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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Zimbabwe: St John’s deputy head resigns after revealing he is gay

Leroy Dzenga

Following a week of fierce debate and a lawsuit threat to the school caused by the disclosure of his sexual orientation to pupils at an assembly, St John’s College deputy head (sixth form) Dr Neal Hovelmeier yesterday resigned from his post.

The educator, who last week revealed that he was gay in a bid to pre-empt a newspaper article, released an apologetic statement announcing his departure.

“I have to fully accept that I had no idea of the force of anger and resentment such a declaration would make, but I would like it known that I am a man who has the utmost respect for people who hold strong views along the lines of custom, tradition, religion and other values.

“I am deeply apologetic for any distress I have caused and the manner in which I acted on Friday. I ask for forgiveness and understanding for the magnitude of this insult,” said Hovelmeier.

Hovelmeier, who had been with the affluent boys’ college dubbed “The Green Blazer” for a decade-and-a-half, claimed he was living in danger since he made his sexual orientation known.

“In the past few days, I have unfortunately come under vitriolic attack from various quarters. I have been in receipt of death threats as well as threats of physical danger to myself and my pets,” he said.

On Monday, there was a parents’ meeting at the school to discuss the issue and it was resolved that further independent investigations be made, but Hovelmeier decided not to wait for the outcome.

“It has also been made clear to me that certain stakeholders are not prepared under any circumstances to have me remain in my position at St John’s to the extent that they have launched legal challenges, made ultimatums and vowed under any and all circumstances to see me dismissed, even by means of intimidation and the manufacture of fabricated evidence against me to see me face a wrath of spurious allegations,” Dr Hovelmeier said.

He added: “For my own sense of integrity, I will not submit myself to a sham trial or investigation to these individuals, the outcome of which would have already been determined regardless of actual circumstance.”

The drama tutor said staying in his position had become difficult in the face of backlash.

“It is for this reason, and with a very heavy heart, that I have come to realise that my current position as deputy headmaster is now untenable and I hereby tender my resignation with immediate effect,” he said.

The school’s trust chairman, Charles Msipa, confirmed receiving communication on Hovelmeier’s resignation yesterday through email.

“I am out of town at the moment, but I can confirm that the school sent an e-mail informing us of Hovelmeier’s resignation. I have not yet spoken to anyone directly with regards to the issue, but I can confirm that the school communicated his resignation to us,” Msipa said.

Conservative parents at the school got their way after demanding the tutor’s resignation. They have also called on the headmaster Cav Trinci to relinquish his position for backing Hovelmeier.

The Herald.

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