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Zimbabwe’s new President: ‘It’s not my duty’ to press for change on LGBT issues

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Zimbabwe’s new President has shot down questions about whether he will roll back the state’s harsh anti-LGBT policies.

Long-serving Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe was ousted late last year by his lieutenant Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mugabe was notoriously one of the world’s most homophobic leaders, presiding over a regime that has carried out horrifying homophobic purges, targeting gay men and women with extortion, arrest, and even torture.

Mugabe previously claimed homosexuality is a filthy disease, vowed to reject international aid that requires Zimbabwe to accept gay people’s human rights, and insisted Zimbabwe would “never, never, never” decriminalise homosexuality.

Mnangagwa’s rise has signalled a shift towards modernisation for many Zimbabweans, but he struck a much less open tone when asked about progress on LGBT rights in an interview with CNN.

The leader was challenged on the country’s stance by CNN’s Richard Quest, who is gay.

Asked if he would do anything to progress LGBT rights in the country, Mnangagwa responded: “Those people who want it are the people who should canvass for it, but it’s not my duty to campaign for this.”

When asked whether the country would remove its current ban on same-sex unions, Mnangagwa responded: “In our constitution it is banned – and it is my duty to obey my constitution.”

But elsewhere in the interview he pressed the case for modernisation in the country to allow greater international investment and trade.

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Speaking about business, he said: “Those who want to live in the past can continue to live in the past. But those who want to see the future can look at what we are doing, and make a judgement of what we are doing.

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