PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will this weekend come face-to-face with gays and lesbians — whom he has publicly excoriated as being “worse than pigs and dogs” — when he officially opens the 18th International Conference on Aids and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) (Icasa) in Africa, in Harare on Sunday.
It will be held between Sunday and Friday next week, under the theme “Aids in the Post-2015 Era: Linking Leadership, Science and Human Rights”.
The conference will be attended by thousands of people, including leading scientists, policymakers, activists, gays and lesbians, people living with HIV and Aids, as well as government leaders and civil society representatives.
In 1995, government shut down a book exhibition by Galz at the Harare International Book Fair after which Mugabe declared: “Homosexuals are worse than dogs and pigs; dogs and pigs will never engage in homosexual madness; even insects won’t do it.”
In 2013, he blasted American President Barack Obama accusing him of wanting to impose gay rights in Zimbabwe.
“Then we have this American President, Obama, born of an African father, who is saying we will not give you aid if you don’t embrace homosexuality,” Mugabe said, while addressing a rally.
“We ask, was he born out of homosexuality?
“We need continuity in our race, and that comes from the woman, and no to homosexuality. John and John, no; Maria and Maria, no.”
Gays and lesbians, through the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) have been involved in planning the conference, with officials from different ministries, including Home Affairs and Health engaging them on various issues.
Galz director Chester Samba said his organisation was happy to be included in the programme, despite stigma, intimidation and harassment by police in the past.
“There are a number of sessions from the main plenary, especially the community village plenary,” Samba said.
“We submitted our abstraction for consideration in that category and we are pleased that it was successful.
“Our presentation will be on Thursday. We are satisfied with the level of participation and how government has been involving us in Icasa, even on the conference design.”
“This is the first time government officials from the Ministry of Health, Tourism and Home Affairs have communicated with Galz officially.”
The Icasa conference would be the first gathering at which Mugabe directly addresses gays and lesbians in Zimbabwe.
His speech will be keenly watched as he has previously ridiculed and castigated the lesbian and gay community.
In September at the United General Assembly meeting in New York, Mugabe rejected pressure from Western countries to adopt what he called “new rights” by forcing Africans to accept gays and lesbians.
“We equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our norms, values, traditions and beliefs. We are not gays,” he said.
Mugabe has had so many running battles with gays after openly exhibiting his relentless homophobia.
In 2001, Mugabe’s bodyguards assaulted a gay rights activist Peter Tatchell after he tried to effect a citizen arrest on Mugabe over human rights abuses during an official visit to Brussels in Belgium.
Samba said despite the persistence of hate language targeted at homosexuals as evidenced by Zanu PF members calling their political rivals “gay gangsters”, thousands of people were seeking Galz assistance.
“Unfortunately, the hostile rhetoric continues and we find it very disturbing,” he said.
“When sexual orientation is used as a tool of repression, our communities are affected and exposed to harassment and violence.”
… what he said about them
IN September at the United Nations General Assembly, Mugabe said: “We equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that are contrary to our norms, values, traditions and beliefs. We are not gays.
“Co-operation and respect for each other will advance the cause of human rights worldwide. Confrontation, vilification and double standards will not.”
Mugabe in 2013 dared people involved in same-sex relationships to fall pregnant and have children, failing which they should face jail.
In 2013, Mugabe attacked South African archbishop Desmond Tutu for his pro-gay stance.
He said: “Never, never, never will we support homosexuality in Zimbabwe. Archbishop Tutu said it is nice to be gay, yet he has a wife, he should have begun by getting himself a man for a woman. When you are a bishop and cannot interpret the Bible, you should resign and give it to those who can. We will not compromise our tradition and tolerate homosexuality.”
In 2010, Mugabe said: “It (the subject of gays and lesbians) is not worthy of discussion. Those that engage in such acts are insane. We cannot tolerate this; otherwise the dead will rise against us.”
In 1995, government shut down a book exhibit by Galz at the Harare International Book Fair after which Mugabe declared: “Homosexuals are worse than dogs and pigs; dogs and pigs will never engage in homosexual madness; even insects won’t do it.