Against Humanity Zimbabwe (CAHZ) - Genocide (Gukurahundi)
While there are
many cases of torture, murder, dispossession or forced removal that
can be laid
against the Zimbabwe government, one stands
out as perhaps the worst case of brutality in the modern history of
Southern Africa. Gukurahundi is Shona word for "the early rain
which washes away the chaff before spring.
The chaff or hundi, remains after maize has been harvested. Less than
a year after he came to power, Mugabe, signed a deal with the late
Kim Il Sung in which the North Korean president agreed to send officers
to Zimbabwe where they would train a special brigade which Mugabe said
was needed to "combat malcontents".
However, there was very little unrest in Zimbabwe and most people were
relieved that the war had ended. In August 1981, 106 North Koreans
arrived at Nyanga on the Mozambican border where they set up camp.
In Parliament, opposition leader, Joshua Nkomo of the mainly Ndebele ZAPU, asked why Koreans were needed to train a special force when the country already had an excellent army and police service. He suggested Mugabe would use the troops to build a one party state. Mugabe's response was that, "dissidents should watch out."
After the civil war, both Mugabe's ZANLA and Nkomo's ZIPRA had access to hidden caches of weapons, but Nkomo had also moved lorries, tanks and thousands of weapons from his former base in Zambia, almost certainly with the knowledge of then Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, and had buried these on farms owned by ZIPRA near Bulawayo.
Fiery speeches against ZIPRA and ZAPU by ZANU-PF minister, Enos Nkala,
led to armed battles between ZIPRA and ZANLA in Bulawayo and the army
had to be called in to put down the unrest.
More than 300 people died in the fighting. The government asked Enoch
Dumbutshena, former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, to hold an inquiry into
the uprising, but the findings have never been released.
Many ZIPRA soldiers who had been integrated with the national army
defected after the violence, amid claims that some of their colleagues
had disappeared without trace. They also alleged that ZANLA members
were being favoured for promotion. Nkomo fled into exile, former ZAPU
commanders Dumiso Dabengwa, Lookout Masuku were charged with treason,
but although acquitted, they were detained for a further four years
Meanwhile, at Nyanga, former ZANLA soldiers continued to be trained
until September 1982, when security minister, Sydney Sekeramayi announced
that the new Fifth Brigade was ready for service. . Its first Commander
was Colonel Perence Shiri, now head of the Zimbabwe Air Force.
Fifth Brigade was not truly part into the army, answering directly
to Prime Minister Mugabe who was also minister of defence. They were
despatched to Matabeleland and the Midlands province, where ZAPU dissidents
had been murdering mostly white farmers. Once in the field, the new
soldiers acted as judge, jury and executioner of anyone they suspected
might be supporting ZAPU elements still at large.
Most of their operations were targeted at defenceless civilians, and,
1983 Mugabe said of the Matabele civilian population: "We eradicate them.
We don't differentiate when we fight because we can't tell who is a dissident
and who is not". Within weeks, Fifth Brigade had killed thousands of civilians,
beaten and tortured thousands more, and burnt entire villages to the ground.
Most victims were shot or bayoneted in public executions, often after being forced
to dig their own graves in front of family and friends The largest single slaughter
took place on the banks of the Cewale River near Lupane, south of Victoria Falls
on 5 March 1983 when killing 124 young men and women were machine-gunned : 62
died immediately, 55 died from injuries and seven survived with bullet wounds.
Another method widely used by Fifth Brigade was to lock families in their grass
huts and set the thatch alight, a method used by ZANLA on Shona civilians during
the civil war in villages which were believed to be helping the government.
In other places, hundreds, of civilians would be rounded up and marched at gunpoint
to a school or water point. There they would be beaten, burned or raped, and
forced to sing Shona songs praising Mugabe. The meetings usually ended with public
The actions falls clearly into the United Nations and ICC definition of genocide. There are those, like Lt Col Lionel Dyke, commander of paratroops unit which also operated alongside Fifth Brigade, who defend Gukurahundi. According to Dyke - who features in several torture transcripts held by CAHZ, the action "brought peace very, very quickly." To make things worse for the Matabele, Mugabe had sections of the province sealed off from vehicle traffic and deliveries of food and medicine.
Crops were burned, shops and clinics closed down and a population of around three million people faced death by starvation. With his homeland under siege, Joshua Nkomo signed a "Unity Accord" on 22 of December 1987 merging ZAPU with ZANU-PF. Between April and June 1988, Mugabe signed a number of amnesty bills which pardoned all dissidents and the members of Fifth Brigade and other units which had participated in the genocide.
Gukurahundi was over, but villagers were barred from opening the mass graves
and, to date, there is no clear account of what happened in Matabeleland, except
that somewhere between 10 000 and 40 000 people, mostly civilians, were killed.
CAHZ is campaigning to have Gukurahundi officially recognised as Genocide and
we are compiling evidence for the eventual trial of, among others:
President Robert Mugabe
Lt Col (now Air Marshal) Perence Shire
Emerson Mnangagwa (minister for security over part of the period)
Sydney Sekeremayi (minister for security over part of the period)
Lt Col Lionel Dyke (ret), commander of parachute battalion who participated
in several acts of torture.
If you have any evidence against these people, we ask you to please come forward, either publicly or in confidence. Nazi war criminals were hunted into their nineties in an effort to bring some late justice to people murdered in Hitler's Germany and we intend to pursue the architects and perpetrators of Gukurahundi with the same vigour.
See also : www.gukurahundi.org