Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

BULAWAYO — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday again condemned gay and lesbian people at a rally in Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city, and launched a sharp attack against South Africa’s Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu over his pro-gay stance.

Mr Tutu, a Nobel Prize laureate, last week defended gay rights and said he would "never worship a homophobic God".

The 89-year-old Mr Mugabe, who is seeking a seventh term in office, said Mr Tutu, as a clergyman, had interpreted the Bible wrongly by supporting homosexuality — remarks that drew rapturous applause from Zanu (PF) party supporters who packed the White City Stadium for the rally.

"Never, never, never will we support homosexuality in Zimbabwe," Mr Mugabe said. "Archbishop Tutu said it is nice to be gay, yet he has a wife, he should have begun by getting himself a man for a woman.

"When you are a bishop and cannot interpret the Bible, you should resign and give it to those who can. We will not compromise our tradition and tolerate homosexuality."

The president added: "I want to urge parents to be careful with your teenage children who are 17 years and older not to be swayed into this act as children are easily persuaded to accept it."

Denigrating homosexuality has proved a popular tactic for Mr Mugabe as he desperately tries to diversify his election campaign, which has been heavily slanted towards a rhetoric against the West and colonialism.

Political observers said the repetition of an anti-West campaign by Mr Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) indicated that it had run out of ideas, and it had fallen back on its tough stance against homosexuality to win voters.

The bulk of Zimbabweans remain wary of the stance of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on sexual rights. In an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk in 2011, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai appeared to endorse homosexuality when he said the gay community was entitled to its own sexual orientation without condemnation by society.

Mr Tsvangirai’s response sparked a backlash from conservative Zimbabweans and the country’s Christian community.

In Bulawayo on Saturday, Mr Mugabe urged supporters to vote for him in Wednesday’s election to prevent the MDC from legalising homosexuality, should it win in the polls.

"During creation, God made Adam and saw that he was lonely, and he created Eve out of Adam’s rib and not another man," Mr Mugabe said. "Animals are better off as they know who to mate with. Everyone knows what to do, even animals know which animal to mate with, goats know where to go, and cows know where to go too. We see donkeys all the time on top of each other, why can’t you humans do the same?"

The election on Wednesday will pit Mr Mugabe against Mr Tsvangirai for the third time in little more than a decade.