LGBT Zimbabweans have spoken of their fears and the danger of spiraling violence against them after newly re-elected President Robert Mugabe again attacked gays in his inauguration speech.
The dictator regularly attacks the gay community, with critics saying this is to distract from failings of his presidency at home.
By contrast he also made comments calling for ‘peace’ although LGBT people we spoke to were generally cynical about those remarks.
GSN has gathered views from LGBT Zimbabweans, who are worried about Mugabe’s threats during the election campaign to crack down on gay people, using the death penalty against them.
We have disguised the identities of those who have spoken to us for their protection.
GC, a human rights activist from Harare, told us: ‘He thrives on the politics of intolerance. By singling out a small group such as LGBT and declaring their rights as “filthy” makes LGBT people a target of hatred and violence.’
Another LGBT activist in Harare said: ‘It did not come as a surprise, Mugabe is very homophobic and he has used the issue to garner support.
‘He has created an environment where people are not interested to learn about LGBT issues but about the eradication of the practice of homosexuality. This is evident in laws such as sodomy law, and recently the constitution. Although the focus is on marriages, we have seen the repercussions of such laws on the lives of LGBT people.’
MT from Chitungwiza was most concerned about possible further criminalization of gay life.
MT told us: ‘This is his first day in office and already he is attacking us, not that its anything new. The homophobic messages make the environment very tense for LGBT people.
‘We can only hope that he does not stiffen laws, this is a major concern right now.’
ADT from Chitungwiza added: ‘There seems to be an obsession with the same-sex marriages, yet for many LGBT people, they are at a point where they are struggling for recognition for tolerance.
‘He makes it appear as though all LGBT people want to get married. That’s what ordinary people have been fed and thus are not interested in understanding our daily struggles.’
However others seem to have devised methods of handling the stress.
‘For some of us we have developed thick skin, we listen to his speeches to hear what nonsense he has to say,’ said TG in Harare.
‘I know how to prepare my week after his remarks because in my neighborhood there is no peace for me as aim an openly out gay man.
‘ZANU PF youths (Mugabe’s party) will be on my case this whole week, some demanding money, others threatening to beat me but I’ve gotten used to the threats ether is nothing I can do.’
While TN in Bulawayo joked: ‘It can never be an event if he does not mention homosexuality, it’s his trademark, he should thank us we have made him famous.’
As the octogenarian leader takes office for what others speculate could be his last term, LGBT Zimbabweans are hoping his homophobic legacy does not perpetuate.