In a major ruling for LGBT equality, a Zimbabwe court has confirmed that a person cannot be fired simply because of their sexual orientation.
Raymond Sibanda, an employee with the Youth and Indigenisation Ministry, was fired from his job after he was arrested with a group of people at an end of year party for the Gays and Lesbians’ Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in December 2013.
After the police raid, the Bulawayo man paid a $10 admission of guilt fine for public indecency (simply for being at a gay function), was charged with misconduct by his employer and was let go in July 2014.
He then decided to appeal the dismissal in the Labour Court, arguing that he has a constitutional right to freedom of assembly and association.
On Monday, Labour Court President Justice Evangelista Kabasa ruled that no one should be dismissed from his or her work on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Voice of America Zimbabwe reports that Justice Kabasa concluded that the dismissal revolved around a moral issue over which there is no absolute right or wrong.
The ministry had justified Sibanda’s firing by claiming that, “Public indecency and gay activities by a public official who should lead by example in society are not tolerable.”
It insisted that, “There is no doubt that Sibanda’s conduct, which may be judged by society, is tantamount to tarnishing the image of government and bringing the name of the ministry into disrepute.”
Mojalifa Mokoele of the Sexual Rights Centre told Studio 7 that his organisation sees the ruling as “justice served” and “a milestone achievement” in support of the rights of sexual minority groups.
“One interesting fact that was raised yesterday was that the dismissal of somebody on the basis of sexual orientation is unconstitutional; the Constitution of Zimbabwe does not in any way offer any grounds for dismissal based on sexual orientation,” Mokoele said.
Same-sex marriage is, however, specifically prohibited by Zimbabwe’s Constitution and homosexual acts, from sex to holding hands, are also illegal under the law, with penalties of up to three years in jail.