Africa & World

Zimbabweans in SA assault gay fellow Zimbabwean

A GAY rights activist living in South Africa says he is in fear for his life after he was assaulted and threatened with death by fellow Zimbabweans in South Africa, who accused him of bringing “shame” on Zimbabwe.

Tinotenda*, who lives a few houses from one of the suspects, said he was walking to the shop in Langa township with his friends on 15 August when the two men began calling him names and then attacked him, putting their hands around his throat and hitting him on the head.

Bystanders intervened and prevented the two suspects from injuring Tinotenda further with small rocks, he said in an interview with GroundUp.

The activist says that local police are dragging their feet to arrest the men whom he says are a constant threat.

Tinotenda says that one suspect, who lived near, him had on several occasions made homophobic comments and threatened to kill him and his friends because they are gay. He was treated at the Vanguard Community Health Centre for multiple injuries to the head and neck.

He said he went to report the incident to police and gave them the report from the clinic. While reporting the case, Tinotenda said he had refused to sign the affidavit written by the officer assisting him.

Tinotenda also claims the officer wrote that the accused had an old grudge against Tinotenda but this was not true.

Joseph Swartbooi, Western Cape police spokesperson, said that the police take discrimination seriously. He advised Tinotenda to discuss the matter with the station commander.

“Langa police registered a case of Assault Common for further investigation. The suspects are known and are yet to be arrested. The investigation officer is hard at work in order to arrest in order to prosecute,” he said.

Shingirai Musekiwa, a leader of the Zimbabwe LGBTQ+ Crusader movement said the accused had threatened him too, saying: “We are going to kill you. Mugabe never approved what you are doing. You must leave Langa.”

He said he was disappointed by the police. “Why up to now have no arrests been made?”

Musekiwa said several members of the movement had received death threats from other Zimbabweans. “I’m scared to be among my own brothers and sisters. We rarely get threats from South Africans when we walk on the streets or at clubs,” he said.

Members of the movement marched to the Zimbabwe consulate in April, demanding rights for gay Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe is an extremely conservative society and gay rights are considered out of the question for a long time to come. Colonial laws, religious morality, and the idea that homosexuality is imported by the West are among the most influential reasons for gay issues being taboo in Zimbabwe and much of Africa, scholars say.

Of the 72 countries worldwide that criminalize homosexuality, 32 of them are in Africa, where punishments range from imprisonment to the death penalty in countries such as Mauritania and Sudan.

Around 93% of sub-Saharan Africans are either Christian (63%) or Muslim (30%), making the continent one of the most religious in the world.

These beliefs influence many facets of people’s lives, including their attitudes to LGBTQ+ communities. 

Africa’s elites, which include political, religious and community leaders, often claim that homosexual practices are an imported Western evil.

Long-time Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe called homosexuality “un-African” and a “white disease”.

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