By Jeffrey Muvundusi
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community has hailed the environment that prevailed before and during the just-ended polls, saying it allowed them to exercise their right to vote peacefully.
Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) director Chesterfield Samba told Daily News on Sunday that while the election results are being contested, the environment under which they cast their ballots was a clear departure from the Robert Mugabe era when LGBTIs were brutally quashed.
“This election cycle was a historic win for the LGBTI community in a number of ways,” Samba said.
“We witnessed a reduction in homophobic hate speech and the reduction in the politicisation of LGBTI individuals as campaign tools as had become the norm with previous electoral cycles where political parties used LGBTI identities as ammunition to fuel campaign rallies and strategies,” Samba said.
“Previous campaign rallies, mainly by Mugabe were filled with hate speech towards LGBTI people and our complaints to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) on the use of hate speech were ignored; we were raided and harassed making it very difficult to operate during elections,” he said.
Mugabe was a fervent critic of homosexuals.
He often described homosexuals as worse than pigs and dogs, with the LGBTI community also having its programmes disrupted by State security agents.
Ever since President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power, the LGBTI community has found comfort in him as he has appears to have abandoned his predecessor’s politics of discrimination, hatred and intolerance.
In a reflection of the just-ended elections, Samba said he was happy with the increase in the participation of their members.
“We recorded an increase in LGBTI participation; there was an increase in the number of LGBTI people that voted.
“We succeeded in having this homophobic and sexist narrative changed for the better for the LGBTI community although the sexist narrative worsened for women political leaders,” he said.
The gays boss said they sought and received audience with some political parties, “allowing us to start dialogue which we hope will continue – post the elections.”
He added: “This was a very encouraging development that helped in fostering an enabling environment for LGBTI people to participate in electoral processes.”
Samba added: “There was increased consultation pre, during and post elections through various observer missions that were observing elections which gave us an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the process.”
He however, said the election did not go without posing a few challenges to its members.
“There were reported challenges on voting day by mainly the trans community at polling stations where voting queues were gendered. This situation discouraged some trans individuals from voting as these gendered lines created discomfort,” Samba.Daily News.