The Zimbabwe Telegraph reports on a recent Constitutional Indaba held in Bulawayo by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. A 45 minute debate about the place of gay and lesbian people in the new constitution threatened to the minsters present. Harsh words were exchanged in defence of and against the accommodation of lesbian and gay people.
The majority of pastors who attended the Indaba felt it was the role of the church to push for the accommodation of lesbian and gay people in the new constitution. They said it was the responsibility of the church to fight for the rights of the gays and lesbians so as to win them to Christ.
Reverend Ray Motsi from Baptist Church, quoting biblical verses, said he felt the church had to open doors for gays and lesbians and said no one was righteous and lesbians and gays were people also entitled to their rights. He said the country could never be viewed to be democratic if it continued depriving people of their rights. “We must give an opportunity for somebody to be wrong, even though they are sincere in their wrongness. We cannot be democratic if we do not acknowledge them. We need to appreciate them as people, despite their attitudes,” he said.
Another pastor challenged the church to open its doors to prostitutes and homosexuals, saying that instead of hating individuals they should hate their behaviours. “Even God says go and sin no more, they are subject to demonic forces. The church must embrace them so as to win them to Christ. What is important is that we love them as people but we do not like what they do,” he said.
Others said the church must not promote immoral behaviour whether in the name of democracy or of expansion. The Executive Director of ZCA, Reverend Useni Sibanda said the church needs to protect family values that are based on the bible. “We need to protect family values which is based on the bible. Anyone in Christian Alliance who wants to protect homosexuals must do so outside this organization. This is a Christian organization and we are not going to debate about gays and lesbians, our stance is clear if they want protection they change their behaviour or even let their organizations work on that, not us. I advise you to remove that from our list of priorities or form another organisation divorced from us that will promote this kind of behaviour,” he said.
Homosexuality is a crime in Zimbabwe and President Robert Mugabe once described homosexuals as worse than pigs and dogs, a comment that sparked an international outcry. Former radio personality Kevin Ncube fled the country after his sexuality was made public.
The Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs, Advocate Eric Matinenga said the strong debate was proof enough that the constitution-making process was not easy or rosy and advised the participants to include a report of the heated debate when writing their position paper. “It will only be fair to include a report of the debate as not all issues would be a walk-over as some people might think and also this shows diversity of ideas and what democracy means to individuals,” he said.