Mugabe calls British PM 'satanic' for backing gay rights

24th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has called British Prime Minister David Cameron "satanic" for his support of gay rights, in a speech railing at Western influence in the country, 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 Wednesday, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.

"To come with that diabolic suggestion to our people is a stupid offer," he said.

At the end of the Commonwealth summit in October, Cameron said that countries receiving British aid should respect human rights, including gay rights.

A spokeswoman from Cameron's Downing Street office would not comment directly on Mugabe's remarks but said Britain "is at the forefront of work to promote human rights around the world, and regularly criticises governments which violate those rights.

"This includes working to end religious intolerance, and persecution and discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexuality," she said in a statement.

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's moves against foreign companies come a decade after his government seized most of the nation's white-owned farms, sending the economy into a tailspin from which it has just begun to recover.

The 87-year-old's fiery and often anti-Western rhetoric has intensified 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.

The debate over homosexuality has reignited as the country decides whether to follow the path of neighbouring South Africa, which enshrines gay rights in its constitution.

Mugabe has condemned any such move in Zimbabwe 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".

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.

Most African countries outlaw homosexuality, and 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.

© 2011 AFP

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