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Zimbabwe PM Draws Criticism Over Apparent Shift in Position on Gay Rights

Prime Minister Tsvangirai's statement to the BBC this week contradicted what he said in March 2010 supporting the position of President Robert Mugabe who said gay rights were not up for discussion in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has sparked a new controversy over gay rights with remarks he made this week to the BBC saying the right to sexual preference should be enshrined in the country’s new constitution, then backtracking.

In the BBC interview, Mr. Tsvangirai said: “I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody."

His latest statement contradicted what he said in March 2010 backing the position of President Robert Mugabe, saying gay rights were not up for discussion in Zimbabwe.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Mr. Tsvangirai’s statement to the BBC was out of touch with the Zimbabwean reality. MDC formation leader Welshman Ncube said the matter was one for Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mugabe to resolve.

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka spoke of “misrepresentation” in connection with the prime minister's position on the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.

He said the people of Zimbabwe, who are drafting a new constitution, will decide the question of gay rights, and that Mr. Tsvangirai will be guided by that view.

“The prime minister has no power to impose or determine the position of the people of Zimbabwe regarding that process,” said Tamborinyoka.

Gays and Lesbian Association of Zimbabwe Director Chesterfield Shamba called Mr. latest remarks contradictory, urging him to declare his respect for human rights.

Reverend Ray Motsi, an official with the Christian Alliance, said that Mr. Tsvangirai must clearly state his position as Zimbabwean prime minister on gay rights so Zimbabweans "would actually know that his position is such that he is saying he does not have problems with gays, which is not exactly what has been communicated.”

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