Zimbabwean LGBT people across the world have expressed mixed feelings on the country’s Independence Day celebrations as Zimbabwe turned 33 today.
For some LGBT Zimbabweans who fled from the country because of its widespread homophobia, Independence Day was a time for grieving and for remembering what they had lost.
During the day’s celebrations in Harare, President Robert Mugabe, who often spews homophobic diatribes on such occasions, instead hammered away at the importance of maintaining peace as the nation prepares for watershed plebiscite in the months ahead.
“I say go and vote for your choice candidate, I will not force you to vote for me. Munozvisarudzira (“You make your own choices”) … Peace begins with me, peace begins with you, peace begins with all of us,” he said.
LGBT people in Zimbabwe expressed mixed feelings. Some said they were grateful that the nation has come so far since 1980, when Zimbabwe attained independence from the colonial regime, others said the country has not yet achieved uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”) because the Independence day celebrations were so politicized.
“It’s good that the President spoke about peace and condemned political violence though I wish he should speak out against all forms of violence and not just political. At least he did not attack homosexual people today. That means I will have peace in my neighborhood. Usually when he makes homophobic comments, the youths in my area give me a hard time.” — HT in Chitungwiza.
“I feel the peace message is just political rhetoric. For me it’s like an uncle who molests you everyday and then buys you candy. Should everything be okay because he is preaching peace? This peace message should be treated with a pinch of salt. Already as LGBT people we are subjected to all forms of violence, which is often supported by the state.” — ZM in Harare.
“I can’t be myself in public. I feel as if we are still in the struggle fighting to be freed from these chains of hate that bind us. I pray for independence — a day when all Zimbabweans can be free to express and associate without being harassed, intimidated or arrested. Only then can I celebrate.” — KZ in Harare.
‘I don’t know whether I should celebrate or mourn. While I acknowledge that they are gallant people who fought for an independent Zimbabwe, I feel as a nation we can do better, especially by embracing diversity and promoting tolerance not only on a political level but all levels in society.” — DM in Harare.
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