Open Letter To The Vice President Of Zimbabwe: Cde Chiwenga


Constantino Chiwenga, Vice President of Zimbabwe, says LGBTIQ+ people must not be allowed in schools and universities (Photo: President’s Secretariat – India)

In this open letter, Saymore Masaisai, a Zimbabwean researcher based in Dublin, responds to the recent shocking statement issued by the Vice President of Zimbabwe, Constantino Chiwenga, condemning a university scholarship for LGBTQ+ students. Chiwenga claimed the scholarship was a means by foreign powers to “recruit ” young people into LGBTQ+ “activities and malpractices”. He also condemned LGBTQ+ people as deviants and aberrations who are un-African, un-Christian and should be denied the right to education.

Dear Dr. Cde Chiwenga C. G. N.

“We the people of Zimbabwe.

United in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism, racism and all forms of domination and oppression.”

I commence this letter with a quotation from the preamble of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, symbolizing the collective aspiration of our nation towards freedom, justice, and equality, and our unwavering resistance against colonialism, racism, and all forms of oppression. I do so to underscore the constitutional imperatives that should guide our discourse and actions, particularly in light of your recent press statement which, regrettably, appears to contravene these foundational principles.

During his engagements at the World Economic Forum in Davos, His Excellency, President E. D. Mnangagwa, explicitly articulated his stance regarding the LGBTQ+ community in Zimbabwe. He reiterated that while he does not advocate for their rights, he remains open to engaging with the community to address their concerns. As a conscientious citizen, I am compelled to remind the leadership of their commitment to uphold such promises.

Your recent press statement concerning the LGBTQ+ community and a purported scholarship scheme raises concerns regarding adherence to our constitutional principles. It is essential to acknowledge that the Constitution of Zimbabwe recognizes the diversity of our populace, encompassing sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, and ethnic minorities, all of whom are entitled to equal protection under the law. Critically, the existence of a scholarship scheme deemed illegal does not render the LGBTQ+ community illegal, as they are integral members of our society, contributing across various sectors.

Moreover, it is pertinent to dispel the notion of Zimbabwe as a Christian nation, a perspective that ignores our rich history and cultural diversity. Christianity did not predominate during the era of our great liberators like Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi, nor does it define our nation’s identity today. Thus, employing Christian values as a basis for discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is both fallacious and divisive. We must strive for leadership that unites our nation amidst the socioeconomic challenges inherited from colonialism.

Recent acknowledgments of LGBTQ+ existence by leaders such as the Russian President as part of the Russian community and the ANC-led South African government as the first country in the whole world to constitutionalize LGBTQ rights underscore the evolving global discourse on these matters. Hence, characterizing LGBTQ+ rights as unAfrican is not only reductive but also disregards the diverse experiences within the African continent. Your statement stresses a concerning gap between policymakers and academia in Zimbabwe, necessitating a collaborative approach to policymaking that incorporates empirically informed insights.

As a scholar and patriotic citizen, I implore you to recognize the invaluable role of academia in informing policy decisions, particularly on complex issues such as LGBTQ+ rights. Coercive legislation aimed at erasing the existence of the LGBTQ+ community only risks regressing to authoritarian tendencies reminiscent of past eras. True leadership entails safeguarding vulnerable communities and fostering national development, not resorting to radical measures.

I urge you to address the scholarship issue independently from broader LGBTQ+ concerns and to engage in meaningful dialogue with stakeholders, including scholars and civil society, to chart a path forward that upholds our constitutional values of inclusivity and equality.

Yours faithfully,

Saymore Masaisai

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