Zimbabwe: Government Launches Scathing Anti-LGBTIQ+ Attack


Constantino Chiwenga, Vice President of Zimbabwe, says LGBTIQ+ people must not be allowed in schools and universities (Photo: President’s Secretariat – India)

In an extraordinary diatribe, the government of Zimbabwe has launched a scathing attack against a scholarship programme for LGBTIQ+ students, labelling LGBTIQ+ individuals deviants and aberrations who should be denied access to education.

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, on behalf of the government, issued a threatening and paranoid press statement on February 15th, condemning what he referred to as “a so-called LGBT scholarship offer.”

He declared the government’s rejection of such initiatives as “unlawful, unchristian, anti-Zimbabwean, and unAfrican” and claimed that they are “insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure, and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged but able students into Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships.”

According to Chiwenga, “Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian Nation.”

The vice president’s pronouncement not only deeply denigrates LGBTIQ+ people but also perpetuates the bizarre, dangerous and false belief that individuals can be “recruited” into homosexuality and that Western governments are involved in paying or encouraging young Africans to engage in same-sex practices.

Chiwenga’s statement is believed to be a response to advertising for an annual scholarship offered by GALZ, Zimbabwe’s leading LGBTIQ+ rights organisation.

The Munhu-Munhu (“a person is a person”) Scholarships provide financial support to LGBTIQ-identifying university students studying in the fields of democracy, governance, justice, human rights, and conflict resolution.

Threat to Deprive LGBTIQ+ People of Education

Chiwenga emphasised that the government views such scholarship offers as a direct challenge to its authority and “will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws and to protect and defend national values.”

He categorically stated that LGBTIQ+ individuals should not be permitted to pursue education.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enrol persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African, and unchristian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practiced in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities,” Chiwenga ranted.

MambaOnline contacted GALZ for comment on the government’s statement, but the organisation declined to respond at this time.

Toxic Rhetoric That Seeks to Demonise

Zimbabwean actor and queer activist Frank Malaba told MambaOnline that he was appalled by the vice president’s hateful commentary.

“Since when has the quest to educate known marginalised communities evil?” he asked. “This statement stinks of a toxic rhetoric that aims to other and demonise inclusive initiatives that seek to integrate people who’ve previously been and continue to be treated as subhuman by a government that claims to honour the inalienable rights of its citizens. ”

Malaba continued: “The vice president intentionally chooses to remain uneducated around issues of sexuality and gender, and that’s concerning. It’s a sign of sickeningly poor leadership and lack of accountability for terrible ethics.”

An Alarming Escalation of Government Queerphobia

Under the late notoriously homophobic President Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted in 2017, the country was known for its anti-LGBTIQ+ policies and abuses. A 2021 study found that Zimbabwe is among the five least-accepting nations of LGBTIQ+ people in the world.

There have been hopes that matters would improve under new leadership, but laws criminalising homosexuality, with penalties of up to three years in jail, remain on the statute books. Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution also expressly bans same-sex marriage.

In 2021, South African LGBTIQ+ entertainer and celebrity chef Somizi Mhlongo was denied entry into Zimbabwe to participate in the relaunch of a restaurant in Harare following a campaign by church leaders and politicians to ban him from the country.

This latest assault on the fundamental rights of the LGBTIQ+ community reflects an alarming escalation of queerphobia by the Zimbabwean government.

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