“Some of the churches have very beautiful buildings but go against the Bible,” Mugabe told tens of thousands attending the annual pilgrimage of the Johane Masowe religious group on July 17. The pilgrimage is one of the largest annual religious gatherings in Zimbabwe.
“Is it still the church of God?” asked Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980. He described same-sex marriages as being, “similar to dog behavior.”
The Zimbabwean president once said homosexuals are, “worse than pigs and Dogs.”
Mugabe told Johane Masowe members, whose organization allows polygamy and resists western medicine, that they had a right to practice polygamous marriage.
“Our constitution allows polygamy,” he told the gathering. “We will not force people into monogamous marriages. Even in the Bible, polygamy is allowed. King Solomon was not only blessed with a lot of wealth but he also had many wives.”
In recent years, divisions over homosexuality have torn apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, and created discord in many other Christian denominations.
While some Christians in the northern hemisphere have been more accepting of homosexuals in partnerships, much of the opposition comes from the global South, including from African churches.
Nolbert Kunonga, the deposed former Anglican bishop of Harare and an avid supporter of Mugabe, has formed his own self-styled Church of the Province of Zimbabwe, ostensibly in protest over what he termed the pro-gay stance of the Anglican church in Central Africa.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, although there is an association that promotes gay rights.
Mugabe told the Johane Masowe pilgrims that he would ignore calls to have gay rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution. “We say no to gays. We will not listen to those advocating for their rights in the constitution,” the president said.
Zimbabwe is set to craft a new constitution in 2011 as part of an agreement that led to the formation of a power-sharing government in 2010.
Teams of lawmakers and representatives of rights groups are holding meetings across the country to collect people’s recommendations for the new constitution.