Robert Mugabe has been replaced as leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling party by Emmerson Mnangagwa – but will the new regime continue his homophobic tyranny?
Mugabe, who resigned as President today after a military coup, was notoriously one of the world’s most homophobic leaders.
The tyrant, who held power in the country for 30 years, presided over a regime that has carried out horrifying homophobic purges, targeting gay men and women with extortion, arrest, and even torture.
Mugabe previously claimed homosexuality is a filthy disease, and insisted Zimbabwe would “never, never, never” decriminalise homosexuality.
When the country suffered one of its worst droughts in decades last year, Mugabe held a lavish birthday party – at which he vowed to reject international aid that requires Zimbabwe to accept human rights laws and stop persecuting gay people.
Emmerson Mnangagwa has been appointed as the new leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party, and according to Sky News will take over as leader within 48 hours.
Mnangagwa, known in Zimbabwe by his nickname ‘The Crocodile’, had been one of Mugabe’s key lieutenants, serving in various ministerial roles since the the 1980s, becoming First Vice President in 2014.
He was ousted by Mugabe earlier this month in a power struggle before taking part in the coup.
Sadly, nothing in his record suggests Mnangagwa will be any lighter on the country’s LGBT community than Mugabe has been.
The politician led the country’s delegation to the United Nations last year, where he rejected calls to respect the human rights of gay people.
He said: “With regards to areas that we felt we would not accept, it is issues of gays and homosexuality, which is unlawful in our country. We rejected all those.
“There are a few countries from Europe which recommended we reconsider our position with regard to adults of same sex marrying each other that we rejected.”
Mnangagwa also insisted that Zimbabweans will “reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our norms, values, traditions and beliefs”.
His rejection of basic human rights law and insistence on continuing homophobic persecution is not a good omen for his leadership, and he is unlikely to make any divisive changes as he struggles to prevent unrest in the country in the wake of Mugabe’s departure.
Pink Triangle Trust Secretary George Broadhead said: “Mugabe must rank as one of the worst homophobic leaders worldwide… let’s hope that the new regime will be truly democratic and respect human rights.”
Mugabe previously gave a bizarre speech to the United Nations in which he ranted about gay rights before shouting “we are not gays!”
Mugabe has previously claimed homosexuality is a filthy disease, and insisted Zimbabwe would “never, never, never” support homosexuality.
When the country suffered one of its worst droughts in decades last year, Mugabe held a lavish birthday party at which he vowed to reject international aid that requires Zimbabwe to accept human rights laws and stop persecuting gay people.
In his speech, he said: “If aid, as I understand, is to be given on the basis that we accept the principle of gay marriages, then let that aid stay were it is.
“We don’t want it. It is rotten aid, filthy aid and we won’t have anything to do with it.”
During his 2013 inauguration address, Mugabe urged young Zimbabweans to “damn” homosexuality, calling it a “white disease”..
He added: “That [homosexuality] destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease.”
Ahead of the election, he said that gays should be castrated.
Throughout his election campaign vocal attacks on the country’s gay population were a prominent feature. In one attack he urged for the heads of gay men to be chopped off, and described them as being worse than pigs.
He said: “If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.
“This thing [homosexuality] seeks to destroy our lineage by saying John and John should wed, Maria and Maria should wed. Imagine this son born out of an African father, [US President Barack] Obama says if you want aid, you should accept the homosexuality practice. Aah, we will never do that.”
He also described homosexuals as worse than animals because pigs “know who to mate with.”
Mugabe recently expressed his admiration for President Trump.
Mugabe says people should “give him time” in the hope Trump will lift sanctions on Zimbabwe, and backed his nationalistic agenda.
“Give him time,” he said in an interview aired ahead of his 93rd birthday.
“Mr Trump might even re-look [at] the sanctions on Zimbabwe.”
Mugabe and his allies have had their assets frozen and faced travel bans by the US for 15 years.
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He said: “When it comes to Donald Trump… talking of American nationalism, well America for America, America for Americans – on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans.
“I was surprised by his election, but I did not like Madam Clinton to win either,” he said.
“I knew she could slap sanctions on us as a legacy.”
Mugabe said of him: “I’ve just concluded since President Obama endorses the same-sex marriage, advocates homosexual people and enjoys an attractive countenance, thus if it becomes necessary, I shall travel to Washington, get down on my knee, and ask [Obama’s] hand in marriage.
“I can’t understand how this people dare to defy Christ’s explicit orders as our Lord prohibited mankind from sodomy.”
Grace Mugabe told crowds that if her husband should die before their next set of ‘elections’, then supporters should write his name in.
“If God decides to take him, then we would rather field him as a corpse.”