When will the government recognise that persecution of gays and lesbians is wrong?

Despite incessant calls for legislative reform, the government of Zimbabwe continues to enact laws that serve to incarcerate the human rights activist and ordinary citizens of the country.

Police yesterday Tuesday 3 July, 2012 summoned Chesterfield Samba, the director of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) for allegedly undermining the authority of or insulting President Robert Mugabe in contravention of Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23 stipulates that it is a Criminal offence to insult or mock the President. Samba represented by Jeremiah Bamu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights reported at the Zimbabwe Republic Police's CID Drugs Section was summoned by Detective Assistant Inspector (DAI) Mupandawana on Monday 2 July 2012.

DAI Mupandawana and the Officer in Charge of CID Drugs Section identified as Chibvuma interrogated Samba over the operations of GALZ and advised that the police intended to charge the organization for contravening Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The police claim that in 2010, GALZ displayed a plaque of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown Jnr in their office in which the African-American denounces President Mugabe's homophobia.

These charges were initially pressed against two GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi when they were arrested in 2010 but they were never prosecuted on these charges. The two GALZ employees, who stood trial for allegedly possessing pornographic pictures in contravention of Section 26(1) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act (Chapter10:04) were acquitted in 2010.

Samba was expected to return to the CID Drugs Section today on Wednesday 4 July 2012 at 1100 hours in the company of his lawyer to furnish the police with a letter advising them of who the legal representative of GALZ is. However there was a turnaround of events as the police are now charging GALZ as an institution and today summoned Martha Tholanah in her capacity as GALZ Board Chairperson to stand in for the organisation together with defense lawyer Marufu Mandevere from Mbidzo, Muchadehama and Makoni legal practitioners.

There has been an increase in the harassment of LGBT  persons with shameless impunity in Zimbabwe. On 10 May 2012, for example, at a community gathering, Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo, allegedly made the statement that,

"Chiefs are there to protect and promote our cultural values and those who support same-sex marriages must be banished from the communities and dispossessed of their land. €

Arguably, Minister Chombo's comments fall foul of section 37 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which prohibits participating in a gathering with the intent to promote violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry. No doubt, his statements are likely to fuel prejudice, stigma and discrimination against the gays and lesbians community. Anti-homophobia Day celebrated on the 17th of May each year should serve as a reminder of the need for all human rights organisations to intensify their promotion of the rights of the community. As such they are entitled to the same protection against discrimination and incitement as everyone else.

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