President Robert Mugabe has threatened to cut the heads off any gay person he sees and has compared them to pigs and dogs, but in one court in Zimbabwe, a gay rights victory has taken place.
Labour Court president Justice Evangelista Kabasa has ruled no person should be fired from work on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Raymond Sibanda, from Bulawayo, was fired as a youth officer by the Ministry of Youth and Economic Empowerment for allegedly ‘engaging in homosexual activities’.
It was claimed at a disciplinary meeting held last year that he had gone to a Christmas party hosted by Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe in 2013.
When police raided the party, Sibanda paid an ‘admission of guilt’ fine for a charge of allegedly performing an indecent act in a public place.
When he was arrested and had paid the fine, he was fired for being gay and ‘disrespecting the ministry’.
The full statement by Justice Kabasa is still being prepared, but Sibanda’s lawyer confirmed he had won his appeal.
Mojalifa Mokoele, of the Sexual Rights Centre, called it a ‘milestone achievement’.
‘It is justice served,’ he said. ‘[The court] ruled the dismissal of somebody on the basis of sexual orientation is unconstitutional; the constitution of Zimbabwe does not in any way offer any grounds for dismissal based on sexual orientation’.
But lawyer Nqobani Nyathi of the Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers Organization told Studio 7 the constitution could be very easily interpreted to give protection to LGBTI people.
‘If you look at Section 56 of the constitution it provides for the right to equality and non-discrimination. Obviously discrimination against people because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is not justified in a democracy; it’s really like the crushing of sexual minorities,’ he said.
‘Everyone has that right to equality regardless of whether they are gay, or bisexual, lesbian or transgender, and to dismiss anyone based on such prejudices is in clear violation of that right to equality and non-discrimination.’
A Zimbabwe government spokesperson said: ‘We do not support gay practices’.