Police in Harare have now pressed charges against Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) and closed down their office.

This closure is likely to affect its members greatly, as many depended on it for counselling and health education.

The police accuse GALZ of operating without registration, saying the body must be licenced under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act.

Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys who are representing GALZ told The Zimbabwean: “We are challenging the charges which they have pressed against our clients because they have been there for more than 10 years operating under the common law.

“But the police are saying they are supposed to be registered under the PVO Act.

“It is not an offence to be gay under the Zimbabwean constitution but if one man sodomises another man then it becomes an offence.

“It is only intolerance within the society and political leadership here in Zimbabwe which have fuelled the vilification of gays and lesbians.”

The police last Thursday confiscated computers, memory sticks, and pamphlets from GALZ offices before charging the organisation with operating without registration.

Prior to this, 44 members of GALZ – 31 men and 13 women – were arrested and taken to Harare central police station where they were held before being released without charge.

Earlier this week, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said that some of the LGBT campaigners who had been arrested were being visited by police at home and that those who were not arrested had been ordered to report to their local police stations.

Mr Bhatasara said his clients have not been given a court date and were told they would be notified through summons.

Human rights organisations and the international community have condemned the clampdown.