|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
According to Bulawayo24 News, Zimbabwe police are investigating Book Café in Harare after a group of LGBTI persons showed up for a 4 June concert by afro-pop artiste John Pfumojena. Some members of the group were dressed in drag and showed public signs of affection. Criminal Investigation Department (CID) spokesperson Inspector Zimbili said, "The law is very clear on that matter; if there was a gay parade or festival at that mall, we are going to carry a full investigation."
A group of about 40 gays and lesbians recently "invaded" the popular music joint, Book Café in Harare at Five Avenue Shopping Centre, where they paraded their acts in front of patrons who had gone to the joint to see afro-pop artiste John Pfumojena performing.
Police are now investigating Pamberi Trust, the owners of Mannenberg and Book Café, following this incident which happened early this month.
Investigations carried by a local daily newspaper have revealed that on June 4, at least 40 suspected gays and lesbians converged at Book Café during a live performance by afro-pop artiste John Pfumojena...
Ian White, the operations manager for Pamberi Trust, confirmed that on the said day a group of white Zimbabweans arrived for an early evening show at the Book Café with some of the men dressed like women.
"We had a booking, a normal booking and we allowed the group to come through and watch the performance by John (Pfumojena). We did not know who they were or what they were up to, they asked for a service which we offer and we agreed on terms.
"You need to know that we do not do background checks on anyone. We were just as surprised as everyone else upon realisation that some of the people we had allowed to come for the show were gay, but there was nothing we could do about it," said White.
White's boss Paul Brickhill dissociated himself from the gays and lesbians, saying he is a decent family man. Brickhill went on to water down the incident saying his organisation holds 950 events a year and does not think that "this one little skirmish should be taken to mean that we are all like that".
Staff members at the Book Café who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said they were shocked when they saw men dressed like women and openly kissing in full view of other patrons, some of whom had to leave the place.
"Most of us just left the place. We could not take it, it was just horrible and nauseating, in fact, one of our colleagues vomited when he saw a gay couple kiss. Not all of them though were gay, some were ‘normal' but a sizeable number of them, especially the men, were acting quite bizarrely.
"They were dressed in miniskirts, wigs, bras and they were wearing make-up. They just stayed for the duration of John's performance and immediately left after he was done saying that they were going to a 70s party somewhere in the capital," said one of the staff members.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) spokesperson Inspector Zimbili said following these reports the police were going to institute full investigations into the matter.
"The law is very clear on that matter; if there was a gay parade or festival at that mall, we are going to carry a full investigation.
"According to law gay festivals or parades are not allowed as stated in the Codification and Reform Act; what they did is considered as sodomy and as police all parties who were involved will be dealt with," said Inspector Zimbili...
This incident, however, did not come as surprise as rumours of bizarre activities including homosexuality at the Book Café and Mannenberg have long been circulating.
According to a BBC News article from 2007, Book Café is Harare's counter-cultural cafe and is no stranger to police intimidation.