25 October 2011

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Embraces Gay Rights

Photo: IRIN
Morgan Tsvangirai - No to a second round.

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday made an about turn on homosexuality, insisting he wanted to see gay rights enshrined in the envisaged new constitution.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Tsvangirai said gay rights were also "human rights" that should be respected by all Zimbabweans.

"It's a very controversial subject in my part of the world.

"My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody," he told the BBC.

"To me, it's a human right," he added.

In the past, Mr Tsvangirai joined President Mugabe's condemnation of gay relations saying he concurred with the President's views abhorring homosexuality.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-In-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is on record condemning gays and lesbians and on a number of occasions, once called them "worse than pigs and dogs".

Both leaders have previously refused to embrace homosexuality in the constitution, which is being drawn up and will be put to a referendum next year. Homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe, as in most African countries where many people view homosexuality as unChristian and unAfrican.

Mr Tsvangirai told BBC there was a "very strong cultural feeling" against homosexuality in Zimbabwe, but he would defend gay rights if he became president.

Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity Cde Rugare Gumbo yesterday castigated the MDC-T leader, saying he was not in sync with reality on the ground.

He said Mr Tsvangirai, just as he has opposed indigenisation, now wanted to go against the country's tide by condoning gay relations.

"He is misguided and unfortunately he does not understand what is happening in Zimbabwe.

"He thinks Zimbabwe is Europe, this is Africa. He has opposed indigenisation and which black person would support you when you oppose indigenisation?" Cde Gumbo said.

Zanu-PF, Cde Gumbo said, was clear on its abhorrence of homosexuality.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said his party will be guided by what people said during the constitution-making process.

He said what Mr Tsvangirai meant was that he would accept the practice should it be endorsed by the people of Zimbabwe.

MDC vice president Mr Edwin Mushoriwa said his party will be guided by the outcome of the constitution-making process.

"We will be guided by the views of the people," said Mr Mushoriwa.

In March last year, Mr Tsvangirai said gay rights were not up for discussion in Zimbabwe.

"I totally agree with the President, Nyaya yekuti umwe murume anofemera mugotsi wemumwe murume haina kunaka," he said at the time.

Mr Tsvangirai's U-turn on homosexuality is the second time in as many weeks that he has backtracked on a major issue.

He has tended to go with national sentiment when addressing local gatherings, but changes once he hits Western shores adopting positions that dovetail with Western thinking.

On indigenisation, Mr Tsvangirai claimed he supported the process only to trash it when he was in the United States recently.

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