Zimbabwe’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has done a U-turn on gay rights and says he now wants them protected under the new constitution.

Speaking to BBC News, he said gay rights were a “human right” that should be respected by Zimbabweans.

“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,” he told Newsnight’s Gavin Esler.

“To me, it’s a human right,” he added.

In the past, Mr Tsvangirai has said he agrees with homophobic president Robert Mugabe’s views on homosexuality. The latter has condemned gay people on a number of occasions, once calling them “worse than pigs and dogs”.

Both leaders have previously refused to protect gay rights under the new constitution, which is currently being drawn up and will be put to a referendum next year.

Under laws enacted by President Mugabe’s regime in 2006, it is illegal for two members of the same sex to hold hands, hug or kiss.