Business, Finance & Economics

Zimbabwe Member of Parliament jailed for calling Mugabe gay


Zimbabwe President and leader of the Zanu-PF party, Robert Mugabe, arrives at the party's 12th National People's Conference in Bulawayo, on December 8, 2011. The yearly conference of President Robert Mugabe's party starts as he pushes for Zimbabwe to hold elections next year and to rally his divided ranks behind his campaign to defeat Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.


Jekesai Njikizana

BOSTON — If anyone thinks that things are getting better in Zimbabwe, take a look at the latest news: Member of Parliament Lillian Kirenyi has been jailed for allegedly calling President Robert Mugabe gay.

Kirenyi is quoted as saying, "Zanu PF members have been attacking MDC president [Prime Minister Morgan] Tsvangirai alleging he is pro-homosexuals, yet Robert Mugabe has practiced homosexuality with [Professor] Jonathan Moyo [former Information minister] and Canaan Banana [Zimbabwe’s first ceremonial president]."

Kirenyi was on Tuesday charged with undermining the authority of President Mugabe and is currently being held in jail without bail, according to AP.

What is Robert Mugabe afraid of?

Gay rights is a hot button issue in Zimbabwe and it looks like it will be important in the upcoming 2012 elections.

Mugabe launched his anti-gay campaign in 1995 and has consistently said that homosexuals have no rights. 

However, court testimony showed that Mugabe knew for years that Zimbabwe's first president, Canaan Banana, was abusing males on his staff and yet did nothing to stop it. The late Banana, who died in 2003, was jailed in 1999 after being found guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and abusing his power to engage in "unnatural acts" with men, including many who were on his presidential staff. 

Known for his virulently anti-gay rhetoric, Mugabe recently criticized British Prime Minister David Cameron for saying that British aid will take into consideration countries' politicies towards their LGBT populations. Cameron also urged African states to decriminalize homosexuality. Mugabe has stated that gay people will be punished for their behavior in accordance with "African and Christian values." 

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is in the power-sharing government with Mugabe, staked out an opposing position, saying that he is in favor of LGBT rights being protected in Zimbabwe's new constitution.

"As long as it doesn't interfere with anybody, who am I to define what individual [one's] opinion is going to be as far as their sexual preferences are concerned? To me, it's a human right," said Tsvangirai to the BBC in October. Tsvangirai's spokesman quickly confused the issue by stating that the prime minister "still believes that the issue of homosexuality is alien in Africa," according to AFP.

Last year, two gay rights activists in Zimbabwe claimed to have been abused and tortured after six days in police custody, after being accused accused of possessing pornographic material and insulting Mugabe.