Zimbabwe President Says Homosexuals are "Worse Than Pigs and Dogs"
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has condemned as "satanic" a suggestion by Prime Minister David Cameron that Britain could cut aid money to countries that do not respect gay rights.
Mr. Mugabe said that homosexuals were "worse than pigs and dogs" and warned those practising in his country: "We will punish you severely."
His comments come as Zimbabweans get ready to vote next year on a new constitution that could offer some legal protection to homosexuals in Zimbabwe. At present, those caught engaging in same-sex relationships face prison terms.
Britain has already cut aid to Malawi by £19 million following the sentencing of two gay men to 14 years hard labour. They were later pardoned.
Mr Cameron raised the idea of linking funding to human rights issues at the end of the Commonwealth summit in October.
Henry Bellingham, the Africa Minister, said during a recent visit to Zambia that it was not Britain's intention to force countries such as Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Ghana to adopt gay-friendly laws.
"The UK will always be sensitive to local traditions. Mr Cameron did not say that we will be tying aid to gay rights, never," he said. "What he did say is that we do oversee where we have a big aid programme, it does give us the right to talk to governments not to persecute minorities be they religious, disabled or gay."
Mr Mugabe, 87, said the concept was "stupid" and that homosexuality was inconsistent with African and Christian values.
His view will garner much sympathy both at home and elsewhere in Africa, where homosexuality is frequently a taboo subject and outspoken opposition to it a vote-winner.
"It becomes worse and Satanic when you get a prime minister like Cameron saying countries that want British aid should accept homosexuality," he said.
"To come with that diabolical suggestion to our people is a stupid offer."
Speaking to a group of young people at a community event in a mining town in Zimbabwe's Midlands region, he added that it was "impossible for John to marry Jack or Maria to marry Theresa".
"Do not get tempted into that (homosexuality). You are young people. We will punish you severely," he was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.
"It is condemned by nature. It is condemned by insects and that is why I have said they are worse than pigs and dogs."
Britain said earlier this year that it would increase annual aid to Zimbabwe to more than £100 million a year in an attempt to encourage fair elections and government reforms.
Movement for Democratic Change Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who formed a shaky coalition government with Mr Mugabe in 2009, has said that he supports gay rights but that homosexuals should "do their things in private".
Yesterday, Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, insisted Mr Cameron's remarks on aid had been misinterpreted.
He said that human rights adherence was one of four requirements for governments seeking British aid, along with poverty reduction, good financial management and accountability to their citizens, and non-compliance would see aid money channelled to civil society groups and charities rather than cut altogether.