Political parties dodge LGBTI community ahead of elections

Regina Pasipanodya

Harare—Zimbabwe’s biggest political parties, Zanu PF and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), are dodging the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community ahead of the elections set for 23 August.

The two parties ducked and dived when engaged to pronounce their positions relating to the minority interests of LGBTI persons.

Meanwhile, the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in June conducted a virtual survey that established that people of diverse sexual identities felt marginalised by politicians as their interests—regarding particularly their rights, inclusion and safety—were being neglected.

Left Nelson Chamisa and Right President Emmerson Mnangagwa

The survey was aimed at establishing LGBTI priorities before, during and after elections, given the fact that, according to GALZ communications officer, Tanatswa Gumbo, “there is always an assumption of what people with diverse sexual identities want which is not evidence-based.”

Participants in the survey complained that candidates and political parties did not address their priorities.

“We honestly do not know who to vote for or why,” remarked one of the respondents.

Members of the LGBTI community have over the years suffered not only marginalisation, but stigmatisation and persecution too because Zimbabwe is a dominantly anti-gay society even though tolerance levels seem to be improving.

Former president, Robert Mugabe, at one time described LGBTIs as “worse than dogs and pigs”.

The successor government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not been publicly homophobic, but is regarded as paying lip service to the interests of LGBTIs.

Respondents wished for open-minded candidates who appreciate sexual and social diversity and are prepared to openly defend LGBTI rights.

“Usually, candidates castigate the LGBTI community to gain votes from the majority. This takes a toll on our mental health and we are not certain of what the future holds. As the LGBTI community, we are interested in a safe environment, be it social, health, economic, academic, political, religious or…cyber.

“We are tired of the stigma (sic) and discrimination from society… I have noticed that during the elections the tension is high and so is our vulnerability,” remarked one of the respondents.

Transgender people largely feel excluded from electoral processes as, according to them, they cannot openly advocate for their own interests for fear of victimisation and are afraid that the mismatches between their identity documents and physical appearance can expose them to ridicule and victimisation.

“As a trans-identifying individual, it is difficult for me to exercise my right to vote due to our identification documents having only a sex marker, not a gender marker. It then becomes an issue for my appearance since at times it doesn’t match the sex marked on my documents,” noted another respondent.

The plight of LGBTIs is being worsened by evasive political parties and candidates.

NewsHub approached CCC’s deputy spokesperson, Gift Siziba, who is also a parliamentary candidate, and he claimed that his party had produced a policy paper relating to issues such as LGBTI rights.

He, however, passed the buck to the spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere, who he said was the only one to comment since the policy paper had been handed over to her.

Several attempts to talk to Mahere hit a brick wall as she was ignoring calls and messages sent to her.

The recently released 97-page CCC manifesto is silent on LGBTI rights and interests.

The CCC election pledge has a section that promises to promote interests of minority, special interest and disadvantaged communities but does not mention them specifically.

Similarly, Zanu PF, the ruling party, was evasive on LGBTI rights.

The party information and publicity director, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, requested for questions in writing. However, he did not respond to the questions and was not picking subsequent voice calls.

Zanu PF has not publicised its election manifesto.

Saviour Kasukuwere, a former Zanu PF stalwart whose bid to contest in the coming presidential race was recently blocked because he has lived outside the country for more than 18 consecutive months, was non-committal.

Speaking through his lawyer Jacqueline Sande, Kasukuwere merely said the next government must “respect the will of the people and provisions of the constitution”.

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