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ZIMBABWE: Unity Day..a façade for LGBTI Zimbabweans

By Teclah Matare

Zimbabwe celebrated its unity day yesterday, yet for many LGBT people the day has lost its meaning. The continuous violation of their constitutional rights by the state coupled with the unabated attacks on those who are or perceived LGBT persons by state appendages speaks volumes of the many challenges bedeviling the community.

Friday 19th December saw members of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) being brutally attacked by a group of armed assailants during a Christmas party organised by the organization at a private venue. Many members are nursing physicals and emotional wounds after what started as a Christmas party at a private venue ended in terror.

According to GALZ necessary procedure had been followed in notifying the Zimbabwe Republic Police who gave a green light to the party and actually sent patrolling police officers who are believed to have just left the venue when hell broke loose. GALZ security team were controlling access into the venue and everything was going smoothly until around 2300hrs three vehicles carrying between 12- 15 men forced their way into the venue. The team that was manning the gate denied them access into the venue which saw one of the occupants of the vehicles producing a pistol threatening the team.

The men, who are suspected to be linked to the ruling Zanu PF party entered the hall, started assaulting people using any weapon within their reach from logs, iron bars, empty bottles and clenched fists.

Many members and GALZ staff were injured during the scuffle. Others got wounds and lost valuables whilst fleeing for dear life. GALZ had to ensure that members who were available immediately after the incident were ferried to hospital.

As if inflicting physical pain wasn’t enough, the assailants also took valuables ranging from computers, cash from the bar sales, cellphones and demanded wallets from members.

The horrific incident has left many seething with anger and also paralyzed with fear, of a possible manhunt or blackmail since people lost personal IDs as well as gadgets with personal information

Some of the persons interviewed had this to say:

“I saw a major from the presidential guard and I was shocked, immediately l suspected something was not right! I looked for my partner and we ran into the hedge for refugee, called a few other guys who were closer as we remained in hiding, the moment we got a chance we jumped the fence out one by one. My partner was terribly hooked by the fence; the wound is big and also lost her phone and money in her pocket close to $200. We ran for 30 minutes in fear before we could reach the main road were we could get transport into the City Centre. We couldn’t get medical attention that evening as terrified as we were we just looked for a cab and went straight home.”

“l was a contestant at the drag queen contest that was held that night, we were having fun. When the perpetrators budged in I was in the hall and I was badly beaten, several empty bottles were broken by hitting my head, glasses of the broken bottles got inside my eyes as you can see am badged one eye, it’s the one that is badly hurt. All these scar, cuts on my face I can’t even walk without people staring said KC from Chitungwiza.

I had to lie to my family I was attacked by thieves on my way back home. I can tell by the way they keep asking more and more questions s, I lost my phone and wallet with my cash and ID, I just hope there will be no one coming after me or harassing my contacts, said TK from Harare

“Am angry deep inside I cannot even begin to express my anger towards the attacks on us as LGBT people in Zimbabwe. I keep asking myself, when will all this hate end and the focus shifts to more important economic problems rather than who sleeps with who. What do they benefit from attacking us physically and verbally? We are human too.”

At the time of writing this piece no arrests had been made, and probably as has become the norm no one will be arrested for these gross inhuman acts. For the many LGBTI people, marginalised, wounded, isolated and gripped by fear, unity and reconciliation remains nothing but a mere façade.