A Harare high school teacher declared that he was a hom0sexual to pre-empt a tabloid story, it emerged on Monday.
The boys only St Johns College headmaster Cavaliere Corrado Trinci and gay teacher, Neal Hovelmeier, last Friday wrote to parents revealing the latter’s se_xual orientation hours after Hovelmeier stood in front of assembled students to make the same revelation.
Hovelmeier said he had taken the decision in the hope it would “curb hom0phobic behaviour” after some former pupils who “gained the confidence after school to pursue their chosen orientation” had told him that during their time at the school they had experienced “intolerance, intimidation and hom0phobia.”
Hom0sexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, and same se_x lovers face sod0my charges.
The 6th Form teacher’s admission sparked heated debates countrywide and on the internet. A particular criticism of the school was that there was no need to assemble pupils to make the disclosure.
In a poll on Twitter, we asked our readers if they “would be happy with Hovelmeier teaching your son” after the incident. Of the over 6,500 respondents, 52 percent voted ‘no’, compared to 36 percent who said ‘yes’ and 12 percent who were ‘undecided’.
Reacting to our poll on Twitter, Kudzai Mutisi remarked: “I don’t have a problem with him being gay. I just think that he didn’t have to assemble children and announce that he is gay. Parents will take this as an attempt to influence their kids. After all, these kids look up to him.”
What was not known at the time is that St Johns College only made the dramatic disclosure after The Daily News sent questions about the teacher.
In angry scenes at the private school on Monday evening, parents demanded that all officials involved in the debacle must quit – including headmaster Trinci, Hovelmeier, second deputy headmaster Andrew Sakala and Charles N. Msipa, the chairman of the school’s board of governors.
Tempers flared as divided parents forcefully defended their positions. Fisticuffs broke out among parents and some parents were restrained from assaulting the school officials.
In a statement on Monday over the fallout from last Friday, released before the parents meeting, Msipha said he took full responsibility “for the events that have transpired and extend my unreserved apologies to all the stakeholders for any distress occasioned by the management communication and publication.”
He said they had taken legal advise after the Daily News enquiry and had been advised to run ahead of the story.
Msipha said he had approved the release of the communication without board approval because the publication of the story appeared imminent.
But he added: “On a personal level, it is my respectful view that the college should continue to strive to provide a safe, caring, inclusive, diverse and tolerant environment and space for all persons regardless of race, religious beliefs, gender, se_xual orientation, abilities or disabilities.”
Christian country Zimbabwe remains a deeply conservative society, and hom0sexuality is intensely frowned upon. Former President Robert Mugabe once described gays as “worse than pigs and dogs”.
New President Emmerson Mnangagwa – careful not to upset western countries as he struggles with a legitimacy question over his rule – has avoided expressing a personal opinion, only saying he is guided by the constitution whenever the question arises.
Watch video below