Zimbabwe politician: I would end LGBT persecution

Morgan Tsvangirai (Photo by Harry Wad via Wikimedia Commons)

Morgan Tsvangirai (Photo by Harry Wad via Wikimedia Commons)

In Zimbabwe, long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says that if he becomes president, he “will not persecute or prosecute gays.”

Such statements in Zimbabwe tend to provoke accusations that the speaker is gay or has been bribed by gay Westerners, so Tsvangirai stated in addition, “I am not gay. I don’t support gays.”

As reported in New Zimbabwe, he said:

“I know in our society gays are shunned. … 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?”

In contrast, President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since the country became independent in 1980, often speaks out against LGBT people, whom he calls “worse than pigs and dogs.” His ZanuPF party is similarly outspoken in its hostility to LGBT people. Zanu PF has already embraced Mugabe, age 92, as its candidate in the next presidential election in 2018, if he is able.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Robert Mugabe in 2009 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Tsvangirai and his MDC-T opposition party have a mixed record about LGBT rights. For example, during the campaign before the 2013 presidential election, one LGBT activist from Bulawayo commented:

“MDC-T uses homosexuality to their convenience. Their leader once said it on BBC that they embrace diversity and do not discriminate against LGBT people, and when he was in Chitungwiza he was gay-bashing. That’s why they won’t come out in the open about the issue. It can always work to their advantage, depending on the environment.”

Zimbabwe police have frequently harassed the LGBTI advocacy organization Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), but prosecutions under the country’s anti-gay law are uncommon.

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