Homosexuality in Zimbabwe: A Reality!
by Masiiwa Ragies Gunda*, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe, University of Bamberg Press, 2010, pp.371 -374
The author Masiiwa Ragies Gunda* revisits the subject of homosexuality in Zimbabwe, a subject that attracted the attention of the international community from 1995 when Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe described homosexual persons as “worse than dogs and pigs”. The President’s position was widely supported by Christians and Traditionalists alike, and the Bible was used as the final arbiter, as it is the “Word of God”. The Bible was
also used by homosexual persons and those sympathetic to them, such that the Bible fought against the Bible. The book highlights the interconnection between homosexuality, religion and the socio-economic and political challenges from the 1990s, and raises critical questions about the widespread selective-literal appropriation
of the Bible, a practice that ignores the socio-historical context of the Bible. This is a book for biblical students, scholars and ordinary readers of the Bible who want to engage with contemporary socio-theological challenges.
The labelling of homosexuality as unAfrican has tended to create the impression that homosexuality was non-existent in precolonial African communities. The label has been widely interpreted in the light of the origins of homosexuality.
This is a misunderstanding of the context within which such labelling has occurred. The clearest example of the existence of homosexuality and practising homosexual persons is the existence of GALZ, an organisation that represents the interests of sexual minorities in Zimbabwe. The existence of homosexual people is therefore not in doubt, especially in contemporary Zimbabwe.
This study acknowledges the fact that the existence of homosexual people in pre-colonial Zimbabwean societies is a highly debatable subject.
At the heart of this problem being the fact that precolonial Zimbabwean societies were pre-literate and did not leave behind written documents from which one could scour for clues to the existence of homosexual people in these communities.
The discovery of the San rock-painting in Zimbabwe2, which has been interpreted as depicting a group of men engaging in some samesex activities has been taken to be representative of most if not all pre-colonial Zimbabwean societies. This has been further buttressed by evidences of pre-colonial African communities that condoned same-sex practices, such as the Zulu of South Africa and the Azande of CAR.
Finally, the fact that some sodomy cases were heard in the magistrates’ courts two years after the occupation of Zimbabwe by Western Settlers4 has gone a long way in challenging the role of the Settlers in influencing indigenous people to adopt homosexuality as a lifestyle. Since the first group of Settlers was relatively small, the argument is that it took more than two years for them to influence the indigenous people.
Further, the majority of the Settlers were still clearly influenced by the European concepts of sex, in which homosexuality was understood as unnatural and a psychological disorder. Clearly, it is not possible to draw absolute conclusions regarding homosexuality in pre-colonial Zimbabwe.
This is especially so because sex was understood in terms of procreation hence;
Nothing that was not ordered in terms of generation or transfigured by it could expect sanction or protection. Nor did it merit a hearing. It would be driven out, denied and reduced to silence. Not only did it not exist, it had no right to exist and would be made to disappear upon its least manifestation – whether in acts or in words.5
The existence of same-sex sexual practices in the colonial and post-colonial eras in Zimbabwe is testified to in some sources. The most widely used sources being the criminal court records.
Marc Epprecht  has consulted these sources widely in writing on homosexuality in Southern Africa. In the colonial era, most scholars have noted how such practices became synonymous with specific spaces. The prisons, mine compounds and urban centres became the fertile grounds for the prominent manifestations of homosexuality. Many factors have been suggested for this development among which the creation of exclusive spaces for men and women by the colonial regime remains the central factor.
The barring of women from the newly created urban centres and mine compounds in a bid to extract all the energy of the workers in “productive work” led to the forced separation of families for long periods of time.
The prison system, itself foreign to most of the pre-colonial Zimbabwean societies, also thrived on enforcing a forced separation of husbands and wives, men and women.7 The creation of exclusive boys’ and girls’ high schools saw the same principle of separate worlds for men and women being used in the education system.
While pre-colonial societies had some form of marked spaces for men and women, there were clearly marked unisex spaces where men and women constantly interacted.
The association of homosexuality and colonial institutions is not to be mistaken with the idea that it therefore follows that colonisation introduced homosexuality. Instead, it appears that Settler institutions may have provided space in which homosexuality in its various manifestations could thrive. Until 1982 homosexual relationships and practices remained well concealed with no organized group.
Homosexuality simply remained a private matter for the individuals. The growth in urban centres and the availability of jobs meant the traditional communal lifestyle continued to be affected and as individuals instantly became strangers in the big cities, the environment was conducive to many “experiments” without the watchful eyes of the family.
In 1982, the first social club was formed by 12 White women  who happened to be homosexual in orientation and practice. This group largely remained a private social club. It was however replaced effectively by the formation of GALZ in 1990.
GALZ remains the primary organisation for anyone researching on homosexuality in Zimbabwe as well as other sexual minorities as captured in their Mission Statement and in the acronym LGBTI. 
This study therefore concludes that homosexuality is a reality in Zimbabwe and has been for over a century now. The debate itself does not dismiss the existence of homosexual persons; their existence is a historical fact.
* Masiiwa Ragies Gunda is a Zimbabwean citizen, born in 1975
in Makoni District, Rusape. At present he is Research Assistant
at Bamberg University and holds a PhD (2010) from Bayreuth
University, Germany. He also holds a Diploma in Religious
Studies (1998), BA Honours Religious Studies (2001) and MA
Religious Studies (2003) all from the University of Zimbabwe.
Gunda is a former Diocesan Youth Secretary General of the
Anglican Church, Harare Diocese (1998-2000) and has taught
Old Testament Studies and Classical Hebrew at the University of Zimbabwe. He also taught at Chishawasha Regional Seminary as well as Domboshawa, Gaul House and United Theological colleges in Harare. Issues of justice and the public use of the Bible in contemporary socio-theological challenges remain his major
research interest. Gunda is married to Shuvai and is a father to Takudzwa.
2 Cf. GALZ, Unspoken Facts: A History of Homosexualities in Africa, 2008, 42.
3 Cf. Edward E. Evans-Pritchard, „Sexual Inversion among the Azande“, in: American Anthropologist 72, 1970, 1428-1434. See also Marc Epprecht, “Homosexual behaviour in pre-modern and early colonial sub-Saharan Africa” in: G. E. Haggerty (ed), The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 1998.
4 Cf. Epprecht, The early history of homosexual behaviour among black males in Zimbabwe, 1998, 144.
5 Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction volume 1, 1990, 4.
6 Marc Epprecht is the author of various articles on this subject. Among his contributions are the following works: Heterosexual Africa? The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of AIDS, 2008; Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa, 2004, “Good God Almighty, What’s this? Homosexual ‘crime’ in early Colonial Zimbabwe” in: Stephen O. Murray & Will Roscoe (eds), Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. “Homosexual behaviour in pre-modern and early colonial sub-Saharan Africa” in: G. E. Haggerty (ed), The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, New York: Garland Press, 1998. In these works, Epprecht has done extensive research focusing on court records in the National Archives Department in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
7 Cf. Charles van Onselen, Chibaro: African Mine Labour in Southern Rhodesia 1900-1933, Johannesburg: Ravan Press (Pty) Ltd, 2001, 174.
8 Cf. William Guri, Homosexuality in Zimbabwe: A Phenomenological investigation, 2002, 27.
9 Cf. Epprecht, Hungochani, 178.
10 Cf. GALZ Pamphlet, “I Think I Might Be”, undated.