Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has broken ranks with President Robert Mugabe saying he now wants gay rights enshrined in the country's new constitution.
The remarks in an interview with BBC elicited an immediate rebuke from President Mugabe's Zanu PF party, which said Mr Tsvangirai was going against the tide.
The veteran ruler is known for his hostility towards homosexuals and at one time described them as worse than dogs and pigs.
Last year, the PM came out in support of President Mugabe's stance on gays saying Zimbabwe had more women than men hence there was no need for same sex relationships.
But Mr Tsvangirai told the BBC gay rights were a "human right" that Zimbabwe must strive to respect in the constitution that is being re-written. "It's a very controversial subject in any part of the world," he said.
"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."
Zanu PF spokesman Mr Rugare Gumbo told state media that the PM was not in sync with reality on the ground.
"He is misguided and unfortunately he does not understand what is happening in Zimbabwe," he lashed out.
"He thinks Zimbabwe is Europe, this is Africa. He has opposed indigenisation (of the economy) and which black person would support you when you oppose indigenisation."
Zanu PF has been strident in its opposition to the inclusion of gay rights in the new constitution whose adoption will lead to fresh elections.