Morgan Tsvangirai (Pic: Harry Wad)
Robert Mugabe’s political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, says that should he be elected president of Zimbabwe he will ensure that gay people are not persecuted.
According to The Zimbabwean, Tsvangirai, who was Prime Minister from 2009 to 2013, made the remarks at the Bulawayo Press Club on Friday.
“I will not stand to persecute gays. I know in our society gays are shunned upon and as far as I am concerned, I am not gay; I don’t support gays,” said Tsvangirai.
“I only want to say that I will not prosecute or persecute gays because in the constitution, they are given that right.
“There is freedom of sexual orientation in the current constitution of Zimbabwe. Why should that clause be violated?” he asked.
Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution expressly bans same-sex marriage but does otherwise provide protections of civil liberties and human rights. Nevertheless, laws criminalising homosexuality, with penalties of up to three years in jail, remain on the statute books and have yet to be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, who has ruled the country for 36 years, is a vocal opponent of the LGBTI community and believes that homosexuality is un-African and a Western phenomenon. He has stated that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and that they “don’t have any human rights at all”.
Last week, the country’s LGBTI rights group, Galz, urged the government and communities to treat LGBT people as equals. At a media training workshop in Harare on Thursday, Programmes Officer Sylvester Nyamatendedza revealed that the organisation deals with around five suicides a year related to homophobia.
He also said that irresponsible homophobic comments by politicians had a direct impact on the LGBT community. “The tendency has been that every time political leaders make a negative statement, there is an increase in abuses as the community would then target the LGBTI in efforts to affirm support for their parties,” said Nyamatendedza.