Zim cops raid gay group offices, arrest two

2010-05-25 13:20

The police have arrested two members of a gay and HIV/Aids

awareness organisation after they posted a letter in their office from Willie

Lewis Brown, former mayor of San Francisco, criticising the Zimbabwean

president’s opposition to homosexuality.

Ellen Chadehama (34) and Ingatius Mhambi (38) are employees of Gays

and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) organisation. They were arrested on allegations

under Zimbabwe’s censorship laws on Friday.

Attorney David Hofisi said the two will remain in jail until

tomorrow – today is a public holiday in Zimbabwe – after police seized the

letter from the organisation’s suburban offices.

Police said the letter, mounted on an office wall, “undermined the

authority of the president,” an offence under sweeping security laws carrying a

penalty of a fine or brief imprisonment.

During the raid, the police removed documents and files.

Hofisi said he was not allowed to visit the two staff members in

jail over the weekend.

“We asked the police to release them to us so we can come with them

to court tomorrow, but they have denied that,” he said.

The former US mayor’s letter also commended Galz as a champion of

gay rights. Brown did not respond to requests for comment left at his San

Francisco office by The Associated Press.

President Robert Mugabe has in the past described same-sex partners

as “lower than dogs and pigs”; but arrests of gays are rare in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe (86) had been in power for three decades since Zimbabwe

gained independence from Britain. Last year, he entered a power-sharing

coalition government with his longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai following a

disputed 2008 election. However, the fragile partnership has been fraught with

disagreements, including allegations that Mugabe’s party has not done enough to

promote democratic reforms.

Human rights organisations have called for Mugabe to face trial at

the International Criminal Court on charges of political violence, vote-rigging

and human rights violations by state agents over the past decade.

Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries. Last week in

Malawi, a judge sentenced a gay couple to a maximum 14 years in prison with hard

labour after the men celebrated their engagement with a party at a hotel.

In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill under which homosexuals

could be sentenced to life in prison and “repeat offenders” could be executed.

Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognises gay rights, male

gangs have raped lesbians.

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