Homophobes today mourn Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, a revolutionary who started his political rise on a promise of empowering people, will be remembered by the oppression of his citizenry and bizarre defensiveness of his own heterosexuality. And for leading his nation into years of hateful leadership and crumbling its fragile economy.
Mugabe is dead at 95.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe's founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe,” said President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in a statement.
“Cde Mugabe was an icon of liberation, a pan-Africanist who dedicated his life to the emancipation and empowerment of his people. His contribution to the history of our nation and continent will never be forgotten. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
Few with regard for human rights shared the same sentiment about Mugabe’s passing.
A freedom fighter in the ’70s, Mugabe rose to power in 1980 when he became his nation’s first African prime minister after the overthrow of colonialist Rhodesia. But he would eventually become the face of oppression himself.
The Advocate in 2016 recognized Mugabe as one of “The Biggest Homophobes of the Last 50 Years.” The piece noted Mugabe’s bigoted rhetoric, such as his declaration that gays are “worse than dogs.” The magazine also noted his promise to reject foreign aid and let his own people die during a devastating drought should the aid come with any demand for advancement on marriage equality.
As he faced growing pressure to stop the oppression of LGBTQ people in Zimbabwe, where homosexuality remains illegal, Mugabe denounced Western “gay filth.”
A coup in Zimbabwe led to an undistinguished end to Mugabe’s regime. At age 93, the president found himself under house arrest in his own country.
Mugabe finally resigned his post in disgrace while cutting a deal that left him personally enriched in a nation besieged by poverty. That put Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s equally anti-LGBTQ vice president, in charge.
Mugabe largely disappeared from public eye, though he briefly resurfaced to publicly betray Mnangagwa and endorse his opponent. Still, Mnangagwa won, and announced Mugabe’s death early Friday.
The world can now remember Mugabe for his unwavering opposition to progress and his bizarre insistence at the United Nations that “We are not gays.”