In what could be a test case for the country, a former government employee, who was fired for allegedly engaging in gay practices, is suing the public service commission for unfair dismissal in the Labor Court.
According to state records, the complainant, Raymond Sibanda, who was employed as a youth officer by the youth and economic empowerment ministry, was fired last year after a disciplinary hearing found him guilty of misconduct.
This was after Sibanda had been arrested and paid an admission-of-guilt fine for a charge of “Performing an Indecent Act in a Public Place”, under the now defunct Miscellaneous Offences Act, following a police raid at a hotel on the outskirts of Bulawayo, where he was part of a crowd allegedly attending a Christmas party hosted by the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe, commonly known as GALZ, in 2013.
Sibanda was dismissed on the basis of misconduct in terms of civil service regulations for, among other things, “putting the name of the ministry into disrespect and disrepute” on the grounds that he was engaging in gay practices.
Through his lawyers, Dube-Banda, Nzarayapenga and Partners, Sibanda is citing the Public Service Commission and the Minister of Youth Indigenisation and Economic as respondents in contesting his dismissal.
Sibanda wants the court to determine whether or not his admission to a charge of “performing an indecent act in a public place” can be equated to gay practices, and also whether or not he was engaged in gay practices.
He argues that the disciplinary authority should not have regarded his payment of an admission-of-guilt fine to the charge of performing an indecent act in a public place as conclusive evidence that he was involved in gay practices.
He adds, in the court papers, that the authority had no basis for its findings as they are not supported by any evidence.
Sibanda says if he had indeed engaged in gay practices and this was an offence, he should have been charged for an offence relating to gay practices. He contends that no such crime exists under the country’s laws hence the police’s attempt to quote: “sugar-coat” the charge. He says the decision to dismiss him showed gross irrationality.
On the other hand, in their court papers, the respondents are arguing that as a public official, Sibanda was expected to lead by example, adding his actions are intolerable. They add that the payment of an admission of guilt fine to conduct associated with public indecency and gay activities is enough for the government to sack him.
The country's statutes outlaw same sex marriage and sodomy which is defined as “the unlawful and intentional sexual relations per annum between two human males" as well what the statutes term as unnatural offences.
President Mugabe has repeatedly condemned homosexuality, describing those who practice it as being worse than dogs and pigs.
Former Attorney-General Sobusa Gula Ndebele said Sibanda’s payment of a guilt fine for a charge of performing an indecent act in a public place may jeopardize his chances of winning the case.
At the same time, Mojalifa Mokoele of the Sexual Rights Center believed that Sibanda has the right to challenge the dismissal in court.