In Germany, they came first for the Communists,And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist…When they locked up the social democrats,I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
…then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew…When they came for me,
There was no one left to speak out.
It’s the election season here in Zimbabwe, and for us men and women of the same-gender-loving persuasion that means undue and unjust harassment and political scapegoating. Usually, it’s just a few articles in the government mouthpiece the Herald and its sister publications. However this time round the homophobic and violent rhetoric has been stepped up. First the GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) 44 were arrested, detained without charge for nearly 48 hours and tortured in August last year. And then there was the bizarre incident in June where the GALZ offices were invaded by thugs wielding hammers and other weapons. This time the Zimbabwe Republic Police, renowned for unexpected and random raids on GALZ, came to the rescue and promptly arrested the thugs. No word yet on what has happened to the thugs. And then this article comes out in the Herald’s Features section last week, where the author uses the article to coin the new word “gayism” and paint Harare’s eccentric artistic scene as a gay recruitment centre.
All these attacks and many more have happened in the full view of the private media and other civic society groups, and yet very few of them step up to defend GALZ and its membership. But if we look at what else has happened in Zimbabwe since August 2012, we see a steady stream of other NGOs and civic society groups being raided, their members being arrested and their activities being disrupted. The list includes groups like WOZA, ZPP, ZimRights, ZCTU, NANGO and people like Beatrice Mtetwa. At a time like this, I always remember the wise words of the late German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
Zimbabweans, we need to do more to speak out against injustice whenever and wherever we see it. We cannot continue to be a society that sits idly by while others are being dragged over the coals for holding and expressing an opinion. We cannot continue to be a society that turns a blind eye towards unnecessary hatred and a deaf ear to violent rhetoric. We need to become a society where everybody’s rights are upheld, especially the rights of those you most disagree with. That is the equal and just society we all say we want to be a part of. Then why are we so scared to stand up and fight for it. The time is now!