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Zimbabwean VP Issues Threat Toward LGBTQ Group After It Offers Scholarships

Samba Chesterfield, Director of Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe, prepares to hoist their official flag alongside the Zimbabwean flag during an event in Harare, Zimbabwe, May, 19, 2012.
Samba Chesterfield, Director of Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe, prepares to hoist their official flag alongside the Zimbabwean flag during an event in Harare, Zimbabwe, May, 19, 2012.


Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga threatened a gay and lesbian group Thursday for offering university scholarships to underprivileged students.

Chiwenga, who is serving as acting president while President Emmerson Mnangagwa is out of the country, said in a statement that the LGBTQ community is “alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian.”

He condemned an advocacy group, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, for offering the scholarships and urged young Zimbabweans to snub the offers. He accused the group of making an “insidious attempt” to advance foreign interests by enticing Zimbabwe’s less-privileged youths into the LGBTQ community’s activities.

“The government sees such scholarship offers as a direct challenge on its authority and thus will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws and to protect and defend national values,” Chiwenga said.

There was no immediate word from Mnangagwa, who is in Dubai, on whether he agreed with his deputy’s statement or whether it was authorized.

Zimbabwean officials did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.

Chesterfield Samba, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, said Friday that his organization’s board was still digesting the vice president’s statement.

Some Zimbabweans had strong reactions on both sides to the vice president’s statement.

Oliver Mutambara, 36, said, “I would like to thank the acting president for the clear message that we are not going to accept those scholarships. We should remember that we are a multireligious community, we have the Christian community, which is the largest chunk. And from our principles, we do not condone such practices.”

He continued, “We are going to seek permission very soon from our government to act upon those people or bring down their banners and act accordingly to them.”

Lloyd Damba, spokesman for Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, did not entirely disagree with the vice president’s statement.

“As a Christian nation, the Christian community believes that man can only marry a woman and, based on that, I think he is correct in this sense," Damba said.

Also, he said, "I think [Chiwenga] is basing his communique [on] the laws of the land do not permit such things.”

Treasure Basopo, 28, expressed a different view, arguing that the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe has been a legal organization in the country since 1990.

He criticized Chiwenga, a former army general before he became a vice president in 2017 after the military coup that ousted former President Robert Mugabe.

“He is a man of misplaced priorities, excitable character," Basopo said. "General Chiwenga must first give reference to section 78 of the constitution, which talks of people of same sex being banned from getting into a marriage. But the constitution is silent about the conduct and activities of these people before marriage.”

Speaking to VOA, Sally Ncube, a representative for rights group Equality Now in southern Africa, called on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and other such institutions, as well as the Southern African Development Community, to ensure Harare protects the rights of everyone in the country.

“The statement in tone is contrary to Zimbabwe’s commitment and obligations under international law to uphold the rights of all, including its LBGTQ citizens," Ncube said. "The government must not only refrain from making discriminatory statements, but actively work toward creating an environment that respects and protects diverse identities within its nation.”