The question of whether Zimbabwe's new constitution should provide for protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is becoming increasingly politically sensitive as the possibility of new elections as early as next year looms increasingly larger.
President Robert Mugabe long ago made his position on homosexuality clear, referring at one point to gays as "lower than pigs and dogs."
This week at a women's rights function in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza, Mr. Mugabe declared that as far as he was concerned there was no possibility that the new constitution the country is drafting would guarantee the rights of gays and lesbians.Mr. Mugabe added that homosexuals are “crazy” and “insane.”
Comments by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the same function gave the impression that he was moving closer to Mr. Mugabe's position on the issue.
According to the state-run Herald newspaper, aligned with Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, Mr. Tsvangirai then said, "I totally agree with the president.”
He added, in what spokesman, James Maridadi, later described as a "light-hearted" remark: “Women are 52 percent of the population. There are more women than men. Why should men propose to men?”
A recent statement issued by the MDC said the party did not prescribe anything for the Zimbabwean people as to what the constitution should say, but would respect the position taken by Zimbabweans on gay rights.
Maridadi told VOA reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that Mr. Tsvangirai was expressing his personal views, and that people were free to agree or disagree with him.
Co-Chairman Douglas Mwondzora of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Constitutional Revision said the views of the president and prime minister have no more weight than those of any other Zimbabwean in what the revised constitution should say on any issue.
Mwonzora said the committee is using a standard questionnaire for all pertinent issues, and the issue of gay rights is taken up in the questionnaire.
He said some oppose the constitutional protection of the rights of liberation war veterans, and the questionnaire also takes up the issue of land reform, and that in the end the people would decide what rights should be enshrined in the new Zimbabwean constitution.