Robert Mugabe (Shona) gee in Januarie 1983 opdragte aan sy eie opgeleide 5de Brigade van “noord-korea” om Ndebele’s uit te wis. In January of 1983 Robert Mugabe, a member of the ethnic Shona majority, ordered his North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to carry out what he called a gukurahundi against the Ndebele people. From January 1983, a campaign of terror was waged against the Ndebele people in Matabeleland in western Zimbabwe. The so-called Gukurahundi massacres remain the darkest period in the country’s post-independence history, when more than 20,000 civilians were killed by Robert Mugabe’s feared Fifth Brigade.
1980 – 1988
Taken from the Introduction to Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace Report on the Disturbances in Matebeleland and the Midlands 1980 to 1988 by Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and Legal Resources Foundation
DIT IS PRESIES WAT SEDERT 1994 GEBEUR SUID-AFRIKA
(DIT IS VOORAFGEGAAN DEUR ‘N GEKONKEL VAN OORNAME)
CONTROL OF POWER FROM RHODESIA TO ZIMBABWE
ON THE DAY in 1980 when control of the southern African nation of Rhodesia passed from the minority whites to the majority blacks, a white farmer named Michael Townsend was on patrol in the bush with the Rhodesian Army. His wife, Cathy, was home at their farm with their youngest son, behind a barbed wire fence and bulletproof screens.
Rhodesia died that day and was renamed Zimbabwe following more than a decade of international sanctions and seven years of guerrilla war. Under pressure from Britain, the United States and South Africa, Prime Minister Ian Smith had grudgingly agreed several months earlier to hold open elections in a country where blacks outnumbered whites by a ratio of about 28-1. There was little doubt that the new prime minister would be black, but whites were convinced that he would be Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a moderate Methodist minister heavily backed by South Africa.
Derduisende blankes vlug uit Rhodesië uit…. Daar was in 1965 so oor die 200000 blankes en 4 miljoen swartes.
Pat Ashton, a stocky, white-haired fifty-five-year-old farmer, stops in at least twice a month. Ashton grew up in Cheshire, England, and moved to Rhodesia in 1971. Trusting Mugabe’s moderate rhetoric, he made a down payment on a farm the year after independence. It took him two decades to pay back his loans, but in 2001 he finally did so. The Ashton farm grew mangoes, tobacco, maize, and flat peas, grossing about $800,000 annually. His workers didn’t earn enough to buy their own land (“I probably could have done more to make them self-sufficient,” he admits), but he did build them a village of some ninety houses, a social hall, a football field, and a medical clinic. Ashton reinvested virtually all of his surplus in the farm.
In July of 2001 about fifty people who lived in the nearby town arrived on his land. Most were miners, and they were led by three officials from the Mugabe government. The group began surveying Ashton’s property and marking out plots for homes. The next six months were a constant battle. The settlers returned and erected makeshift thatch huts in the middle of Ashton’s maize and tobacco fields. They dug up his maize crops, beat up his farm workers, and removed and bent his irrigation pipes. Still Ashton hung on, living in his farmhouse and planting and harvesting what he could. In January of 2002 four trucks arrived, containing youth militia and men claiming they were veterans of the liberation war collecting their reward for service. This time the invaders attacked Ashton, with steel rods and an ax, cutting him in the forearm and badly damaging his pickup truck as he tried to escape. They held two of his sons hostage for a day, threatening to execute them and making them chant songs in praise of the ruling party. As the invaders carted away all the Ashton family’s transportable belongings—from crockery to toilet seats—the police watched with amusement and then decided to join in.
Ashton is more sympathetic than many other farmers, but the story of his eviction is fairly typical. In 2000, about 4,000 large-scale commercial farmers owned some 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s arable land. Nearly two thirds of these farmers had bought their farms after independence, and thus held titles issued not by Ian Smith or the British colonial regime but by the Mugabe government. Mugabe had long pledged land reform as a way of redistributing farmland to black peasants and dismantling what many saw as the country’s “mini-Rhodesias.” But he had delayed action for two decades, generally taking farms only on a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis.
Initially, the farmers held their ground, but it became clear after several white farmers were murdered that they were too few and Mugabe’s regime was too determined. Of the 4,000 large-scale commercial farmers in business three years ago, all but 500 have been forced off their land. Most Zimbabweans (including white farmers) say that land reform was both necessary and inevitable. The tragedy of Mugabe’s approach is that it has harmed those whom a well-ordered, selective redistribution program could and should have helped. Generally the farms have not been given to black farm managers or farm workers. Indeed, because of their association with the opposition, more than a million farm workers and their dependents have been displaced, and they are now at grave risk of starvation. In fact, the beneficiaries of the land seizures are, with few exceptions, ruling-party officials and friends of the President’s. Although Mugabe’s people seem to view the possession of farms as a sign of status (the Minister of Home Affairs has five; the Minister of Information has three; Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and scores of influential party members and their relatives have two each), these elites don’t have the experience, the equipment, or, apparently, the desire to run them. About 130,000 formerly landless peasants helped the ruling elites to take over the farms, but now that the dirty work is done, many of them are themselves being expelled.
The drop-off in agricultural production is staggering. Maize farming, which yielded more than 1.5 million tons annually before 2000, is this year expected to generate just 500,000 tons. Wheat production, which stood at 309,000 tons in 2000, will hover at 27,000 tons this year. Tobacco production, too, which at 265,000 tons accounted for nearly a third of the total foreign-currency earnings in 2000, has tumbled, to about 66,000 tons in 2003.
4. Legislate the impossible
For all the lawlessness in Zimbabwe, the country in fact suffers from an overabundance of laws. Indeed, Mugabe has introduced so many economic edicts in the past year that most citizens have found it impossible to keep track. He fixed the price of a loaf of bread at half the bakers’ break-even price, and levied astronomical fines on any baker who charged more. Bakers stopped making bread until somebody noticed that sesame bread, a “luxury item,” wasn’t price-controlled; by sprinkling a few sesame seeds on their standard loaves, bakers were able to get back in business. A pair of mortuary workers were arrested recently for running a profitable “rent-a-cadaver” business: because Mugabe had decreed that drivers in funeral processions would get privileged access to the trickle of fuel coming into the country, these entrepreneurs had begun leasing bodies to Zimbabwean drivers.
“Mugonomics,” as Mugabe’s brand of economic policy is known in Zimbabwe, addresses the symptoms of economic collapse, such as food and fuel shortages, but ignores the underlying causes. Inflation in Zimbabwe is expected to surpass 800 percent by year’s end. Unemployment is at 70 percent. Zimbabwe has its own dollar, but the highest (and rarest) currency denomination, a $Z 1,000 note, cannot buy even a loaf of bread. Most transactions require hundreds of $Z 50 and $Z 100 bills. When Tsvangirai was arrested, several men were needed to carry his bail money to the Harare high court in huge cardboard boxes. Newspapers advertise “money rubber bands” and electronic money counters that “count 1,500 bills per minute.”
Because the rate of inflation is astronomical in comparison with the interest rates offered by banks, Zimbabweans are desperate to withdraw their savings in order to spend the money while it still has value. The banks say they would be happy to oblige—but they don’t have the cash. The government has so little foreign currency that it can’t pay to import the ink and the paper needed to print more bills or bills of higher denominations. In July desperate Zimbabweans began sleeping outside banks so as to be there when the doors opened. But because the banks limited the maximum withdrawal to the equivalent of $2.50, patrons were rewarded for a night’s wait with just enough money to cover their bus fare home.
Mugabe has kept the official exchange rate fixed at 824 Zimbabwean dollars to one U.S. dollar, even though the black-market rate hovers around $Z 5,000. Businessmen thus do their best to bypass official banks and government institutions, and the black market has become the only market of relevance. The state requires Zimbabweans who export goods to change 50 percent of their foreign earnings into local money at the official exchange rate. This means that every dollar converted loses almost all of its value—giving companies no incentive to bring money home, and worsening the severe cash shortage.
Forlorn Zimbabwean pensioners whose savings have vanished in a matter of months are reminiscent of the doleful Yugoslavs and Argentines who have endured similar implosions. The economic dynamic in Zimbabwe is perversely robust: while ordinary people suffer, black-market dealers and people with foreign bank accounts prosper, making them powerful stakeholders in the perpetuation of devastating economic policies.
When Mugabe took over as President, fewer than half of Zimbabweans could read and write. He transformed the country—producing a literacy rate higher than 85 percent. Yet he may be remembered less for his education drive than for creating the “Green Bombers,” the youth militia that emerged from the National Youth Service Training Program, introduced after the ruling party’s dismal showing in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Some 50,000 Zimbabweans aged ten to thirty have passed through the training program since it started. The youth academies initially advertised themselves as offering training in agriculture, construction, and other occupations, but they have morphed into a paramilitary and indoctrination enterprise. When dictators feel their support slipping among adults, it is not unusual for them to alter school textbooks in the hope of enlisting impressionable youths in their cause. And because tyrants never stop worrying about the loyalty of their militaries, they often establish ruling-party militias to act as personal guarantors of their safety in the event of assassination or coup attempts. In the service of the third chimurenga in Zimbabwe, students are taught how to make gasoline bombs and set up roadblocks. Elliot Manyika, a hard-line ruling-party official who now runs the program, says the training will teach youths to “change their mind-set … and not aspire to be a servant of the white man,” especially now that “whites are going where they came from.” Many enroll reluctantly, because they know they have no chance of finding work otherwise: slots at university, at teacher and nurse training schools, and in the civil service are reserved for those who can produce certificates showing that they have graduated from a youth academy. Clad in green fatigues and red-and-green berets, those graduates who become Green Bombers vandalize MDC offices, harass Zimbabweans waiting for food, seize whites’ farms, confiscate newspapers, and intimidate voters and candidates.
Scare off foreigners
The Mbare market, in Harare, is Zimbabwe’s largest bazaar. It contains more than a hundred stalls, selling African carvings, tapestries, and sculptures. In normal times at least four tourist buses and dozens of taxis visited the market every day. Yet when I arrived one Sunday, the vendors looked at me as though they were seeing the ghost of Cecil Rhodes. After a moment’s pause they rushed behind their stalls and hurriedly began polishing and propping up their wares. One of them told me I was his first customer of the month; it was July 27.
The murder of white farmers, the attacks on the opposition, and the theft of an election have obviously done nothing to help tourism. Nor has the disappearance of two indispensable travel items: cash and fuel.
One Air Zimbabwe flight attendant recently explained a two-hour delay by telling passengers that the plane was waiting for a flight arriving from London “so we can siphon from its tank.” One of the reasons tourists used to visit Zimbabwe was its game parks. But many of the fences around the parks have been destroyed by squatters, and amid starvation, poachers have begun hunting even rare wildlife. Farm invaders running out of white commercial farms to seize have begun taking over wildlife preserves, creating safari parks for their personal viewing. Foreign capital is disappearing faster than the wildlife. When Mugabe called for the “indigenization of the economy,” he asserted pointedly that some Zimbabweans were “more indigenous than others.” It wasn’t only farmers who were threatened by the chimurenga. In 2000 “war veterans” invaded white-owned urban businesses—everything from hotels and department stores to the offices of foreign corporations. The remaining investors are running scared.
Invade a neighbor
As even a democracy like the United States has shown, waging war can benefit a leader in several ways: it can rally citizens around the flag, it can distract them from bleak economic times, and it can enrich a country’s elites. In August of 1998 Robert Mugabe sent 11,000 soldiers—a third of his army—into the most menacing country in Africa: the Congo. He justified the invasion on the grounds that he was defending the sovereignty of an African country being invaded by Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian forces, which were backing a rebellion against the Congo’s President, Laurent Kabila. In reality, just as Saddam Hussein went after the oil in Kuwait, Mugabe had his eye on the Congo’s riches. “There are fortunes to be made in the Congo,” Tshinga Dube, one of Mugabe’s colonels, told a television interviewer, “so why rush to conquer the rebels?” Mugabe’s cronies did in fact get rich off diamonds, cobalt, and timber. But the war was extremely unpopular at home. As casualties mounted, some army officers grew restless and began plotting a coup, which was foiled in its planning stages. Mugabe dismissed his critics as “black white men wearing the master’s cap.” But it was harder for him to ignore the outrage of one of his key constituencies: the veterans of the 1970s liberation war, who saw fortunes being made in the Congo and began clamoring for the compensation Mugabe had promised them for their sacrifices. Mugabe thought he might placate the war veterans by offering up the white farms, but in the end, although the vets were the ones who expelled the white farmers, it is the country’s elites who got the farms. Zimbabwe’s troops are thought to have withdrawn from the Congo in September of last year, but the consequences of the war are more durable. In addition to unleashing the war veterans as a powerful political force, the Congo war consumed vast sums of money that would have been better spent on medicine for the country’s dying people.
Gukurahundi refers to the seasonal Zimbabwean rains that wipe out the debris of the previous year’s crop. It signifies a purging of the old, a purification. In January of 1983 Robert Mugabe, a member of the ethnic Shona majority, ordered his North Korea-trained Fifth Brigade to carry out what he called a gukurahundi against the Ndebele people.
The Ndebele account for about a fourth of the country’s population, and Mugabe felt that they threatened him because his chief political rival at the time, Joshua Nkomo, was a Ndebele. The Nazis gave us the Final Solution; the Serbs gave us “ethnic cleansing”; the Zimbabweans have given us “wiping away.”
Public discussion of the gukurahundi is forbidden in Zimbabwe. But George Mkwananzi, thirty-three, is the self-anointed keeper of Ndebele memory. Wearing thick spectacles that keep sliding down his nose, he doesn’t fit the image of a would-be rebel leader. But that is what he says he and others will become if Mugabe is not punished for the murder of the Ndebele. “In the whole history of this country nobody ever caused such a loss of life, not even Cecil John Rhodes,” Mkwananzi says. Rhodes’s conquest left some 5,000 Ndebele dead. Mugabe’s forces are thought to have killed 25,000. “When liberation was achieved, we never experienced it as a region,” Mkwananzi says. “We were merely transferred from British colonialism to Shona colonialism. If Mugabe and his henchmen are not prosecuted, we will break away and create our own country, and we will find a way to make revenge against Mugabe. It will happen. It may sound like a dream, but ours is a brutalized past that has to be revisited. Five or ten years from now they will say, ‘What that man was saying was true.'”
In an era of international justice, dictators with blood on their hands are afraid that if they relinquish power, they will end up prosecuted, like Slobodan Milosevic, or humiliated, like Augusto Pinochet.
Mugabe knows that his massacres have been carefully documented by survivors and human-rights investigators, and he is right to be nervous. Tsvangirai, for his part, might be willing to accept a deal in which Mugabe was given a golden parachute to Nigeria (as Charles Taylor, of Liberia, was), but he knows that if he does so, his many Ndebele supporters may revolt. “I cannot stand up now and say, ‘We will forgive Mugabe,’ because I will be dead,” Tsvangirai told me. “But neither can I say, ‘We are going to send you to the Hague,’ because he will say, ‘Let me burn down the building.'”
LEES ANDER INLIGTING