Speaking in Britain last week, Tsvangirai said he hoped the new constitution would come up with freedom for sexual orientation, immediately drawing the ire of Zanu PF and cultural activists in Zimbabwe.
The prime minister has been questioned on why he seems to say one thing to a Zimbabwean audience and another to a foreign audience.
“Women make up 52% of the population…There are more women than men, so why should men be proposing to men?” Tsvangirai asked then, speaking after Mugabe at a function to celebrate Women’s Day.
“That issue is not debatable, it’s not up for discussion. It’s just madness, insanity. The ancestors will turn in their graves should we allow this to happen,” Mugabe had said.
Tsvangirai’s new stance, observers said would feed into Mugabe’s rhetoric, as homosexuality was hugely frowned upon as un-cultural and un-African.
Justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa has also laid into Tsvangirai, saying the prime minister’s call was not genuine but rather he was telling his “sponsors” what they wanted to hear.
Zanu PF accuses Tsvangirai of being a pawn of the West, particularly Britain and America.
Britain has already threatened to cut aid to countries that criminalised homosexuality and Tsvangirai’s statements could have been meant to please them, Zanu PF charges. “I know personally he doesn’t believe it. He has said so many times in the cabinet,” Chinamasa said.
An analyst, Dumisani Nkomo reckons Tsvangirai should have kept quiet on the issue and rather waited for the completion of the constitution-making exercise.
“The problem is that at the moment the majority of Zimbabweans are not necessarily in agreement with that and he can play into Mugabe’s hands through that statement,” he said.
Nkomo said Tsvangirai’s statements were not calculated and Mugabe was going to go to town accusing the prime minister of trying to smuggle gay rights into the constitution.
He said, following Tsvangirai’s statements, gay rights could turn into a major election campaign tool, in the next election.
While Tsvangirai may be able to ride this storm, analysts claim that Mugabe would exploit this and the prime minister may yet live to regret saying that.
Leader of a faction of the MDC, Welshman Ncube has turned the knife in the back of his former colleague, claiming he lacked consistency on policy.
“He lacks a clear point of view and consistency,” he told a rally in Nkayi on Friday. “He says one thing when he is in Europe and he says another when he is with (President Robert) Mugabe. Leaders should be clear and consistent on policy.”
Ncube’s charge probably stems from that only last year, Tsvangirai was singing from the same hymn book with Mugabe claiming homosexuality should not be legalised.
The lone voice so far backing the MDC-T leader’s call for inclusion of gay rights in the constitution, is the Gays and lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (Galz). “We urge him to have the courage to stand by his laudable respect for human rights in the face of the propaganda and unpopularity that will be generated by the Zimbabwean media around his position,” the association said in a statement last week.
Galz said it did not expect every Zimbabwean to embrace gay rights or the issue of homosexuality.
“But we do expect Zimbabweans — and our political leaders in particular — to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation,” the association said.