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relating to the participation of GALZ at ZIBF 2005
Keith Goddard, Director, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
August 05, 2005
Ten years ago,
GALZ was illegally prevented by government from attending the Zimbabwe
International Book Fair, despite the fact that the theme that year
was 'Human rights and Justice'. In 1996, and in the Supreme Court,
GALZ won its right to participate. Owing to previous threats of
violence, from 1997 until 2002, the association exhibited on the
Book Fair's own Human Rights Stand. In 2003, however, it applied
for a stand in its own right and was awarded one. There were no
problems that year and GALZ spoke peacefully to interested members
of the public.
At the 2004
fair, a small incident occurred earlier in the week but GALZ staff
soon returned to their stand and there was no further interference.
This year, GALZ occupied its stand undisturbed from Tuesday afternoon
until Friday afternoon. As usual, it proved popular and many of
those passing by congratulated the GALZ members staffing the stand
for their determination to express their right to be present. Many,
too, expressed an interest in the literature and the services that
GALZ has to offer. The children, all looking for something free,
were given information relating to HIV/AIDS. Some asked intelligent
questions. A couple of people expressed reservations about gay and
lesbian people but did so peacefully and in a non-threatening manner.
They went away better educated.
On Friday 5th August, at around 3 p.m., a group of unidentified,
smartly dressed, men approached the GALZ stand and stated that GALZ
was not allowed to be at the Fair. They left and then entered the
Book Fair offices where they issued threats against Book Fair staff.
They returned to the GALZ stand and started packing away GALZ literature.
GALZ members tried to attract the attention of police officers and
security guards patrolling the gardens but all of them refused to
intervene. The GALZ staff, seeing that they would receive no assistance,
and not wishing any violence to take place packed up their belongings
The incident points once more to the fact that the law is not respected
or upheld in Zimbabwe. Like any other group perceived to be a threat
to the interests of the state, we are denied access to public space.
The police do not perform their civic duty by providing protection
to perceived enemies of the state and so those who threaten and
intimidate remain exempted from punishment.
Although the Acting Director of the Book Fair, Ms Moreblessings
Mpofu, expressed sympathy with GALZ over the incident, the fact
remains that the Book Fair still has a responsibility to protect
all exhibitors at ZIBF.
GALZ will return to the Book Fair in 2006.
Visit the GALZ
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