How, when and why was GALZ formed?

After Zimbabwean independence on April 18th 1980, a vibrant gay and lesbian social scene started to flourish in the major cities. However, in the late 1980s, many believed that the time had come to start an organization with more serious aims and objectives. To this end, meetings took place in the late 1980s and GALZ was officially launched in September 1990. The founding members were drawn from a men’s party list and members of The Women’s Cultural Club.

How many members does GALZ have?

To begin with, GALZ had around 70 members. Over the years this grew and membership reached around 500 in 2000. In recent years, however, numbers have dropped to around 300, many members having left the country to seek asylum either in Europe, Canada, the United States or elsewhere.

What is the composition of the GALZ membership?

In the early 1990s, most of the membership was white or colored (mixed race). The face of GALZ changed dramatically around 1995 as the association became more open about its existence. This meant that many LGBTI people from the black community, and more specifically from urban townships, started to join the association. Today, the membership of GALZ truly reflects the racial makeup of the Zimbabwean nation.

Until recently membership was dominated by men, in particular by the black queens, but since 2002, with the formation of the Gender Department, women’s membership has increased significantly.

What is it like to be gay or lesbian in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is not the worst place in the world in which to be gay or lesbian even though the President, government officials and church leaders have whipped up a climate of hysterical homophobia. Nevertheless, there is growing tolerance of LGBTI in Zimbabwe especially amongst younger people in urban areas who have grown up with the knowledge that gay and lesbian people exist within their midst.

The problems facing lesbian and gay people are, by and large, the same as those facing Zimbabweans as a whole: oppression, lack of freedom of expression, fear of the state, rampant inflation linked to increasing poverty, scant regard by national leaders for the rule of law and a declining health service in a country with one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world.The general lack of tolerance of sexual difference is just one more challenge that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have to face in Zimbabwe.

Is GALZ registered with government?

GALZ does not need to register with any government ministry or department. It is recognized under the law as an association or a universitas. In terms of Zimbabwean law, a universitas is a juristic person or legal persona. Since it is a legal person, a universitas can acquire, hold and alienate property, can enter into contracts, become a creditor or debtor, may generally acquire rights and incur obligations and can sue or be sued.

The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) is a voluntary association. A voluntary association is a universitas if:

  1. It has the power to acquire property or other rights and to incur liabilities distinct from those of its members; and
  2. It has perpetual succession in that it remains in existence despite changing membership.

Whether these characteristics are to be found in a particular case depends upon the intention of the founders of the association and can usually be deduced from the association’s constitution.

The Constitution of GALZ provides in clause 2.1 that it has the power to acquire rights and obligations distinct from its members and that it has perpetual succession. Accordingly, in terms of the law of Zimbabwe, GALZ is a universitas. As such it has no need to register in terms of any legislation or under any statute in order to acquire legal personality or for it to constitute a juristic person for the purposes of Zimbabwean law.

Since the Zimbabwean President dislikes homosexuals, why is GALZ allowed to exist?

The Zimbabwean constitution provides for freedom of association. There is nothing illegal about forming an association to cater for the needs and interests of LGBTI people in Zimbabwe. Government would, therefore, have to resort to illegal means to close down GALZ.