Africa

Mugabe ups anti-gay ante

Farai Shoko

The president used his daughter's wedding to issue a warning to homosexual activists.

Mugabe said marriage between men was unbiblical, and hinted that he would deal with gay groups. (Reuters)

Fears of a renewed onslaught on Zimbabwe's gay and ­lesbian community have emerged after President Robert Mugabe came out in full support of the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week signed into law anti-homesexual legislation that has put Kampala at loggerheads with the West.

Museveni has apparently found an ally in Mugabe, who at the weekend used the occasion of the wedding of his daughter, Bona, to Simba Chikore to send shivers of fear down the spines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Speaking at a cocktail party Mugabe hosted for the couple, the Zanu-PF leader said Museveni was fighting a just cause.

He also hinted that he would deal decisively with the organisation Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz).

"Museveni has just now put a law in Uganda to punish those who want to take other men as their wives. I can't say wives, because a wife must be a woman. In the Bible, there is no wife who is described as a man. Husbands are husbands, wives are wives," said Mugabe.

'Brace for worse things'
Rights activists have pointed out that in the past three weeks, two prominent members of the gay and lesbian community have been arraigned in the courts.

"We should brace for worse things to come following President Mugabe's unflattering remarks about members of the gay community," said Okay Machisa, the national director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association.

"A precedent has been set with the harassment and arrest of some members of Galz. His [Mugabe's] people might see it as [encouragement] to unleash terror on these people."

In early February, Zanu-PF members handed Bulawayo transgender activist Ricky Nathanson (48) over to the police after accusing the activist of using a female toilet.

The magistrate said prosecutors failed to prove a crime had been committed.

Meanwhile, a court in Harare last week acquitted Galz chairperson Martha Tholanah on charges of running an "unregistered" ­organisation.

Prosecutors claimed that Tholanah had unlawfully taken part in the management of Galz while "engaging in gay and lesbian activities", in contravention of the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.

Sexual Rights Centre ­spokesperson Mojalife Mokoele lamented the discriminatory treatment of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe, and said the authorities should uphold the Constitution, which recognises the right of identification.

"Zimbabwe is backtracking [from] recognition of sexual rights. In fact, Africa is doing that. Even South Africa has a lot of violence against sexual rights activists."

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