst gay men are generally more accepting of lesbian and bisexual women as social equals and do not view women as sex objects, many still carry with them unconscious prejudices of heterosexual socialisation.
For example, gay men can often hide their sexual relations with women, lesbian women may fall pregnant which has led to accusations of some women being ‘false lesbians’, traitors to the cause or women trying to cash in. Even in cases where gay men are known to have children, this is considered a lesser crime simply because children are seen as appendages to women and not to men. Bisexual men who self-identify as gay are accepted and tolerated; bisexual women who identify as lesbians are viewed with suspicion. Lesbian women with children are often turned into apologists for choices that they make concerning their rights to bear children. Discussions around sexual rights relating to the right to bodily integrity, the right to choose one’s sexual identity, the right to all safe and consensual sexual activity with other adults (even if this seemingly conflicts with one’s sexual identity) and the right to bear children are still very much in their infancy within the African lesbian and gay discourse.
Another potential source of sanctuary for lesbian and bisexual women is the women’s movement but, in Zimbabwe, this is deeply divided by conflicting ideologies. Many organisations are linked to government and have entrenched themselves in nationalist thinking around feudalism, patriarchy and hierarchy which are viewed by them as authenticating and reclaiming African culture. There exists no room within this framework for tolerating difference and it promotes the exclusion of those who are viewed as such. This invented African culture is highly oppressive to women and prevents them from discussing issues of paramount importance to them because, from a cultural perspective, such discussions are considered taboo. The lesbian or bisexual woman cannot hope to find solace here. For women in general, there are few acceptable places in society for them to fill. One space sanctioned by men is the church where men feel that women will be protected in loco parentis. The conservative wing of the women’s movement is, therefore, also heavily influenced by fundamentalist Christian thinking which finds no room for the inclusion of lesbians.
As a major strategy for the recognition of women’s rights, the women’s movement has adopted the majoritarian argument that women form over 50% of the population. In a heavily heterosexualised culture, lesbians are too small a minority to consider important and, in fact, sexual difference may even be perceived as a threat since many organisations fear to associate with those unpopular both with government and the Christian church. This is very different from the HIV and AIDS movement where homosexual men have gained greater acceptance through the acknowledgement that men have sex with men. It is generally agreed that lesbians are at least risk of contracting HIV if they remain within exclusively lesbian relationships. However, because of gross generalisations within the HIV and AIDS movement relating to lesbian sexual behaviours, African lesbians are placed on the lowest rung when it comes to risks associated with acquiring or transmitting the HIV virus. For lesbian women who are exclusively WSW, this is undoubtedly true, but most women in Africa do not enjoy that luxury of choice and certainly most who do want children do not have access to expensive technologies for artificial insemination. In Zimbabwe, where women do not enjoy control over their bodies or their sexuality and are forced into marriages and into having children, lesbians are put at the same high risk of contracting HIV as their heterosexual counterparts.
Not only is this threat to their health entirely unnecessary, every sexual act performed upon them can be interpreted as rape. So, although great strides have been made by international HIV/AIDS service organizations through the adoption of the apolitical term MSM that includes non-gay-identified men and avoids politicised labels, lesbian women remain excluded in both heterosexual and homosexual interventions. Sex between men is criminalized in Zimbabwe, no law exists here which prohibits sexual relations between women: but, by the same token, protection of the rights of women to bodily integrity and ownership of their own sexuality is minimal. This means that, although richer lesbian women may be in a better position to buy their freedoms and independence, those who are poorer are still required to subjugate themselves to the control of men and poorer lesbian women, who tend to be less aware of their rights and whose position depends on the sanction of men, have fewer choices still. A woman is not thought of as owning a sexuality independent of the needs of men and the idea of sexual expression not involving penetration is entirely alien to the machismo mentality. For these reasons and others related to the general invisibility of lesbian and bisexual women in public spaces, the majority of Zimbabweans believe that it is illogical for lesbians to exist in African cultures.
Those who profess to be lesbian are simply not believed. Women who claim to be independent of men, even for sex, arouse intense anger in those men with deep-seated insecurities about sexual rejection and the need to control. In more traditionally conservative circles, homosexuality may be thought of in terms of illness brought on by demon possession. The cure for a man is exorcism but often the cure for a woman is to subject her to enforced sexual relations with a man.
February 11, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Culture-zimbabwe: dogs and pigs no more?
by Wilson Johwa (Source:Inter Press Service News Agency- IPS)
Bulawayo – “Worse than dogs and pigs” is how Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe described homosexuals almost a decade ago, when the gay community attempted to highlight widespread homophobia in the Southern African country. That statement, reported around the world, still reverberates in the country, casting a long shadow over the exercise of sexual freedom. Under Zimbabwean law homosexuality as such is not illegal. But sodomy “narrowly defined as anal sex between men “is. Yet, in subtle ways, things are also changing. Intolerance, particularly at the official level, seems to have mellowed into indifference. The random and all too frequent arrest of gays appears to have ceased, while the police’s last raid of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) office was in 1996.
“We have a good relationship with our local station,” says Keith Goddard, who heads the 400-member organisation. “They treat us with great professionalism” Furthermore last July, after years of fighting, gays were allowed to set up their own stand at the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair – no small feat, considering that their presence at the 1995 event caused a fiasco. We thought it was a positive development and we can now put that whole campaign to rest,” Goddard told IPS.
Buoyed by a new-found confidence, the gay community is now pushing for greater recognition by society. “I wouldn’t say there is complete acceptance, but there is growing understanding regarding what being gay, or lesbian, is about,” Goddard observes. Ironically, the impetus for such transformation was the sensational sodomy trial of Zimbabwe’s first post-independence president, Canaan Banana, in 1998. Testimonies during the 17-day court proceeding revealed the ex-President as a closet homosexual who abused male subordinates while in State House. Banana was subsequently convicted of sodomy and jailed for a year. In November 2003 he died – a publicly disgraced figure.
Goddard says that although Banana?s trial was more about abuse than the pursuit of sexual freedom, ?it went a long way to convince people that being gay is not a white-imported thing.? Since then Goddard and several other high-profile GALZ members have frequently been invited to address various groups. The organisation itself conducts regular workshops on matters such as sexual identity and the blackmail of gays ? something that, happily, has declined sharply. In its awareness and educational work GALZ focuses on the younger generation, ignoring peers of the 80-year-old president. The belief is that the minds of these individuals are set ? and that nothing much can be done to change their views on homosexuality.
In 1999 when the government attempted to write a new constitution, GALZ pushed for the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause. This was resisted and the government?s draft constitution was itself rejected in a referendum, albeit for different reasons. A GALZ representative who calls himself Chesterfield participated in the process. One of the first homosexuals to be open about his sexual orientation, the 29-year-old says his family was confused and frightened by the president?s harsh statement. Fearing official opprobrium, his father confronted him on the matter for the first time ever, and threatened to report him to the police.
Fortunately the older man has since relaxed his position, and now even manages to enquire about Chesterfield?s partner of 10 years. The rest of the family also appears to have developed greater understanding. ?But it was different for my sister,? Chesterfield remarks, ?maybe because of the competition that I?d snatch her boyfriends.? Ironically, one of the most repressive laws to be put on Zimbabwe?s books ? the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act of 2002 ? protects the sexual orientation of citizens. But in a country where the law is often applied selectively, Goddard wonders if it?s not just meant to shield those higher up in government.
Since the 1990s GALZ?s priority has been preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst the 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. "Our issue, the gay and lesbian issue, is completely ignored," Goddard says. However, in 2000, the association was pleasantly surprised to receive a small sum of tax payers? money from the government-run National AIDS Council
An audit later found that we were one of the organisations which put the money to good use,? Goddard says. At present, GALZ is one of the few lobby groups in Zimbabwe that has got a treatment plan up-and-running for people with full-blown AIDS. "We don’t want our members to die of AIDS they can die of accidents" says GALZ health manager Martha Tholanah. Before the end of the year, the association intends to make condom packs available to gays and lesbians ? and to put up posters that warn people about the ways in which gays might be vulnerable to AIDS.
Taking its agenda a step further, GALZ has also applied to present a paper at the national AIDS conference scheduled for next month. Chesterfield says awareness about homosexuality might have increased, but that the subject still makes many Zimbabweans uncomfortable. People know, but don’t want to be confronted with the in your face visibility of gay people he told IPS.
8 Abductees Granted Bail at Last
by Edgar Gweshe
A Harare Magistrate on Friday granted bail to eight MDC-T supporters and human rights activists who were abducted by state agents last year on accusations they were involved in the recruitment of alleged bandits. Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe ordered the release of Concelia Chinanzavana, Fidelis Chinanzvavana, Fidelis Chiramba, Violet Mupfuranhewe, Colin Mutemagawu, Manuel Chinanzvavana, Pieta Kaseke, Audrice Mbudzana and Broderick Takawira on US$600 bail each. The activists, some of them still battling to recover from injuries caused by weeks of torture by state agents, were also ordered to report to their nearest police stations on Mondays and Fridays. They were abducted between October and November last year on what the MDC-T insists were “trumped up charges” of banditry, sabotage and terrorism.
Takawira is an employee of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) whose director Jestina Mukoko remains in custody on the same charges. Takawira failed to attend his father’s funeral on Thursday. Guvamombe set March 4 as the trial date for the activists. However, the activists had not been released by yesterday morning as the defence team, led by Alec Muchadehama, was still battling to raise the amount required for the bail which he said was “too much”.
He described the conditions of most of the activists as grave since they had no access to adequate treatment. “Their conditions are very severe and they need urgent medical attention,” Muchadehama said.
During the first week of last month, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) reported that Chiramba, the MDC-T district chairperson for Zvimba South showed signs of cardiac failure caused by severe hypertension. The defence team is also alleging that most of the activists were subjected to various forms of torture and inhuman treatment from their day of disappearance and during the incarceration period. Muchadehama said that they were seeking urgent medical treatment for the activists most of whom he said might need to be hospitalized, once released from jail.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has demanded the unconditional release of all political detainees in the spirit of the power-sharing agreement that ushered in the new inclusive government. On Wednesday he said: “With respect to detainees, the Principals to the Global Political Agreement, namely myself, President Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, last week agreed that all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail and those that have not been charged should be released unconditionally. This has not yet happened.
“Indeed, rather than allowing the judicial process to take its course with regard to the granting of bail, the Attorney General’s office is willfully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process and this must stop forthwith.” But President Robert Mugabe who has been accused of acting in bad faith insists the courts should be allowed to determine the cases on merit and at their own pace.
March 2, 2009 – Reuters
Zimbabwean rights activist Mukoko freed: lawyer
by Nelson Banya Nelson Banya
Harare (Reuters) – Leading Zimbabwean human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko and several other activists have been released on bail, her lawyer said on Monday, in what appeared to be a major concession by President Robert Mugabe. The release of all detained activists had been demanded by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who joined a power-sharing government with Mugabe last month. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Western countries who hold the key to funding for reviving Zimbabwe’s economy have also called for the release of detainees.
"She has been released on bail, but remains in hospital for ongoing medical examinations," Mukoko’s lawyer Harrison Nkomo told Reuters. He said a total of sixteen activists had been freed on bail. Most are members of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the main opposition to Mugabe. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid called the release of any Zimbabwean political prisoner positive but said more needed to be set free. "There are more political prisoners who are still in jail, and they should be released without delay," he said. Tsvangirai last week told reporters he and Mugabe had agreed bail for detainees.
The release of the activists could be a sign Mugabe may be trying to avoid confrontation with Tsvangirai in the early days of a unity government brokered by regional states. Zimbabwean rights groups say MDC activists were tortured during detention. The MDC has said it wants everyone detained on political charges freed, including Roy Bennett who was arrested three weeks ago just before he was to be sworn in as a junior minister in the new power-sharing government. Bennett was granted bail by the High Court last Tuesday, but the state has appealed.
(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington)
Absurd Non-gay Report: Judge’s Stolen Land Taken Back From Him by Mugabe’s Wife
Ben Hlatshwayo’s mistake was not in using his power as a Zimbabwe high court judge to steal a farm from one of his white compatriots. His error was in proving to be a decent enough farmer to catch the rapacious eye of the president’s wife. It doesn’t do to have anything worth taking in Zimbabwe these days, particularly prime farmland with a crop nearly ready for harvest. But Mr Justice Hlatshwayo, a veteran of the liberation war against white rule who was promoted from obscurity to the high court by President Robert Mugabe to give legal authority to the expropriation of thousands of white-owned farms, no doubt felt protected by his status.
He was rewarded with his own land, taken six years ago when he arrived at Vernon Nicolle’s 580 hectares in Banket, snatched the keys from the maid and declared the place his. The takeover was in breach of an order from Hlatshwayo’s own court but those were rough days, with white farmers being beaten and murdered, and there was little Nicolle could do. Zimbabwe’s assistant police commissioner, Wayne Bvudzijena, seized the neighbouring farm from Nicolle’s son. But now Hlatshwayo has discovered there is someone higher up the pecking order of plunder. After Grace Mugabe’s gaze fell upon his farm, a clique of cabinet ministers was assembled to tell the judge to hand it over and Hlatshwayo has been left bleating in court papers that "there is clearly no lawful basis" for seizing the land and accusing a holding company owned by Mugabe of "unlawful conduct".
According to court papers, Hlatshwayo accuses the Mugabe family of being multiple farm owners but still wanting the one the judge took from Nicolle. The affidavit says Hlatshwayo was summoned to a meeting with three of Mugabe’s then cabinet ministers – security minister Didymus Mutasa, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and agricultural mechanisation minister Joseph Made – where he was told the president’s wife needed his farm. The Zimbabwe press reported that she wants to give it to her son from her first marriage as a birthday gift.
Hlatshwayo then complains that "there is clearly no lawful basis" for seizing his land and accuses the holding company, Gushungo – named after Robert Mugabe’s family totem – of being "intent upon imposing its will regardless of observing due process of the law". Mutasa responded by saying that Hlatshwayo has been given alternative land near Mutare in the east of the country. His is not the first farm the president’s wife has targeted. She first took Iron Mask estate in Mazowe in 2003 from a couple in their 70s. Then she grabbed Foyle farm, one of the biggest dairy operations in the country. Production halved within months of the seizure.
Hlatshwayo’s problems might have been avoided if he had not proved to be a fairly useful farmer. Most of the Zanu-PF elite plundered farms for what could be sold for a quick profit and then let the land lie fallow, sometimes using it as collateral for loans to buy luxury cars and houses in plush Harare suburbs. The judge, on the other hand, produced a regular crop of maize, soya and sorghum. Whatever the legal merits or otherwise of Hlatshwayo’s case against the Mugabes, he faces another problem of his own making. The courts are now so terrified of Mugabe and his cronies that no judge will agree to hear Hlatshwayo’s case.
28 February 2009 – The Zimbabwe Standard
Mugabe Defends Fresh Farm Invasions
by Caiphas Chimhete
Chinhoyi – Hungry Zanu PF supporters fell over each other as they scrambled for food at President Robert Mugabe’s much hyped 85th birthday celebrations yesterday, where ordinary people were served boiled meat and sadza. There was pandemonium as elderly people and youths rushed to the serving points soon after a combative Mugabe finished his winding speech.
Bouncers worked over time trying to control queues as people fought their way to get their portions of the ordinary meal served on plastic paper plates and old newspapers because of a shortage of plates. For the people, there was no sign of the classy cuisine and expensive drinks budgeted for by the organisers of the North Korean-style event. Top government officials, including Mugabe, had their lunch at a hotel where entry was restricted.
In his speech, Mugabe vowed the violent land seizures from white commercial farmers would continue despite the inauguration of the unity government. He said there would be no letting up on the land redistribution despite concerns it was poisoning the political environment and worsening the economic collapse. “Once a farm is designated the original owner must be prepared to vacate that farm within a time frame that is acceptable,” he said.
Mugabe dismissed the ruling by the South African Development Community (Sadc) Tribunal that gave beleaguered farmers a reprieve, describing it as a non-event. “That’s nonsense, absolutely nonsense,” he said. “We have courts here in the country which can determine the rights of our people.”He assured his supporters that Zanu PF was still in charge despite losing its parliamentary majority to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations in last year’s elections.
“In the hierarchy I am on top as the President, followed by Vice- President Joseph Msika and Joyce Mujuru then (Prime Minister Morgan) Tsvangirai and his deputies, it has come to this because we lost the March elections,” he said.About 4 000 people, including Zanu PF ministers and those who were dropped from the cabinet, attended the event.Ordinary people said they attended because they thought Tsvangirai would be part of the proceedings. Mugabe’s rectangular cake weighed 85kg and it was written 85 on all sides with different decorative colours.
April 28, 2009 – PinkNews
Zimbabwean gays demand to be recognised in new Constitution
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Gay rights activists in Zimbabwe have demanded to be recognised in the country’s new Constitution which is currently being drafted. In a statement to the Zimbabwe Times, the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe, GALZ, said: "The purpose of a Constitution is to protect vulnerable and marginalised minorities.
“Most gay and lesbian people in Zimbabwe live in fear and are driven underground. This is blatant discrimination against a group of people whose only difference from the majority is in who they are attracted to sexually. And homosexuals do not choose to be homosexual just as heterosexuals do not choose to be heterosexual. Choosing to be gay or lesbian in Zimbabwe would be lunacy given the levels of disapproval shown by many elements of society.”
GALZ also highlighted the issue of lesbians being more vulnerable to discrimination than gay men. “On the other hand,” said the statement, “whilst sexual conduct between women is not criminalised in Zimbabwe, the mere fact that there is no specified protection for lesbians under our present constitution makes them equally vulnerable to discrimination as their male counterparts, perhaps even more so, given their status as women who are generally not recognised as having the right to their own sexuality.
Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe has previously described gay people as worse than "dogs and pigs", claiming homosexuality is "un-African" and a "white man’s disease." He has warned against the dangers of homosexuality and threatened pro-gay clergy with prison sentences.
May 13, 2009 – IPS News
Zimbabwe: Recognise Rights of Gays and Lesbians
Busani Bafana interviews Keith Goddard, gay rights activist
Bulawayo (IPS) – Zimbabwe is trying to rebuild itself as a nation where rights to freedom of expression and association are protected. Amongst the chorus of voices raised in support of a new constitutional order are the country’s gays and lesbians.
Sexual acts between men are still illegal in Zimbabwe; the absence of constitutional protection for lesbians makes them equally vulnerable to discrimination and prosecution. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) director Keith Goddard spoke to IPS correspondent Busani Bafana about the challenges faced by marginalised groups that his organisation represents.
IPS: Has the situation of gays and lesbians changed since the public showdown in which your stand at the Zimbabwe International Book fair was closed down many years ago?
Keith Goddard: There is a difference between government’s campaign against gay and lesbian people and the attitudes of the general public. ZANU-PF maintains its anti-gay stance although it is rare for anyone in the party these days to speak out against lesbian and gay people. It must be over a year since President Robert Mugabe even mentioned the subject. Homophobic attitudes are common amongst members of the general populace but we have seen a gradual shift in attitudes with more and more people becoming either accepting or at least tolerant of gay people, especially in urban areas.
IPS: What are the prospects for change now that there’s a new government in place?
KG: With the Government of National Unity, we now have a number of people in parliament who are gay-friendly. This could be an opportunity to engage with the government on issues affecting marginalised groups such as GALZ and ensure that government supports our call for specific mention of sexual orientation in Zimbabwe’s next constitution. Until debate on this matter is reopened, we have no means of assessing if the situation is likely to change. GALZ will support a process that is people-driven and incorporates various fundamental rights including the right to one’s sexual orientation.
IPS: What are some of the immediate challenges?
KG: Although I have said there is growing tolerance, most of our members still fear to tell their families and friends that they are gay. There is a small but growing number who are coming out of the closet. Gay and lesbian people face the same challenges as our heterosexual counterparts when it comes to economic opportunities, education, health, housing etc. Although when it comes to housing, there have been times when a landlord has evicted or tried to evict a tenant because he or she is gay.
In a surprising move, the National AIDS Council (NAC) Strategic Plan for 2006- 2010 specifically mentions the need to remove punitive measures against men who have sex with men because it drives this vulnerable community underground and makes them difficult to target with HIV/AIDS interventions. The plan calls for research into MSM and HIV in Zimbabwe and the NAC is now part of the team which includes GALZ which intends to conduct this research. This is a big step forward.
IPS: What policies discriminate against gay and lesbian rights?
KG: Rambling, vocal rhetoric against gay people does not constitute a policy. Government also cannot outlaw rights in Zimbabwe. Human rights are inalienable and cannot be given or withdrawn. Being gay or lesbian is not a crime in Zimbabwe: only sexual acts between men are illegal although government has made the definition of a sexual act very broad indeed and it could even be extended to hugging or holding hands in public.
IPS: What is your organisation doing to highlight and push for these rights?
KG: There is little or nothing in our law that we can use to challenge homophobic legislation in the courts. We are preparing ourselves for a possible fresh national constitutional process in which we will push for the inclusion of sexual orientation. We have done much over the past ten years or so to embed ourselves in the various networks of NGOs and we are now starting to persuade them to mainstream gay and lesbian issues in their work.
IPS: How are gays and lesbians coping in Zimbabwe?
KG: Although there are added difficulties facing gay and lesbian people in Zimbabwe, the major problems we face are those we share with the vast majority of the population: fear of government oppression if you are a member of an unpopular minority or opposition political party, hunger, unemployment, poverty and lack of shelter and clean water.
IPS: How big is the gay and lesbian community in Zimbabwe?
KG: We have no idea because the vast majority of gay and lesbian people are obviously in the closet given the general prevailing attitude of disapproval and the attitude of powerful members of government.
June 15, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Gay-Lesbian Debate Threatens To Split Church Organisation
Zimbabwe (The Telegraph) – The gays and lesbians debate threatened to split the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance into two at the just ended Constitutional Indaba held in Bulawayo as the men of cloth exchanged harsh words in defence and against the accommodation of homosexuals in the new constitution, Zimbabwe Telegraph reports. A larger fraction of the pastors who attended the Indaba felt it was the role of the church to push for the accommodation of homosexuals in the new constitution as it was left upon the church to fight for the rights of the gays and lesbians so as to win them to Christ.
Quoting biblical verses the greater part of the house, led by Reverend Ray Motsi from Baptist Church felt the church had to open doors for gays and lesbians and said no one was righteous and homosexuals were people also entitled to their rights. He said the country could never be viewed to be democratic if it continued depriving people of their rights. “We must give an opportunity for somebody to be wrong, even though they are sincere in their wrongness. We cannot be democratic if we do not acknowledge them. We need to appreciate them as people, despite their attitudes,” he said.
Another pastor challenged the church to open its doors to prostitutes and homosexuals, saying that instead of hating individuals they should hate their behaviours. “Even God says go and sin no more, they are subject to demonic forces. The church must embrace them so as to win them to Christ. What is important is that we love them as people but we do not like what they do,” he said. The debate lasted for more than 45 minutes as everyone wanted to express their opinions, with others saying the church must not promote immoral behavior all in the name of democracy or of expansion.
Putting a final say on the matter Executive Director of ZCA, Reverend Useni Sibanda who was lest amused by the debate, said the church needs to protect family values that are based on the bible. “We need to protect family values which is based on the bible. Anyone in Christian Alliance who wants to protect homosexuals must do so outside this organization. This is a Christian organization and we are not going to debate about gays and lesbians, our stance is clear if they want protection they change their behavior or even let their organizations work on that, not us. I advise you to remove that from our list of priorities or form another organisation divorced from us that will promote this kind of behavior,” he said.
Homosexuality is a crime in Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe once described homosexuals as worse than pigs and dogs a comment that sparked international outcry from gay activists. Self proclaimed homosexuals like former radio personality Kevin Ncube fled the country after their sexuality was exposed. Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs, Advocate Eric Matinenga said the strong debate was proof enough that the constitution making process was not easy or rosy and advised the participants to include a report of the heated debate when writing their position paper. “It will only be fair to include a report of the debate not all issues would be a walk over as some people might think and also this shows diversity of ideas and what democracy means to individuals,” he said.
June 27, 2009 – New York Times
Zimbabwe’s Diamond Fields Enrich Ruling Party, Report Says
by Celia W. Dugger
Johannesburg — Zimbabwe’s military, controlled by President Robert Mugabe’s political party, violently took over diamond fields in Zimbabwe last year and has used the illicit revenues to buy the loyalty of restive soldiers and enrich party leaders, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released Friday. The party, ZANU-PF, has used the money from diamonds — smuggled out of the country or illegally sold through the Reserve Bank — to reinforce its hold over the security forces, which seemed to be slipping last year as the value of soldiers’ pay collapsed with soaring inflation, Human Rights Watch researchers said.
On Friday, Zimbabwe’s government roundly denied the charges in the report, which cited visits by its researcher to the diamond fields in February and interviews with soldiers, miners and other witnesses. The information minister, Webster Shamu, of ZANU-PF, said in a telephone interview that the report’s aim was to tarnish the country’s image, block the sale of its diamonds internationally and, “in so doing, deny Zimbabwe much needed foreign currency.”
“The whole report is just not true,” he said.
Last year Zimbabwe’s state media depicted the military blitz, code-named Operation No Return, in the Marange district as a push to restore order in the midst of a lawless diamond rush in the area. But the Human Rights Watch report charged that the military killed more than 200 miners and used the push to seize the Marange fields. Some miners died when soldiers opened fire from helicopters with automatic rifles mounted on them, the group said. Many of the dead were taken to the morgue at Mutare General Hospital, or buried in mass graves, the report says. Army brigades are being rotated into the diamond fields, discovered in 2006, so more soldiers can profit from the illegal trade, the report says.
Villagers from the area, some of them children, are being forced to work in mines controlled by military syndicates and have complained of being harassed, beaten and arrested, the report says. “It’s a big cash cow for the military and the police, especially since Zimbabwe is virtually bankrupt,” Dewa Mavhinga, the Zimbabwean lawyer who was the main researcher for the report, said in an interview.
Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled for 29 years, is now governing with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, who spent the past three weeks in Western capitals seeking assistance for Zimbabwe’s devastated economy. President Obama and European heads of state have generally declined to aid Zimbabwe’s government directly, in part because of concerns that it continues to flout the rule of law. The Human Rights Watch report is the latest sign of growing international concern about charges of killings and human rights abuses in the diamond fields southwest of the city of Mutare.
“While Zimbabwe’s new power-sharing government, formed in February 2009, now lobbies the world for development aid, millions of dollars in potential government revenue are being siphoned off,” the report said. The World Federation of Diamond Bourses, an umbrella group of 28 bourses in 20 countries, called on its members in April not to trade diamonds that originate in the Marange deposits in Zimbabwe. “Somewhere along the line, we have to stand up and be counted,” Michael H. Vaughan, the federation’s executive director, said in an interview on Friday.
On Sunday, representatives of the Kimberley Process, an alliance of industry, civic and government officials set up to stop the flow of so-called blood diamonds, will be traveling to Zimbabwe to explore whether the country is complying with the alliance’s standards. A coalition of nonprofit groups is lobbying to have Zimbabwe suspended from membership in the Kimberley Process. “There’s rampant smuggling out of the country,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, one of the nonprofit groups. “The military is profiting from the trade and is directly involved in the sale of the diamonds.”
At a time when Zimbabwe is struggling to pay civil servants and soldiers a stipend of $100 a month, the extra income from diamond mining for soldiers is serving “to mollify a constituency whose loyalty to ZANU-PF, in the context of ongoing political strife, is essential,” the Human Rights Watch report said. In December, soldiers rioted in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to protest pay that had become virtually worthless as inflation increased to astronomical levels. Analysts and Western diplomats said at the time that Mr. Mugabe might lose his grip on power if he were unable to sustain the patronage he had deployed for decades.
July 17, 2009 – Behind The Mask
Zimbabwean Gays Uncertain About Their Future
by Mongezi Mhlongo (BTM Reporter)
Zimbabwe – While pressure mounts for the Zimbabwean government to draft an inclusive constitution, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in that country remains uncertain about its future in the newly formed government of national unity. Following a public statement earlier this year that called for the drafting of the new constitution to be a people driven process, it now appears that the government is willing to engage.
Keith Goddard, Director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) says so far, the meetings he has attended have been dedicated to explaining to the public the process of rewriting the national constitution. “Towards the end of July there will be a stakeholder conference where about 5000 delegates are expected to put in submissions on how the final constitution should be”, Goddard added. After the conference a referendum will be held and results will be sent to parliament and if two thirds majority votes are in favor, then the president will pass it into law.
Dubbed an autocrat, Robert Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe seized independence from Britain and according to Goddard “Mugabe would never allow Tsvangirai to sign anything to law.” With the united government is up and running, many expect a much needed change from a country that has over the years been clouded by political instability under Mugabe’s regime.
Meanwhile Mugabe’s stance on homosexuality remains a concern as he seems to be the one who, at the end, will have a final say. Section 73 of Zimbabwean sodomy law still punishes anal sexual intercourse and any acts involving physical contact between males that could be regarded by a reasonable person as indecent acts.
While section 23 of the Zimbabwean Constitution grants “protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, etc” there is no mention of gender or sexual minorities.
9 August 2009 – The Guardian
Gay rights campaigners in Zimbabwe see chance to push for equality
by David Smith in Harare
Gay men and lesbians in Zimbabwe are hoping for an end to years of "hysterical homophobia" by having their rights enshrined in the new constitution. Sexual acts between men are outlawed in the socially conservative country (there is no legal reference to women) and the president, Robert Mugabe, has encouraged a climate of hostility by condemning homosexuality, describing it as a western import.
His opponents in the Movement for Democratic Change are more supportive of gay rights, raising hopes that Zimbabwe’s constitution could follow that of South Africa, the first in the world to specifically outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference. Keith Goddard said the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) – of which he is director – had tried twice to get sexual orientation included in the constitution.
"Now, with the new constitutional review, we are pushing again for sexual orientation," he said. "The National Aids Council has moved forward enormously from its original policy, and in its strategic plan for 2006-10 it specifically calls for the decriminalisation of homosexuality because punitive measures have simply driven the community underground and make this hidden population difficult to reach. "So I think we can use it on the grounds of health and HIV/Aids interventions to try and argue the issue. Arguing it on religious or moral grounds is not going to get it anywhere. We live in hope. I think we’ve probably got a 50:50 chance."
GALZ, which has about 400 members, is the main meeting place for Zimbabwean gay men and lesbians in the absence of specified bars and nightclubs. Mugabe’s public statements had contributed to an atmosphere of "hysterical homophobia", Goddard added. "People are very fearful to come out to their parents for fear of being chucked out of home, or of even letting their friends know … the broader network that we’re in contact with are people who are very hidden and very scared."
For years the only mention of homosexuality in the media was in prurient reports of criminal cases, Goddard said, though now South African soap operas with positive gay role models were on Zimbabwean TV. But for a public figure to come out would be "political suicide", and at present civil partnerships and gay marriage were "not even on the gaydar screen".
August 31, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
The Zimbabwe Power-Sharing Government’s Failure to Deliver Human Rights Improvements
This 20-page report highlights the transitional government’s lack of progress in rights reforms in the six months since it was created. The former ruling party, Zimbabwe Africa National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), has demonstrated a lack of political will to effect change and wields more power than the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the former opposition party and now a partner in government. Police, state prosecutors, and court officials aligned to ZANU-PF conduct politically motivated prosecutions of MDC legislators and activists, and fail to ensure justice for victims of abuses or to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account.
The death of a great LGBT leader in Africa: Keith Goddard of GALZ Zimbabwe
Yesterday I received from the very sad news about the death of LGBT ‘hero’ Keith Goddard, director of GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe). The news was sent by UK activist Peter Tatchell of the rights organizations OutRage! based in London. GlobalGayz was privileged to meet and interview with Keith in the spring of 2009. He was comfortable to be with, witty and thoughtful–and he was a force for change and human rights. Please read the story about him and GALZ
From Peter Tatchell:
Members of the British LGBT human rights group OutRage! extend their condolences to our comrades in Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and to the family and friends of Keith Goddard, following his illness and tragic death on 9 October 2009. He was a true hero of the freedom struggle in Zimbabwe, and made a major contribution to GALZ’s campaigns and successes over a period of nearly two decades.
OutRage! is very proud and honoured to have worked with Keith and GALZ from the early 1990s onwards, supporting their many struggles against the homophobia and tyranny of the Mugabe / ZANU-PF regime. We stood with Keith and his courageous GALZ comrades as they resisted state harassment, defended individual LGBT people, demanded their rightful place at successive Book Fairs and defied President Mugabe’s many public theats and attacks on LGBT Zimbabweans.
When OutRage! attempted its two citizen’s arrests of President Robert Mugabe, in London in 1999 and in Brussels in 2001, Keith offered his congratulations. He reported that these attempts had a huge positive effect inside Zimbabwe. They prompted, he said, the Zimbabwean media to interview GALZ many times over and to report LGBT human rights issues to an extent that had rarely, if ever, happened before. Keith was usually the GALZ person interviewed and he used these media opportunities very effectively to challenge homophobic ignorance and prejudice – and to eloquently set out the case for equality.
Politically astute and a highly effective campaign strategist, Keith built links with other human rights activists in Zimbabwe in a successful bid to put LGBT equality at the heart of the mainstream Zimbabwean human rights movement. He and his GALZ comrades have done magnificent work to build broad support for LGBT rights in a future post-ZANU-PF Zimbabwe, when Mugabe is history.
On a personal level, Keith was an immensely kind, generous, supportive, warm-hearted person. I remember some wonderful, enjoyable evenings with him during his periodic visits to London.
A non-sectarian bridge-builder, he despised personal attacks and infighting. He was supportive of myself and OutRage! at times when others were not . In 2007, a number of African LGBT activists were goaded by false allegations into a signing a letter denouncing us. Keith refused. He knew, from many years of working with OutRage!, that these allegations were untrue. We were very grateful for Keith’s honourable stand against political sectarianism.
Keith was also, like all GALZ activists, very brave: unafraid to take a public stand for LGBT human rights, despite police and government repression. He risked his liberty and life many times, speaking out against homophobia and transphobia, even though this marked him as a potential target for state and vigilante violence. The danger of kidnapping, arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder never deterred him.
On Keith Goddard’s Passing
I just head the sad news of the passing away of Keith Goddard. Keith was the really nice and very brave leader of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) who continued to live in Harare (where he died after a short bout of pneumonia) despite a level of overt hatred and harassment from Mugabe’s government that I can barely imagine being able to take.
But Keith was nonchalent about it. I met him when he was in India several years back – and I’m sure there are others who remember him from then. He had come for a conference and stayed in Bombay for a bit, and attended one of our parents meetings (the one we had at Mahalakshmi) and was much impressed.
I remember hanging out with Keith just before the meeting, and like with many visitors to Bombay I asked if there was anything he was particularly interested in seeing or buying. I thought he’d say fabric or tea or something like that, but he had something else in mind. "What I’d really like to buy is a pressure cooker," he told me. "I’ve heard that India makes very good ones, and the fuel situation in Zim is getting so bad, it could be really useful." So we went off and bought him a nice medium sized pressure cooker.
Despite the fuel problem, and the far worse threats that the thug Mugabe regularly hurled at gays, Keith was deprecating about the risks they faced. "Mugabe’s outbursts really helped us because suddenly people around the world realised we existed, and we started getting all these letters of support and also some funding from abroad," he told me. And rather than moaning about Mugabe and the problems he had caused for Zimbabwe, he joked about it, and all the absurdities of Mugabe’s rule.
It still could not have been easy for Keith and GALZ. Such overt hatred is hard to take, and so is the knowledge that some of Mugabe’s war veterans could just come in and trash the place and perhaps even kill everyone, and nothing really could be done. At GALZ Keith would also have had to deal with the stories of young gay kids being beaten up and raped and knowing there was nothing much they could expect in support or redressal from the government.
It could have been so easy for him to have left, emigrating to Europe like so many white Zimbabweans did, fleeing to refugee camps in South Africa like so many black Zimbabweans were forced to. But Keith stuck it out and kept going with GALZ until his untimely death. I know Keith would probably have laughed at the idea of being considered a hero, but more than most people I know, he was.
14 October 2009 – Behind The Mask
New Coalition To Address MSM Issues In Africa
by Simangele Mzizi (BTM Intern)
South Africa – In their effort to step up the fight against the high HIV prevalence amongst men who have sex with other men (MSM) some concerned men have formed a coalition titled African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) aiming to increase visibility of issues affecting MSM in Africa. Established in March this year, “AMSHeR was formed to strengthen the capacity of national agencies and individuals working to improve legislation and programming related to MSM’s sexual and reproductive health”, said Joel Nana, Executive Officer for AMSHeR.
The coalition consists of 15 organisations from 13 African countries working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, mainstream HIV and human rights organisations that work to address the vulnerability of MSM to HIV. “We intend to extend invitations to other countries and organisations to ensure the visibility and representativeness of all aspects of MSM and transgender lives in the continent”, Nana said.
Currently AMSHeR is hosted by OUT LGBT Well-being, a South African LGBT health organisation based in Pretoria. As a regional coalition of MSM and LGBTI led organisations, AMSHeR also aims to advocate for the elimination of discriminatory laws and policies affecting MSM. Nana pointed out that, AMSHeR’s development process has been divided into two phases and the first phase started on 1 October this year and will end on 30 March next year.
“During this period, AMSHeR intends to develop its management mechanisms, establish its administrative systems, acquire a legal identity, develop its strategic plan and strengthen its funding base for the implementation phase or second phase”, said Nana. According to a 2006-2007 HIV and AIDS report by UNAIDS to the UN General Assembly Special Session, MSM are a group that has long been overlooked with no documented evidence to confirm their existence.
Meanwhile studies show that research on MSM in Africa has been limited and largely focused on the heterosexual spread of HIV and as a result leaves MSM highly stigmatised and hard to reach, even though this population is particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. The executive committee of the coalition includes Samuel Matsikure from the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, Steave Nemande from Alternatives-Cameroun, David Kuria from the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya and Chivuli Ukwimi from Zambia.