GAYS and Lesbians Association (GALZ) director Chester Samba has showered praises on President Emmerson Mnangagwa whom he said understood them better than his predecessor and the opposition.
“We started talking to Mnangagwa when he was Justice Minister and he is a reasonable man and is not new to LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bise_xual, transgender/transse_xual, interse_x and queer) issues compared to the hostile reception of the former president Mugabe,” he said at a media briefing by community groups on Monday.
“We have also seen a decline in abuse in campaigning by Zanu PF of our members and harassment just in the recent past and this may see our members voting.”
Under former President Robert Mugabe’s regime, gays were subjected to insults and victimisation by the country’s security establishments.
Mugabe described them as “worse than dogs and pigs”.
Galvanised by Mugabe’s ouster and his replacement by Mnangagwa November last year, gays and lesbians have moved to gauge the new rulers’ position on their situation.
This culminated in a surprise meeting with Zanu PF officials which was later described as successful by the group.
Samba said they also attempted to engage the opposition MDC-T led by Nelson Chamisa but were ignored.
“Yes we met Zanu PF officials and we had a fruitful meeting after writing a letter to them but we did not even get a response from other political parties that have a chance of forming the next government,” said Samba.
Addressing the same press conference, LGBTI leaders said all citizens regardless of sexual orientation must vote in peace and free from harassment and violence.
Their demands come after some ZEC officials were at one time reportedly forced to delay a transgender for nearly half an hour during the registration process as they debated on whether to consider the prospective voter as male or female.
Ricky Nathanson executive director of Transgender, Research, Education, Advocacy and Training (TREAT) described the particular incident as “not good at all”.
“So we demand that all perpetrators of verbal and physical hate crimes against LGBTIQ person are brought before the courts in a timely and just manner and ensure that justice is delivered,” added Musa Sibindi, executive director of Se_xual Rights Centre.
“Guided by our belief that no citizens should receive less than equal treatment and protection from any form of harm before, during and after the voting process, we call on all stakeholders and duty bearers to the election process to reduce risks caused by targeting of LGBTIQ people.
“But we are also demanding ZRP must ensure that all officers of the police service conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism to all citizens regardless of se_xual orientation and gender identity.”