GALZ, Zimbabwe’s LGBTI rights group, has joined the overwhelming chorus of voices welcoming the resignation of Robert Mugabe, after 37 years of homophobic misrule.
On Tuesday, speaker Jacob Mudenda read out the former president’s resignation letter in Parliament to loud cheers that were repeated across the nation.
“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation… with immediate effect,” wrote Mugabe.
Chesterfield Samba, Director of GALZ, told Mambaonline that he was personally “thrilled” by the announcement.
He said the organisation received the news “of the resignation of Robert Mugabe with much jubilation,” noting that since 1995 it had been “on the receiving end of the brutality and hate of Robert Mugabe’s aversion to diversity”.
Founded in 1990, GALZ was first targeted by Mugabe in August 1995, when he refused to open a human rights-themed International Book Fair in Harare until the organisation’s stall was closed down.
GALZ went on to be subjected to repeated raids, arrests, beatings and harassment of its members by the police and the country’s Central Intelligence Agency.
“We are ecstatic that the face of brutality, hate and impunity has resigned. Former President Robert Mugabe, repeatedly, fuelled public prejudice against LGBTI individuals through public statements that endorsed abuse of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe,” said GALZ. “LGBTI people were subjected to abuse and harassment on account of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
“In many cases, the state had been an active sponsor of homophobia in Zimbabwe by subjecting individuals suspected of being gay or lesbian to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Never again should citizens live in fear and be treated as second class in their own country,” continued the organisation.
GALZ called on Zimbabwe’s future leaders to “uphold the rule of law, respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe, allow for Zimbabweans to enjoy their freedoms, particularly of expression and association,” and “to protect the rights of all people, including LGBTI people.”
GALZ Director, Chester Samba
The group added that it shared the common desire of Zimbabweans “for freedom, justice and equality, as promoted in the Constitution”.
During his rule, Mugabe was a thorn in the side of the LGBTI community, vilifying sexual minorities and proclaiming that homosexuality is a Western affliction being imposed on the country.
Among his most famous comments, Mugabe stated that gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs”, that they “don’t have any human rights at all” and that homosexuality “destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease”.
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.