by Rex Wockner
International News Briefs
Key Zimbabwean gay leader Keith Goddard, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, died Oct. 9 from pneumonia. He was 49.
“Keith dedicated his life to the advancement of LGBT rights, human rights and his passion for music,” the group said in a statement. “The struggle for LGBT rights is a difficult struggle and in many instances in the history of GALZ Keith stood gallantly in the frontline. He dared where most men would not go.”
Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Division, said Goddard “oversaw (GALZ’s) transition from a group representing the urban white elite to one rooted in the majority population and its urgent needs.”
“He could on many occasions have left Zimbabwe and settled into the comparative comforts of armchair activism abroad,” Long said. “He didn’t. He stayed – even when he was framed on ludicrous charges of assault that hung over him for years. He faced, and overcame, oppression and opprobrium that the rest of us could not even imagine. Whenever I visited GALZ, Keith was always, amid swirling fears and social chaos, imperturbable – a rock.”
Leading British gay activist Peter Tatchell said Goddard “risked his liberty and life many times, speaking out against homophobia and transphobia, even though this marked him as a potential target for state and vigilante violence. The danger of kidnapping, arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder never deterred him. Keith will be remembered as a pioneer and hero of the LGBT liberation struggle in Africa.”
Leading Indian gay activist Vikram Doctor said: “It could have been so easy for him to have left, emigrating to Europe like so many white Zimbabweans did, fleeing to refugee camps in South Africa like so many black Zimbabweans were forced to. But Keith stuck it out and kept going with GALZ until his untimely death. I know Keith would probably have laughed at the idea of being considered a hero, but more than most people I know, he was.”
In 2001, GALZ ran out of money and its phone (and dialup Internet) was cut off for three months. When he finally got back online, Goddard encountered 1,566 e-mails.
“Not all of them were junk mail trying to sell us Chinese chemicals or offering us free holidays to places we have never heard of,” he wrote to fellow activists. “Luckily, we have been able to sell a fridge to pay for the water and the phone bill and our new funding cycle with HIVOS (Holland’s Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation) is set to start in the first week of November. We are all very sorry indeed for the long silence.”