Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 21:41 GMT
Zimbabwe gay rights face dim future
Partying - but wider society remains hostile
A government-appointed commission in Zimbabwe is finalising its work on a draft constitution to replace the one agreed at independence nearly 20 years ago.
President Robert Mugabe has been Africa's fiercest and most persistent critic of homosexuality, which he has condemned as a Western import.
So the first task for Zimbabwean gays and lesbians is to assert their identity.
"Well, here is living proof that we do, and I'm proud to be a black lesbian in Zimbabwe.
"Zimbabwe as a nation needs to accept that there are lesbians in Zimbabwe from all races and creeds, and I'm one of them."
But the hecklers - even in the rarefied atmosphere of the commission hearings - proved how far gays and lesbians have to go before they gain that acceptance.
"All satanic!" called someone from the floor. "We do not like that in Africa."
When a sympathetic supporter called on the chairman to restore order, the heckler butted in again: "No order with lesbians."
But talking to people in central Harare reveals that attitudes in the cities are not much different.
"Maybe in European countries, not here. They should not have rights here," says one man.
"I think maybe it was meant for animals, not human beings," adds a woman.
"This is one issue which the international community has misunderstood," Professor Moyo says, warning it is wrong to assume that the views espoused by the president are shared by all Zimbabweans.
"I think as president he's entitled to his views, but we must also acknowledge that he's the very same person who has set up this commission and mandated it to listen to all the views of the people of Zimbabwe."
"That man's very homophobic, so not much chance there," he says.
"As far as I've seen, I think we're just used as a scapegoat. Whenever anything goes wrong in this country they start using gay people. If the economic situation is bad, it's blamed on gay people, there are droughts because of gay people."
But he remains optimistic that things could be very different in the future.
"I think with a bit more education of the public, we've got a much better chance in the next few years of getting somewhere."