By Sofia Mapuranga
*Farai Chiremwaremwa* is a new tenant in the neighbourhood who does not associate with anyone.
A 27year old reserved young man who barely greets his neighbour lest they get too close, he recounts and still cannot get over the trauma and humiliation he suffered the day he was booted out of his previous rented home in Seke, Chitungwiza.
“My landlord made sure everyone knows the reason why she no longer wanted me at her house. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I have ever suffered. I ended up picking up my property late at night because I feared for my life.”
He narrated his ordeal which started on a cold Sunday, in June last year where he woke up to his usual routine where he did his laundry before making his breakfast.
The 7 roomed house he shared with a co- tenant in Unit A belonged to a woman in her late fifties, Gogo Manjobo who resided in another location in Zengeza 1, about 12 kilometres away.
It had been almost 5 years and he never had any challenges staying at this house.
The good thing he enjoyed the most was that the family he shared the house with minded their own business and would never pry into his personal life.
Besides the usual communication over bill payments and home cleaning, Farai rarely interacted with his co- tenant over anything.
On this said day, Farai had invited his lover over who came just before lunch.
He welcomed his partner and the duo were laughing and chatting when his landlord arrived.
Oblivious that his landlord had paid them a visit, Farai started getting intimate with his lover in his bedroom. Just when things began hotting up,the door was flung open without even a knock.
It was Farai’s landlord.
The look on her face after she walked in on Farai was clear testimony that life at this place he had called home for over 5 years was never going to be the same.
“What in God’s name are you doing defiling my house with such actions?” Farai’s landlord burst out before she started shouting all sorts of obscenities.
Her loud voice boomed attracting the attention of Farai’s co tenant who immediately enquired what had happened to trigger such a reaction.
Gogo Manjobo’ increased the tempo and she started shouting at Farai on the top of her voice. In no time, the development had attracted the attention of the other neighbours.
Farai’ s lover made a hasty exit from the premises after realising that the woman was unstoppable.
She started telling all and sundry who cared to listen what she had seen with her own eyes, a man kissing another man.
The notice to vacate the premises was issued without any qualms in full glare of the small crowd that had gathered.
Farai was supposed to leave gogo’ house and find somewhere else to live despite that it was mid-month.
He complied after receiving threats that failure to do so would see the community members beat him up for his sexuality.
One of the many challenges experienced by LGBTIs within communities, rejection and segregation has forced many not to disclose their sexuality.
Most of them are evicted and given days’ notice to vacate their rented apartments.
Sam Matsikure, a programs officer at Gays and Lesbians Zimbabwe (GALZ), an organisation that works with LGBTIs in Harare confirmed that his organisation was overwhelmed with such challenges where sometimes their constituency was given hours notices to vacate their “homes”.
“They would have paid rentals but are treated unfairly. One has to then weigh the option of challenging their landlord for their rights as lodgers or opt to just move out as soon as they can and guarantee their safety. Most chose the later,” said Matsikure.
He said LGBTIs are welcome to reach out to his organisation as it has in place measures to assist them find safe spaces where they can find shelter until they are able to stand on their own feet again.
He said because most of these challenges occur mid month where the affected victims would not be financially capable of finding alternative accommodation, most are left traumatised and vulnerable as they have no means to move out from where they would have been booted out.
“There are certain communities that we know are a no no. The homophobia and segregation for LGBTIs is rampant. Communities still gang up with some even threatening to beat up gays and lesbians.”
A Chitungwiza based social commentator Danai Garambwe said there is need for communities to be inclusive and accept LGBTIs for who they are.
“LGBTIs have rights too and those rights should not be taken away just because landlords or communities discover one’s sexuality. Sensitisation is key.”
A landlord from Unit M in Seke said communities are yet to unlearn the homophobia that was prevalent during the late former President Robert Mugabe’s era, who publicly attacked LGBTs describing them as “worse than dogs.”
“There is a shift on acceptance of LGBTIs in some communities but you will still hear the statement that ‘Mugabe was right’. This shows how leaders shape public opinion because even after he is gone, his opinion is still held in high regard by some Zimbabweans. Leaders must be at the forefront of promoting inclusivity and acceptance.”