Police in Zimbabwe have raided the Harare offices of the country’s gay and lesbian organisation and arrested two of its employees.
According to a statement from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), a team of police officers – armed with a search warrant for drugs and pornographic material – raided the offices of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) on Friday.
GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi were detained at Harare Central Police Station, apparently on allegations of possessing dangerous drugs and pornographic material.
Police have denied lawyers from ZLHR access to the two activists and the authorities have also refused to address concerns about Chademana’s diabetic condition.
The search warrant was reportedly issued by Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, who has been previously implicated in the alleged torture of detainees.
ZLHR said that it had not been able to ascertain how much material was taken by the police but various computers and some documents were seized during the raid.
There have been claims that the raid was motivated by homophobia and represents a dangerous move towards increasing the persecution of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe.
GALZ fears that other arrests of LGBT activists will follow and has said that it is “unsafe for GALZ employees and volunteers who are outside of Zimbabwe at various meetings, including an OSISA meeting in Johannesburg, to return to Zimbabwe as there is a concern that they will be arrested at the airport.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe. In March, both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe dismissed calls for LGBT equality to be included in the country’s new constitution.
GALZ was founded in 1990 to serve the needs and interests of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe, to promote social tolerance of sexual minorities and to work towards the repeal of homophobic legislation.