HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe ghosts of Gukurahundi

The ghosts of Gukurahundi


Zimbabwean politics is a charade of men and women masquerading as freedom fighters. In reality, most politicians are wicked and self-centred individuals who may do with some serious divine intervention to resolve their transgressions against humanity. Zimbabweans’ experiences with most political figures conjure up abusive master-slave relationships.

A Candid Date with Masola wa Dabudabu

There is no denying that most Zimbabwean politicians are crooks, criminals, back-biters, murderers, thieves and selfish individuals. Politicians who have been responsible for the murders of innocent people. There have been fatal beatings of political opponents, there have been unexplained disappearances of people who sought the truth in pursuance of their democratic rights and there have been wanton killings of innocent civilians at the behest of rogue politicians.

The road to the gruesome murders was paved when President Robert Mugabe decided to form the Fifth Brigade. The brigade was given the numerical position five, only because the Zimbabwe National Army had managed to produce four other brigades through the integration of ex-Zipra and ex-Zanla guerrillas and ex-Rhodesian forces.

Before the brigade was involved in witch-hunting operations in Matabeleland and parts of Midlands, little was known about the motive behind its formation outside the framework of the Zimbabwe National Army. Speculation at the time was rife that it was all to do with Mugabe’s desire for a one-party State under Zanu PF. To achieve his goal, he required some leverage from armed forces. At the time Mugabe did not have full control of the army, to provide succour that would enable him to exercise a free run, in his quest to systematically destroy all political opposition in the country.

In order to achieve his goal with surgical precision, Mugabe had to create a parallel military structure composed of blindly fanatical loyalists. He approached his friends from North Korea to help in the formation of the Fifth Brigade. The brigade was to portray itself as a mean fighting machine with unquestioned loyalty to Zanu PF. The brigade was to function as Zanu PF’s private deterrent force with lethal yet latent firepower, almost like a nuclear deterrent that could be flaunted without being fired.

The North Koreans came with reprehensible determination and assembled, trained and passed out ruthless slayers of civilians, as the brigade’s subsequent operational records show. Mugabe dubbed the brigade Gukurahundi, out of sheer endearment and also out of excitement and cherishment of having the services of a private army. The new brigade’s command structure enjoyed open access to the Prime Minister who had overall authority over deployment issues, the modus operandi and the secrets thereof.

The brigade’s pass out ceremony was followed up by a hasty deployment in Matabeleland and parts of Midlands Province to deal with the dissident menace. There are no known words that can be used to effectively qualify the mayhem that ensued. The ruthlessness of the Fifth Brigade during the operations has been mentioned in many forums. Literally, the brigade’s brigands came, they shot whoever the saw and they conquered civilians.

There are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the conduct of the soldiers during the operations. Why did this happen, who did it and what has so far been done to right the wrongs? For years the issue was a taboo, indeed a no-go area. This left those who witnessed the horror and the terror screaming about their ordeal from dark hiding places. The authors of the atrocities were sworn to a code of silence and the foot soldiers seem to have gone awol.

Those who commanded the brigade are missing in action and those who gave executive orders for the execution of civilians are denying involvement. Mugabe is the only person who has conveniently evaluated the whole travesty as “a moment of madness”.

There is no telling whether it was the soldiers who were under a spell of madness or whether those who deployed them had endured moments of madness. What is known is that after failing to entice the people of Matabeleland into supporting Zanu PF through their own volition, Mugabe resorted to the Fifth Brigade for callous barbarism. He was fully appraised on the brutality by his commanders, including the over-rated Perrance Shiri and defence and security ministers Emmerson Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi. Others who reliably informed Mugabe included Enos Nkala, Mark Dube and Hebert Ushewekunze. Mugabe cannot deny that he was fully complicit and that he revelled at the results.

The Gukurahundi issue is currently gaining momentum within Zanu PF’s corridors of power only because of in-fighting.

Those who previously denied the Gukurahundi massacres are now pointing fingers at some of their colleagues accusing them for being the main authors of the dastardly massacres. When the party was at peace with itself the Gukurahundi issue was an anathema that no-one dared mention. The whole nation was even silenced through the legislation of punitive laws. Now the floodgates are open, with Zanu PF accusing Zanu PF for being the main culprits in the Gukurahundi drama and intrigue.

Zanu PF tirades against Zanu PF have shied away from implicating the executive in the debacle. None of the warring factions are bold enough to suggest that Mugabe was also to blame for the cold murder of thousands of civilians. It should be told that Mugabe was the main accomplice in the killings, due to his wicked ambition for a single-party state. He had to use brute force to gain a competitive edge over his rival the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo. He did what was devilishly possible to cripple Nkomo’s support base.

The fact that Zanu PF is experiencing intolerable in-fighting should not be the trigger for discourse on Gukurahundi. The issue should have been discussed openly soon after it came to light. It is disrespect of the victims for Zanu PF factions to use the issue in discrediting one another. Perhaps Mugabe should stand up and call for national reconciliation. He has nothing much to lose than what was lost during the Gukurahundi era. Since all ghosts have to be exorcised, the ghost of Gukurahundi is due for an exorcism.

●Masola waDabudabu writes in his personal capacity

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