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Zimbabwe's Gays & Lesbians Critique Former President

'You Should Hang Your Head in Shame!' Say Activists

Group Also Addresses Legal Improprieties in His Trial

Compiled By GayToday

galzlogo.jpg - 10.52 K Harare, Zimbabwe—In an open letter dated 25 January 1999, Keith Goddard, Programmes Manager for the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) addressed former Zimbabwean President, Reverend Canaan Sodindo Banana, critiquing anti-gay comments he made following his conviction on 11 counts of sodomy:

"The membership of GALZ and the general gay community are deeply offended by the comments that you made about homosexuality at the end of an interview with the Financial Gazette published on January 21.

"You stated that homosexuality is deviant, abominable and wrong according to the scriptures and according to Zimbabwean culture. Such comments serve only to reinforce the prejudice against homosexuals in this country and encourage persecution.

cbanana.jpg - 31.01 K Canaan Banana denounced homosexuality following his conviction on sodomy charges "Deviant behaviour is that which harms others: abuse of power, assault, pedophilia and rape are wrong because they harm others. Why should a consensual sexual relationship between two people of the same sex be abominable when it is fulfilling and socially constructive? It is homophobia which is deviant because it encourages hate and suspicion and destroys the lives of people who simply have a sexual orientation which differs from the so-called heterosexual norm.

"As a man of the church, one would expect you to do your gospel duty by standing alongside the marginalised and the social outcast. You do not have the right to judge.

"To say that homosexuality is unAfrican is absurd. Same-sex activity is known to exist in one form or another in fifty-five African countries. It is homophobia that has been imported from the West, and not homosexuality.

"It is one thing for you to remain silent or neutral about homosexuality; it is quite another for you to castigate us when you have been convicted of engaging in homosexual activity yourself. To describe your own kind as deviant and abominable is to define yourself as a sell-out.

"You have never identified yourself as homosexual, nor have you ever been a member of this organization or appealed to us for assistance. GALZ was constantly asked to comment on your trial and your personal life and we refused. Instead, we commented on the issues we believed were relevant to the trial: sexual assault, decriminalizing consensual sodomy, abuse of office and whether or not it was possible for you to receive a fair trial in such a homophobic climate.

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"Rumors of your homosexuality have abounded within the gay community for many years. Nevertheless, we have consistently maintained a policy never to out people, believing this to be highly dangerous in a homophobic climate which borders of hysteria. Now you have the audacity to contribute to the hate campaign against us.

"Even though you do not wish to identify with us as a fellow gay person or lend support to this organization and its activities, we would ask that, in future, you refrain from making comments which are damaging to the work of GALZ and the lives of the people we represent.

"You should hang your head in shame. As an African elder and as a man of the cloth, you are expected to act with integrity. As a former leader of this country we expect better of you."

Following the sentencing of the former President, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) addressed, through Derek Matyszak, chair of its Legal Task Force, what GALZ members consider improper legal technicalities that surrounded Banana's high profile case:

"GALZ has long maintained that it is nonsensical for consensual sodomy to be included along with non-consensual sodomy as an offence. That this is so is highlighted, with some assistance from the presiding judge, Judge Chidyausiku, in the recent conviction and sentencing of the Rev. Canaan Banana.

"In Zimbabwe, the question of consent, or the lack of it, is not a relevant consideration in determining a conviction for a charge of sodomy. Both consensual and non-consensual sex per anum between males are regarded as the same offence – namely sodomy.

"However, although consent is not an essential element for proof of the offence of sodomy, it is pertinent to the question of sentence. Whereas sodomy between consenting adults will attract a sentence of Z$400.00, Judge Chidyausiku himself is on record as stating that non-consensual sodomy should be treated no differently from heterosexual rape which attracts a sentence of seven to ten years. It is in this area that the nonsense is exposed.

"In a charge of heterosexual rape the lack of consent is an essential element of the offence. Much of a rape trial will thus often deal with the question of whether consent was present or not.

"Now, although Chidyausiku has stated that, for the purposes of sentence, where there is a lack of consent, the matter will be treated as one cognate to heterosexual rape, for purposes of conviction, the lack of consent is irrelevant.

"As a result of this nonsensical approach the Judgement convicting Canaan Banana of sodomy is riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies. In the judgement convicting Banana of sodomizing Jefta Dube, the question of consent in not dealt with in the detail that would be required in a heterosexual rape trial. In fact, it is hardly dealt with at all. The judge is concerned to show that he found that sodomy had taken place...not that it was non-consensual.

mugabe.gif - 11.65 K President Mugabe "We are told that Banana made an unwanted sexual advance on Dube which amounted to sexual assault and which Dube resisted. We are told that Dube was drugged but that inter-crurial sex took place, not sodomy. We are told that Dube then complained of sodomy to his superiors. But on the account given in the judgement, no sodomy had yet taken place.

"We are told that Dube was imprisoned over a weekend and threatened with dismissal but still he bravely demurred. We are then told that he had his right to leave determined personally by the President and that he was denied the use of a government vehicle and had to undertake the scarcely arduous ten minute walk home and that he then succumbed to the pressure. We are not told what was the straw that broke the camel's back, what pressure it was exactly that caused Dube to succumb.

"In a heterosexual rape trial, a careful distinction must be made between succumbing to pressure and duress that is sufficient to vitiate consent. No such distinction is made in the judgement convicting Banana.

"Yet, in the sentence handed down (one of eight years imprisonment) Judge Chidyausiku follows his own dicta and treats the matter as one of homosexual rape, even though the question of consent has not been treated as it ought for a rape case.

"Not satisfied with this anomaly, Judge Chidyausiku proceeds to order that if the violated party is compensated, then four years of the eight years will be suspended. So, if the matter is to be regarded as one of rape, since when were rapists allowed to avoid their prison sentence by simply paying compensation?

"But even this was not enough of a mess. Judge Chidyausiku went further and ordered that the suspension was also conditional on compensation being paid to the family of someone Dube shot dead after being referred to as "Banana's wife."

This, too, is a novel approach for a sentence in a rape trial. If a rape victim killed a third party because she was taunted for having sex with the rapist, causation would be regarded as too remote to hold the rapist liable for the rape victim's family.

But this is fine for Banana. Why? Is this because homosexual rape is NOT, contrary to Chidyausiku's previous pronouncements, to be treated like heterosexual rape? Is it because it could not be said that the sex between Dube was not non-consensual, but really submission only? Whatever that may be....

"Or is it because the defendant is Canaan Banana?"
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe has until 23rd March 1999 to pay off the balance for its Crisis Center and needs help! Zimbabwe's gay and lesbian leaders are appealing for donations towards the purchase of the Center through their 'Buy a Brick Campaign'. A GALZ communiqué says: "We desperately need to own our space to shelter our community from acts of hate crimes and homophobia. This safe haven is the only place that provides services to the entire community throughout Zimbabwe! Please Help us help ourselves,"

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