A politician in Zimbabwe has called on traditional chiefs to expel people who support homosexuality from their communities.

Local government minister Ignatius Chombo called on traditional chiefs to ban "people who support homosexuality" and confiscate their land.

The ZANU PF MP was addressing villagers in Lupane, in the western Zimbabwean province of Matabeleland North, following the installation of a new chief.

"The chiefs are there to protect and promote our cultural values and those who support same-sex marriages must be banished from the communities and be dispossessed of their land. What kind of madness is this that, when we have beautiful women in our country, some people want to marry other men?" SW Radio Africa quoted him as saying.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemned the remarks, saying they will only stoke harassment and lead to increased land grabs.

"Such utterances will give rise to an increase in incidents of harassment, persecution, as well as unlawful arbitrary evictions and seizure of property," the organisation said.

"Chombo's appetite for forced evictions, especially in the month of May, is reminiscent of the scorched earth programme of Operation Murambatsvina, which had far-reaching consequences on a large portion of the Zimbabwean population" ZLHR added.

In 2005, Mugabe's government sanctioned Operation Murambatsvina, a programme to clear Zimbabwe's slums and other areas of illegally built structures.

A UN report published the same year concluded that 2.4 million people had been affected by the programme, of whom 700,000 had lost their homes or livelihoods or both, causing a humanitarian crisis of "immense proportions".

Many of these people, who are poor and vulnerable, still have not been rehoused and have been forced to live in extremely precarious conditions, contrary to what the government had promised.

President Robert Mugabe and many of his ministers have also regularly been accused of forcibly evicting villagers and farmers to acquire parcels of land.