Two GALZ staff members detained by Zimbabwe police

Two employees of Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)–Ellen Chademana and Ignatius Mhambi– have been detained since Friday evening. They were arrested after a raid of the GALZ office by the Central Intelligence Department. The officers came with a search warrant looking for evidence that GALZ was dealing in hard drugs and/or were in possession of pornography. They took all the GALZ computers and other materials from the office. The officers then came back and arrested everyone in the GALZ office. Only Ellen and Ignatius were there. Both Ellen and Ignatius are still in custody. Derek Matyszak, a human rights lawyer who has been working with GALZ for a long time, has been trying to get in to see them. Ellen’s health is of particular concern as she is diabetic and needs her medication and food.

The situation is very worry as this comes on the back of the conviction in Malawi and more outpourings of hate in Zambia. It maybe unsafe for GALZ employees and volunteers who are outside of Zimbabwe at various meetings, to return to Zimbabwe as they may be arrested on arrival in the country.

This arrest and raid are part of growing pressure in Zimbabwe against LGBT rights. About a month ago, two foreign student interns were stopped at the airport trying to leave Zimbabwe and interrogated and detained. All of the GALZ material they had in their possession was confiscated.

The police are said to have taken with them several computers, documents and other material as evidence after the raid. Lawyers representing the arrested duo were denied access to their clients on Saturday. Under Zimbabwe’s harsh censorship laws pornographic material is dealt with under the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act.

In November 1999 President Robert Mugabe accused the British Government of setting ‘gay gangsters’ on him over his violent land reform exercise. The Zanu PF leader has over the years made his homophobic views clear describing gays and lesbians as ‘worse than pigs.’

Astonishingly Mugabe’s own Youth Development and Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere was outed as gay. Kasukuwere amassed his wealth through many gay liaisons with rich businessmen and ministers while he was still a blue-eyed Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) hitman in Mutare.

Only last year a 31 year old Bulawayo man, Mncedisi Twala, sensationally claimed that the then ZANU PF National Chairman, John Nkomo, molested him in April 2002. After first fleeing to South Africa Twala says he came back after the formation of the unity government and filed a police complaint in July. The police however refused to investigate the complaint and even arrested Twala.

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