Zim gay debate goes viral
GOVERNMENT| Nov. 18, 2011, 12:34 p.m.
By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been a butt of jokes most of his political career, but his recent statements on gay rights have torched a social media storm.
A movement called ‘One Million Against Morgan Tsvangirai Gay Statements’ debuted on Facebook this week - most likely launched by opponents of his Movement for Democratic Party – with a symbol of a splinter MDC formation on the background of a Zanu-PF flag.
Speaking to BBC's Newsnight programme on a recent visit to the British capital, Tsvangirai said he would defend gay rights if he became president but noted that there was a "very strong cultural feeling" against homosexuality in Zimbabwe.
"It's a very controversial subject in my part of the world. My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody. To me, it's a human right," he said.
He later told a local political rally: “I am not gay, but I will not persecute someone who wishes to make his or her own choice about their sexual orientation, it is their own business.”
Zimbabwe is drafting a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum ahead of possible elections next year and Tsvangirai’s statements are seen as a call to enshrine gay rights in the final draft.
However, homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe as in most African countries except South Africa, where many people view such as un-African.
Tsvangirai, who founded the MDC in 1999, is seen as the second most powerful politician in Zimbabwe and likely future president after his party took majority seats in the 2008 parliamentary vote.
However, his comments alarmed many in the conservative country and within a short time had gone viral on Facebook and Twitter social media forums, mainly because his coalition government partner President Mugabe - a practising Catholic - once described gays as "worse than pigs and dogs", sparking international outrage.
Rivals waded into the controversy and Zanu-PF spokesman, Rugare Gumbo speculated in the State-owned Herald newspaper that the British were pressuring Tsvangirai to support gay rights in return for aid.
“There is a clear link between what Tsvangirai is now advocating and it is not surprising. They (MDC-T) are sponsored by the British and the West and they have to toe the line. Failure to do so would cost them British support,” he told the Herald.
The Herald maintains that gays and lesbians freely exist in Zimbabwe and are not persecuted, they are only prosecuted at law if they take their activities into the public domain since the constitution does not provide for same-sex unions and calls homosexuality ‘an abomination’.
It is widely believed that social media played an integral role in the election of United States President Barack Obama and its omnipresence fuelled the Arab Spring.
In Zimbabwe, it may determine the fate of one Morgan Tsvangirai.
MORE GOVERNMENT NEWS
Kenya adopts biometric registration to net ghost workersKenya is banking on biometric technology to manage the rising wage bill and get rid of ghost workers. Read More
Botswana Ministry in 5th ICT conferenceBotswana’s Ministry of Transport and Communications will hold the 5th Annual ICT Pitso (conference) on the 4th and 5th of September 2014 at Tlotlo Hotel in Gaborone. Read More
Nigeria launches MasterCard-branded National eID cardsThe Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has begun the issuance of 13 million MasterCard-branded National eID cards. Read More
Minister warns about social mediaA junior minister has advised Batswana to be very cautious of the now popular social media, saying it has become a scourge and harbinger of many criminal acts including terrorism. Read More
Which African president has the best website?The presidency of Togo, a tiny West African nation of six million people, has the best presidential website in Africa out of the 40 countries surveyed by Jeune Afrique magazine. Read More
Multimillion Kwacha traffic project questionedPlayers in the transport system have questioned the decision to settle for MOVESA and Fischer Consortium as the eligible bidder to upgrade Maltis. Read More
Statistics Botswana conducts ICT surveyStatistics Botswana (SB) has embarked on the first-ever nationwide Botswana Information & Communication Technology (ICT) survey, targeting 2,440 households. Read More
Rwanda Online platform officially takes offThe Government of Rwanda and Rwanda Online Platform Limited have kicked off the first phase of the Rwanda Online platform, set to establish an integrated public service platform for Government to Business and Government to Citizen services. Read More
Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon customs go hi-techCongo-Brazzaville and Cameroon have agreed to seek the help of ICTs to computerise their customs services. Read More
FEATURED STORYSafaricom-Equity battle for mobile banking hots up
Equity bank's entry to the mobile banking and telephony industry is still hanging in the balance with London-based global association of mobile operators (GSMA) calling for independent audit.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHKenya rolls out e-extension to improve agriculture
In a bid to curb the overwhelmed number of agricultural extension officers in Kenya, the ministry of agriculture is embracing technology with their introduction of E-Extension services, which are aimed at reaching out to over 7 million farmers annually.