HARARE — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has called British Prime Minister David Cameron “satanic” for considering withholding aid from countries that do not respect gay rights, state media said Thursday.
“It becomes worse and satanic when you get a prime minister like Cameron saying countries that want British aid should accept homosexuality,” Mugabe said in a speech Wednesday, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.
“To come with that diabolic suggestion to our people is a stupid offer,” he said, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.
At the end of the Commonwealth summit in October, Cameron said that countries receiving British aid should respect human rights, including gay rights.
Mugabe was speaking in the mining town of Shurugwi, 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Harare, at a ceremony to mark global miner Anglo American’s handover of a 10 percent stake in a platinum mine to the local community.
The deal is part of Anglo American’s moves to comply with a law backed by Mugabe, requiring foreign firms to cede 51 percent stakes to local blacks. He bluntly told companies to leave the country if they fail to comply.
“This is our policy. We do not hide it. We want empowerment of our people. Those who do not want, we say go now, if not yesterday,” Mugabe said.
“The wealth must be exploited in the interest of our people.”
Mugabe has intensified his fiery and often anti-Western rhetoric as Zimbabwe begins to look toward elections, possibly next year.
Under the power-sharing accord with his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the country must first draft a new constitution to pave the way toward elections.
Mugabe has condemned any move to secure gay rights in the constitution as “madness”.
“Do not get tempted into that (homosexuality). You are young people. If you go that direction, we will punish you severely,” Mugabe said in Shurugwi.
“It is condemned by nature. It is condemned by insects and that is why I have said they are worse than pigs and dogs,” he said, according to The Herald.
Tsvangirai, who formed a unity government with Mugabe in 2009, has said that he supports gay rights but that gays should “do their things in private”.
“It’s a very controversial subject in my part of the world. My attitude is that I hope that the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody,” Tsvangirai told the BBC in October.
More recently he said that the people of Zimbabwe will decide what they want in their constitution.
The constitution process is running more than a year behind schedule, with a referendum on the charter expected only next year.
Homosexuality is illegal in the southern African country. While the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) association is allowed to operate, it suffers police harassment.
South Africa is the only country on the continent to guarantee gay rights, while 38 African countries currently have laws penalising homosexuality. The trend in recent years has been to toughen penalties.
Three men in Cameroon were sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for engaging in gay sex.
Burundi in 2009 instituted prison terms to punish sexual relations between members of the same sex.
In Malawi a gay couple who held a wedding ceremony in December 2010 were handed a 14-year prison sentence before being pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika after an international outcry.