South Africa hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup, and on 9 February 2003, during the Parade of Nations and as part of the opening ceremony, the event’s organisers appointed models to walk in the parade, holding banners to represent each participating country. Senegalese-born model, Barbara Diop, had done modelling work in South Africa (she moved to Cape Town) and on international runways in Italy prior to this event, and she was appointed to carry the Zimbabwean banner. A few days later rumours started circulating that Barbara was a transwoman. She initially denied the rumours but eventually admitted that the claims were correct.
Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, responded with anger and said that choosing Barbara as Zimbabwe’s banner bearer was done deliberately to embarrass Zimbabwe. This sentiment by President Mugabe was just one of the many homophobic statements he made about LGBTIQ+ persons throughout his public life, including publicly expressing the following in July 2002: “When I said gays are worse than dogs and pigs, I really meant it because pigs and dogs do not do unnatural things.” He threatened to withdraw the Zimbabwean team from the Cricket World Cup but did not have to follow through with his threat as Zimbabwe was eliminated from the competition early.