Police have arrested two employees of GALZ, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe
Armed with a search warrant from Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, Detective Inspector Chibvuma, on Friday evening led a team of police officers to search for dangerous drugs and pornographic material at the GALZ offices in Harare’s Milton Park. The police arrested two GALZ employees Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi, who were detained at Harare Central Police Station on Friday and were still in police custody Saturday.
The police accused GALZ of contravening Section 157 (1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 and Section 32 (1) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act Chapter 10:04 by allegedly keeping pornographic material and dangerous drugs. Although two lawyers from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) representing the two GALZ workers, had by Saturday not yet ascertained how much material was taken by the police, various computers and some documents were seized by the police during the raid.
ZLHR lawyers Dzimbabwe Chimbga and David Hofisi attended at Harare Central Police Station on Friday evening, but police remained adamant that the two GALZ employees would be detained despite complaints from Chademana about her diabetic condition. On Saturday the police refused to allow the lawyers access to their clients. It remained unclear what charges would be preferred against the two GALZ employees but lawyers said they would continue to make attendances at Harare Central Police Station.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has a history of harassing lesbians and gays. In the past President Mugabe has attacked homosexuality, which he has described as foreign to African culture. He once described homosexuals as “worse than dogs and pigs” when they attempted to assert their rights. Last week a Malawian Judge sentenced a gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to a maximum of 14 years in prison with hard labor under Malawi’s anti-gay legislation. The case has drawn international condemnation and sparked a debate on human rights in this conservative southern African country.
Meanwhile the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) condemned leaders of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Uganda for their anti-gay stance. “SAMWU has become increasingly concerned by the homophobic utterances of several national leaders on the continent over the last few years. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Museveni in Uganda and a few others have made intolerable comments about the rights of consenting adults to engage in a same sex relationship. One has to ask what is it exactly that irks these ‘revolutionary’ leaders? What are they afraid of? However, recent events in Malawi have surpassed even these levels of ignorance and prejudice,” Tahir Sema, SAMWU national spokesperson told The Zimbabwean in Johannesburg.
“We call upon the SADC countries and the African Union to disassociate themselves from the judgement that has been made in Malawi, and further to urge the immediate release of the two individuals concerned, for all charges to be dropped, and for a complete review of colonial homophobic legislation. We also call for an end to police and media harassment of minorities that serves no purpose but to encourage division and misery. This is the very least that should be done at this time. Homosexuality exists in all of our societies. It is a reality, however difficult it is for some to accept this simple fact.”