PHOTO: Associated Press
The 89-year-old Robert Mugabe was inaugurated into a seventh term as the President of Zimbabwe on August 22. While taking "the oath of office at a 60,000-seat sports stadium filled almost to capacity," the notoriously anti-gay leader used the opportunity to deliver a fresh round of gay-bashing, reports South Africa's Eyewitness News.
In the speech, Mugabe urged young people to “damn” homosexuality in the same way his government does and not to offend nature by engaging in same-sex relationships. "That destroys nations, apart from it being a filthy, filthy disease," he said.
Ahead of the elections last month, Mugabe heightened his anti-gay stance in his rallies, going so far as to suggest that homosexuals should be castrated. Previously, Mugabe once controversially described homosexuals as worse than pigs and dogs, saying, if he had his way, gay people would go to hell and rot.
Tens of thousands of slum dwellers were bused into the ceremont and given free food, adds the Associated Press.
"Dozens of buses brought Mugabe party supporters to the stadium, set amid the impoverished townships of western Harare, and four leading fast food chains delivered fried chicken portions, fries and soda drinks in take-out packages after receiving orders for 80,000 portions, organizers and food company executives said. Party supporters thronged the food delivery trucks outside the stadium. Police, some on horseback, marshaled food lines that swelled during formalities."
"Only six out of 40 invited heads of State attended" the elaborate ceremony, reports Nehanda Radio, an online opposition radio and news service.
"The inauguration ceremony follows the decision by the Constitutional Court deeming the election on July 31 free and fair, despite vehement claims from the opposition to the contrary and significant concerns from the international community," reports Think Africa. "The ceremony had been delayed by a court petition by opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai in protest at what he deemed to be a rigged vote, but he dropped the case. Nonetheless, Tsvangirai has said he will boycott the inauguration."
Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. Mugabe entered into a coalition government with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008.
Mugabe's inaugural anti-gay rant omes after a series of harsh, anti-gay remarks from the leadership of the ruling ZANU-PF during the election cycle. Zimbabwe's justice minister has vowed not to recognize basic rights for gays and promised to "arrest same sex partners found committing homosexual acts." A senior government official also called for the forced evictions of gays and lesbians.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in Zimbabwe, as they are in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Gay men are subject to "a fine and up to 10 years in prison. Same-sex activity between women is legal." Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. The neighboring Republic of South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality.
Gay men, lesbians and transgender men and women face widespread harassment, violence and rape in Zimbabwe, the U.S. State Department reported in its annual human rights survey. Two activists were arrested in a May 2010 raid on Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, the nation's sole LGBT rights group. The activists were reportedly tortured while in jail. Both were later acquitted of charges of possessing "pornography." In June 2013, a group of young men "wielding hammers" reportedly forced entry into those same offices ... but police "swiftly" arrested the assailants.
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