The recently sacked VP Emmerson Mnangagwa is taking up the presidency in Zimbabwe following a military coup ousting anti-gay despot Robert Mugabe.
But, until Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as vice president earlier this month – his entire political career was reliant on aligning himself with the president.
Before the President resigned Tuesday, Mnangagwa had been urging Mugabe to quit from an undisclosed location in exile:
‘The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy’
Mnangagwa left Zimbabwe just weeks ago fleeing what he believes was a plot to kill him. In his statement, he reflected:
‘Given the events that followed my dismissal I cannot trust my life in President Mugabe’s hands.’
The ruling Zanu-PF party had begun impeaching Mugabe in parliament on Tuesday to remove Mugabe as president. It’s after the embattled President did not resign in a speech on Sunday.
However just hours into the debate in Zimbabwe’s parliament, Mugabe resigned to jubilant and extraordinary scenes in the country’s capital Harare.
This bizarre turn of events opened the path for Mnangagwa to take over, so what will it mean for gay rights in Zimbabwe?
Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?
Mnangagwa created a resiliance group which got him the nickname the ‘crocodile’. It’s a name he proudly wears.
His faction in the Zanu-PF party has the name ‘Lacoste’. He had military training in China and Egypt and was a leading force in the country’s 1970s war of independence.
Many who were part of the war, have long been leading figures in the countries leadership since. Mnangagwa himself was a close ally to Mugabe until he lost his job in the regime last month.
An action that alongside rumors swirling that Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace might succeed her husband – are thought to have inspired the coup.
Moreover, Mnangagwa has long been a key link between the army, intelligence agencies, and Zanu-PF party, according to the BBC.
What is his record on gay rights?
In Zimbabwe, male gay sex is illegal.
Defined as ‘sodomy’ the country’s law bans: ‘unlawful and intentional sexual relations per anum between two human males.’
It is also impossible for people to legally change their gender.
As recently as 2016 Mnangagwa led the way in rejecting gay rights calls from the UN.
In an interview with The Herald Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had shot down the recommendations:
‘With regards to areas that we felt we would not accept, it is issues of gays and homosexuality, which is unlawful in our country.
‘We rejected all those. There are a few countries from Europe which recommended that we reconsider our position with regard to adults of the same sex marrying each other. That we have rejected.’
A Rainbow International Fund spokesperson tells Gay Star News:
‘We do not expect any immediate change to this position if Mnangagwa replaces Mugabe as President.’
‘But we hope that he will modify his views and show real leadership and uphold human rights for LGBT Zimbabweans in the future.’
Mnangagwa takes the presidency after being part of the corrupt Mugabe regime.
During that time, Mugabe is well known for vocally spreading hateful messages about LGBTI people.
In 2013, he promised hell for gay and lesbians if he was re-elected. In the same speech, he said gay people should also ‘rot in jail.’
An Amnesty International representative tells GSN:
‘Mugabe’s uncompromising opposition to LGBTI rights saw security forces carry out numerous raids. These arrests were targeting LGBTI activists, though none were ever convicted.
‘Across Zimbabwe, studies show that rates of adolescent pregnancy and HIV are increasing. This is because of declining rates of knowledge related to sexual and reproductive health.’