ZIMBABWE – Former Botswana President Festus Mogae has denied reports that he attacked President Robert Mugabe over the latter’s anti-gay stance, claiming he was quoted out of context.
Mogae told Botswana’s weekly newspaper, Mmegi, that he was never interviewed by journalists from the United Nations’ online magazine Africa Renewal, saying the only time he spoke about gay issues was when he presented a formal speech at the UN meeting last September.
“I never mentioned Mugabe or any President in my speech. I made the speech at a UN meeting last September,” Mogae reportedly said.
“What I said is that I used to hold the same beliefs as my African counterparts with regards to LGBT issues, but I have since been converted. The only country I mentioned at the UN meeting is South Africa which I said is the most liberal when it comes to issues concerning LGBT groups.”
Mogae’s alleged attack on Mugabe had attracted a backlash from Zimbabwean authorities who described the former Botswana leader as singing for his supper.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe said: “That is the problem with most African leaders, they think if they are in Europe, they are Europeans, if they are in America, they are Americans.”
In the online magazine, Africa Renewal, Mogae is alleged to have urged Mugabe and other African leaders to accept LGBT groups.
When asked about his views on lesbians and gays by Africa Renewal, Mogae said: “In my long interaction with LGBT groups and extensive research, I have come to the realisation that we are limited in our knowledge and must be open to new discoveries. I have been converted, I used to hold the same beliefs as my counterparts. Mugabe has said that he hates homosexuals and is on record as saying they are worse than pigs and dogs. That is still his position. Leadership is not always about you, it is about people and often circumstances. I call upon African leaders to open up to second generation rights.”
Mogae was asked about the perception by some African leaders that it was un-African to legalise and decriminalise homosexuality.
Mogae recently called on African countries to legalise homosexuality and prostitution in a bid to effectively fight HIV and Aids.
“I don’t understand it (homosexuality). I am a heterosexual. I look at women. I don’t look at other men. But there are men who look at other men. These are citizens,” Mogae said in an interview with the BBC, calling for legalisation of homosexuality in Botswana a few years ago.
The Botswana government is reportedly reluctant to recognise LGBT groups.