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
Angola takes science and technology roadshow to schoolsAngola’s Minister of Science and Technology has hailed a programme carried out this year to increase school learners’ understanding of science, technology and innovation. Read More
Senegal to issue smart ID, voter’s cardsThe government of Senegal is planning to issue new smart ID documents and voter’s cards, a project it said will strengthen the administration and fight identity theft. Read More
MTN, Orange, Cameroon govt launch Mobile Tax serviceThe Cameroonian government has launched a new tax service called Mobile Tax, in association with mobile operators MTN and Orange. Read More
BTCL IPO date reset againThe embattled BTCL IPO launch date has not seen the last of its changes yet. Read More
Botswana tops Africa Prosperity ReportBotswana tops the 2014 Africa Prosperity Report, as the continent enjoys unprecedented economic upturn, but Africa faces new challenges in gender gap and personal freedom. Read More
Mali Digital Plan 2020 to reorganise economyThe coordinator of Mali’s proposed ICT development strategy believes digital technologies have the potential to revolutionise people’s lifestyle and working relationships, boost culture and improve education, among others. Read More
Nigeria lures broadband investors with incentivesNigeria has highlighted opportunities and incentives for would-be investors, on the sidelines of ITU Telecom World. Read More
Senegal, World Bank launch mobile survey on living conditionsA household survey called A l’écoute du Sénégal ("Listening to Senegal") was launched late last week in this West African nation by the Senegalese government in association with the World Bank. Read More
Gabon businesses to pay tax onlineThe payment of taxes in Gabon will no longer be done through a procedure of a huge stake of papers and stamps, and by moving from one office to another. Read More
FEATURED STORYPWC: Optimism abounds but a bumpy journey ahead for some
PwC’s ‘Capital Projects & infrastructure in East Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa,’ report says infrastructure spend in the region is projected to reach $180bn per annum by 2025.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHAfrica lags on digital migration
Only three African countries have so far completed the digital migration process, and serious issues are hampering the migration in other nations.