By Melanie Nathan, June 06, 2013.
Members of GALZ, an LGBT human rights organization in Harare, Zimbabwe, were attacked by five hammer wielding men during a board meeting at their offices. No injuries reported, however the group is extremely shaken.
The attack occurred at GALZ offices around 11 am on Thursday when five unknown men wielding hammers violently forced entry into the GALZ offices, disrupting a meeting in progress. One of the men disguised as a mentally challenged person, threatened the security personnel manning the gate with a hammer whilst a visitor was driving into the GALZ premises.
The men rounded up all staff and board members and locked them up in the guard room whilst they ransacked the offices collecting all personal property including cellphones, laptops and bags.
GALZ has commented saying they commend the Police’s swift reaction:
“they arrived at the scene and promptly arrested the men. The men have now been taken away for further questioning by the police at Harare Central Police Station. One of our board members is currently at Harare Central Police Station assisting the Police. All members present at the office were unharmed and one cellphone and some cash belonging to a board member is allegedly missing.”
While GALZ has expressed its thanks to police, it must be remembered that the Mugabe administration is vehemently anti-gay. There is mystery surrounding the attack as members of GALZ believe the attack was probably ordered and not random, with robbery a disguised motive:
“We are not taking this incident as a random act of attempted robbery but that of youth militia acting on someone’s orders. The men were constantly making communication with an individual addressed as “Machacha” of an unknown “security wing” over the phone.”
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is a voluntary association founded in 1990 for purposes of serving the needs and interests of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe and pushing for social tolerance of sexual minorities and the repeal of homophobic legislation. GALZ was one of the first organisations in Zimbabwe to start HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and, today, it remains unique in that it is the only organisation in the country specifically working with people who engage in same-sex sexual activity.
Originally a small social club of mostly middle-class professionals, the association has grown over the years and now truly represents the broader LGBTI community in ten centres throughout Zimbabwe.
GALZ rose to prominence in the mid 1990s when it challenged illegal bans by government on its participation at the annual Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF). Since then, the association has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns.
Despite the numerous challenges facing Zimbabwean LGBTI people, which include all those facing Zimbabweans as a whole, GALZ has made great strides in pushing for the tolerance and appreciation of sexual differences in society. Today, the GALZ Resource Centre in Harare provides professional counselling, entertainment and educational activities for members. GALZ is also actively involved in broader human rights campaigning and in the fight for access to affordable treatment for all people living with HIV or AIDS.
Please stay tuned for updates.