While Zimbabwe’s openly homophobic president, Robert Mugabe, has not yet directly commented on the subject, the legalisation of same-sex marriage in South Africa has already caused controversy among his country’s politicians.
A recent delegation of South African officials to Harare was met with negative comments on the Civil Union Act by State Security Minister, Didymus Mutasa.
The minister slammed the legalising of same-sex marriage in South Africa in a speech to welcome the 60 officials. According to reports, one of the delegates, South African Defence Minister Patrick Lekota, was angered enough by the comments to consider filing a formal complaint. Zimbabwe later claimed that the comments were meant as a joke.
Ironically, last week, the official opposition in Zimbabwe’s parliament, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), found itself in Mugabe’s homophobic camp by attempting to pass a motion condemning its neighbour’s legalisation of gay marriage.
When the move was rejected, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, an MDC parliamentarian, “accused” members of the government of being gay. He however refused to mention any names and was later forced to apologise “in the interests of progress”.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the acting leader of the ruling party, was quoted by state media as saying that, “In Zimbabwe, we are very clear that men marry women and women get married to men. In Zimbabwe we prohibit marriages of similar sexes… [But] we have no duty to criticize laws passed by another parliament.”
Recent laws have made it illegal for two people of the same-sex to hold hands or kiss in public in Zimbabwe, adding to the country’s existing sodomy laws which have imprisonment as a penalty.
South Africa is the first country in Africa to legalise same-sex marriage.