Zimbabwe: “True leadership remains steadfast”

In a statement, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has responded to Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s tentative embrace of constitutional protections for sexual orientation. While welcoming the comments, they

note however that these statements contradict his views expressed in March 2010, when Mr Tsvangirai agreed with President Mugabe, saying, “Gay rights were not up for discussion in Zimbabwe.”

Gay rights are a controversial issue in Zimbabwe, where many people view homosexuality as “uncultural.” GALZ does not expect every individual Zimbabwean to embrace gay rights or the issue of homosexuality. But we do expect Zimbabweans – and our political leaders in particular – to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

Zimbabwe’s new, democratic constitution must enshrine these human rights, which are inherent to every human being, and are not determined by majority opinion.

We encourage the Prime Minister to take positive action to support his most recent statement on the indivisibility of human rights.

Further, we urge him to have the courage to stand by his laudable respect for human rights in the face of the propaganda and unpopularity that will be generated by the Zimbabwean media around his position.

True leadership remains steadfast in the pursuit of justice and equality.

The propaganda has begun.  Today Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister, a staunch apparatchik of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, accused Tsvangirai of shifting to secure donor funds: 

“”We all know what people said about gay rights – it’s a total no; an almost 100% no … We can’t smuggle [into the constitution] the views of a prime minister who wants to please a certain audience basically, I suppose, to mobilise resources for his party.”

Mugabe, sex, and money

an anti-Mugabe poster made of worthless bills, 2009

To simplify history: for humans in many millennia, and for plenty of people in the world even these days, getting food and water was the primary concern.   But once a certain level of civilization — consumer civilization — has arrived, sex and money take over.

Robert Mugabe is a civilized man. He has the chance this week to speak to one of God’s vicars on earth, the leader of the global Anglican communion.  Sex and money are on his mind.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is visiting Zimbabwe as part of a three-nation African tour.   The Zimbabwe Telegraph reports:

Williams may not be allowed into any Anglican facilities in Zimbabwe, after a breakaway bishop aligned with Mugabe seized all of the church’s property.  For weeks Williams has sought a meeting with Mugabe to discuss the split, which has degenerated into violence as supporters of excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga chased Anglican faithful out of churches, schools and orphanages.

Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba did not say if the two men would meet, but told the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper that if they did speak, the 87-year-old president would challenge Williams about gays and sanctions.

“Fundamentally, he would want to know why the church of the British state, the Anglican Church, has remained so loudly silent while the people of Zimbabwe, and these people include Anglicans, are suffering from the illegal sanctions,” Charamba said.

Rowan Williams being told his tickets home are ready

“The second issue that the president wants this man of God to clarify is why his Anglican Church thinks homosexuality is good for us and why it should be prescribed for us.

“He thinks the Archbishop will be polite enough to point to him that portion of the Great Book (that) sanctions homosexuality and sanctions sanctions.”

God, as it happens, was rather fond of economic sanctions, many of which exceeded anything the EU has in its quiver:

But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep…

The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.

Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them. (Deuteronomy 28)

The sanctions against Zimbabwe are less sweeping than the botch of Egypt and the scab and the itch, but they’re serious. They take two forms:

a) travel bans and asset freezes on 100 – 200 of the dictatorship’s high officials;

b) moves to restrict Zimbabwe’s access to international credit as well as aid.

The latter were predicated on the perception that neither aid nor credit reached most Zimbabweans without transparency or democracy. For a pro-Mugabe, and controversial, account of their impact, see Mahmood Mamdani’s tendentious article here. The ZANU-PF regime, however, tries mightilyl to conflate the two — those targeting the leadership and those aimed at the broader economy. And that deliberate confusion suggests that for Mugabe, the bans on foreign accounts and shopping trips are at least as onerous, and objectionable.   The hardships of ordering his outfits over the Internet must be considerable.

Sanctions politics are intricate. But the sex part is telling. A Catholic, Mugabe could care less about Rowan Williams’ opinions. However, the Anglican church in Zimbabwe was — before Nolbert Kunonga took it over — a source of vocal opposition to the dictatorship.

The schisms over homosexuality that have fissured the church from the US to Nigeria must have seemed to him a delightful opportunity.  Mugabe has always pioneered the opportunistic use of homosexuality to enlist religious or right-wing support in the country. This time, he is using it split religious opposition.  (In addition to driving Mugabe opponents from churches and orphanages, Kunonga allegedly had at least one dissenting parishioner murdered.)

Multiple interests converge around dividing the Anglican church. American conservatives have heavily funded African anti-homosexuality schismatics, like Nigeria’s ferocious Peter Akinola.  They don’t care about African church politics. They’ve wanted to use the defiant clerics to wrest control of the Anglican denomination in the US from its generally liberal leaders, and create a right-wing hegemony. Their eyes were on capturing the church’s reputation, influence, and prestige.

Mugabe is just following their lead. He now has himself a portfolio of church lands and buildings, a nice bump in his income, and a terrorized clergy unlikely to speak out. And all this profit came from raising the spectre of homosexuality.  The uses of gayness are manifold. And sex and money continue to go together.