A team of about fifteen riot squad police, some of them visibly drunk, disrupted a meeting at the offices of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) on Saturday, assaulting and arresting a total of 44 members.
Marufu Mandevere, from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), told SW Radio Africa that the group had gathered for a workshop on the draft constitution and to launch their "Violations Report", detailing abuses against GALZ members.
"After the workshop they had a party and that is when police cordoned off their offices. They took almost everyone there to Harare Central Station and detained them without charge," Mandevere explained.
A statement from GALZ said four policeman had attempted to gain access to the premises and called for riot squad backup when they failed. "Police, some of them visibly drunk, assaulted most of the members using baton sticks, open hands and clenched fists before detaining them without charge," GALZ said.
Mandevere did not witness the assaults as he was monitoring events from outside the GALZ office. He said: "I followed the arrested members to Harare Central and was denied access to them. A total of 31 men and 13 women members were detained overnight and released without charge the following day."
Homosexuality is illegal, according to Zimbabwean law. Amendments introduced by government in 2006 defined sodomy as any 'act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act'. The amendment also criminalized a simple show of affection such as holding hands, hugging or kissing.
Gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe live in a culture that publicly discriminates and openly despises their sexuality, with Robert Mugabe himself and other senior officials leading the charge against the gay community.
ZANU PF's extreme hypocrisy over the issue of homosexuality is well-documented, with many officials within the party accused of engaging in the same lifestyle. Canaan Banana, Zimbabwe's first ceremonial President, became the most prominent example following his arrest for sodomy in 1997.