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 Zimbabwe’s ‘Crocodile’ successor is set to pick up the Mugabe mantle by continuing LGBT abuses in the country

In the last few minutes it’s been announced that Robert Mugabe has resigned as President of Zimbabwe.

A letter from Mr Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transfer of power, the Reuters news agency reports.

The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him. Lawmakers roared in jubilation and people have begun celebrating in the streets. Mr Mugabe had previously refused to resign despite last week’s military takeover and days of protests. He has been in power since independence in 1980.

Some might see a chance for a better future after Mugabe’s departure but his dedication to LGBT abuses throughout his 37-year long tenure is not set to change.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, yesterday sworn as Zimbabwe’s new leader in waiting, is not known as ‘the crocodile’ because he is kind and compassionate. He is cut from the same bigoted cloth as Mugabe and should he take office, a community in fear will feel no relief. Zimbabwe has one of the worst records when it comes to LGBT rights, with Mugabe famously noting that such rights were not those of humans.

Mugabe has resisted attempts to decriminalise homosexuality, even rejecting the provision of aid predicated on the acceptance of LGBT rights.  He has called homosexuality a ‘white disease’, urged the administration of gay male castration and compared gay men unfavourably with pigs. Given that appalling record, one may argue that things can only get better once Mugabe is nothing but a political memory. Step forward Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Last year Mnangagwa rejected calls from European countries at the UN Human Rights Council Working Group to embrace homosexuality. This was during his stint as Vice-President. Worryingly he finished that speech by affirming “Zimbabwe’s commitment to upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people and fulfilling its international human rights obligations”.

It is deeply concerning that Mnangagwa believes he can uphold human rights whilst unequivocally snubbing gay rights. Therein lies the problem – the common consensus amongst those at the top table is that LGBT rights are not human rights. We, as the gay community, do not fall under the ‘human’ umbrella, it seems. There is no obvious reason for that stance to alter when Mnangagwa assumes the Presidency.

Mnangagwa is a known proponent of violence, intimidation and repression – and that is against those he considers ‘human’. What is he capable of doing to the LGBT community? Mugabe may be out the door, but the record of his likely successor offers little hope.

Wilf Mbanga, editor of the online newspaper the Zimbabwean, told the New York Times that there is ‘trepidation’ in the country as Mnangagwa has a ‘messy past’ and is not ‘Mr. Democracy’. Multiply that fear ten-fold for the LGBT community, thrust from one dictatorship to another regime bearing similar hallmarks. Change may be afoot in Zimbabwe, but for the LGBT community it’s more of the same – marginalisation, discrimination and intolerance.

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Cash Boyle

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