By Fortune Tazvida
Police in Zimbabwe on Friday raided the offices of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and arrested two employees, Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Muhambi on allegations of possessing dangerous drugs and pornographic material. The arrests were immediately condemned as being part of the ongoing persecution of members of the gay community in the country.
Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi and Detective Inspector Chibvuma both led a team of police officers to the offices of GALZ in Harare’s posh Milton Park suburb. Both GALZ employees Chadehama and Muhambi were hauled to Harare Central Police Station and were still in custody Saturday evening.
The police are said to have taken with them several computers, documents and other material as evidence after the raid. Lawyers representing the arrested duo were denied access to their clients on Saturday. Under Zimbabwe’s harsh censorship laws pornographic material is dealt with under the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act.
In November 1999 President Robert Mugabe accused the British Government of setting ‘gay gangsters’ on him over his violent land reform exercise. The Zanu PF leader has over the years made his homophobic views clear describing gays and lesbians as ‘worse than pigs.’
Astonishingly Mugabe’s own Youth Development and Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere was outed as gay. Kasukuwere amassed his wealth through many gay liaisons with rich businessmen and ministers while he was still a blue-eyed Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) hitman in Mutare.
Only last year a 31 year old Bulawayo man, Mncedisi Twala, sensationally claimed that the then ZANU PF National Chairman, John Nkomo, molested him in April 2002. After first fleeing to South Africa Twala says he came back after the formation of the unity government and filed a police complaint in July. The police however refused to investigate the complaint and even arrested Twala.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge has in the past also faced accusations of having gay liaisons. The CIO launched a manhunt for gay activist Dumisani Dube after he made a stunning disclosure that he had a love affair with the cabinet minister. Dube also claimed Mudenge infected him with the deadly HIV virus several years ago. Relatives close to Mudenge concede his health has dramatically deteriorated over the years and he was literally ‘in the departure lounge.’
GALZ was formed in 1989 to provide gay men and lesbians in Zimbabwe with a network to facilitate communication within the gay community. By default the network also provided a space for bisexuals and other alternative people who sought more broad-minded company. Primarily concerned with providing the community with social events, the organisation kept a low profile at its onset until a programme of outreach led to its high profile.