Gukurahundi In Zimbabwe




    A Report on the 1980s Disturbance in Matabeleland and Midlands Zimbabwe


    Breaking the Silence
    Building True Peace

    A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands

    Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
    Legal Resources Foundation


    © CCJPZ
    31 Selous Avenue POBox CY284 Causeway Harare Zimbabwe
    LRF 5th Floor Bluebridge Eastgate Second Street P 0 Box 918 Harare Zimbabwe
    April 1999


    Acknowledgements Chronicle of Events: April 1980 – July 1990
    SUMMARY Why was the original book written Why has this summary been written How is the book structured Preface
    PART ONE: BACKGROUND Introduction
    What happened in Matabeleland after Independence Why should people know this history Data Sources
    Where did the information about the events come from How has the information been used Historical Overview
    What happened in the 1970s What role did South Africa play in the events Why did some people become dissidents How did the Government respond to the increasing banditry Who were the 5 Brigade What else was happening in Zimbabwe at this time Map of Zimbabwe showing curfew zones
    PART TWO: CASE STUDY I – NYAMANDLOVU INCLUDING TSHOLOTSHO Summary of 5 Brigade impact in Nyamandlovu, including Tsholotsho Summary of dissidents activities in Nyamandlovu/Tsholots ho Matobo and its sub-regions Map Aerial photograph of Bhalagwe Camp 1982
    CASE STUDY II – MATOBO (KEZI) Summary of events in Matobo
    PART THREE: IMPLICATIONS OF RESULTS Organised violence: its implications Consequences of organised violence Legal damages Human remains
    PART FOUR: RECOMMENDATIONS National acknowledgement Human rights violators Legal amendments Human remains Health Communal reparation: Reconciliation/Uxolelwano Trust Constitutional safe-guards The future

    The Commission was formed by the national Catholic Bishop’s Conference in March 1972 and was tasked with among other things, education in human rights, research into areas of institutionalized violations, the monitoring, recording and reporting on violations and action in the protection of the violated.
    The Commission works through Church structures in seven dioceses, a national and two regional offices. It is affiliated to the Pontifical Council Justitia et Pax and has active contact with commissions in other countries. The Commission publishes research findings, legal and political rights, information and reports on human rights violations.

    The Leg~ Resources Foundation of Zimbabwe (LRF) is a charitable Trust established in 1984. The LRF promotes human rights through its paralegal, educational and publication programmes. It operates through Legal Project Centres in Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare, Masvingo and Mutare, which in turn run Legal Advice Centres. The paralegal programme aims to provide indigent Zimbabweans with legal advice through a network of advice centres established in poor urban areas and the rural areas. The Legal Advice Centres are staffed by paralegals trained by the LRF. The educational programme aims to educate Zimbabweans regarding their legal and human rights. The publications programme facilitates an understanding of laws and the legal system among Zimbabweans, through the publication of legal pamphlets which simplify Zimbabwean law for lay people, and also the publication of law reports and legal text books.

    CCJPZ and LRF gratefully acknowledge the contribution made to this report by their research coordinator/ editor, their chief interviewer and the more than a thousand Zimbabweans who came forward to share their experiences.


    APR Zimbabwe gains Independence. ZANU PF wins 57 seats out of 100 and Cde Robert Mugabe assumes leadership of the nation. Before and after Independence there are sporadic outbursts of violence in the vicinity of Guerrilla Assemblv Points (APs) all over the country. JULY State of Emergency, in place since 1965, renewed: it is further renewed every six months until July 1990. OCT Prime Minister Mugabe enters into an agreement with North Korea for the training and arming of a brigade of the Zimbabwe defence forces. NOV There is a battle between ZIPRA and ZANLA Guerrillas, moved from rural Assembly Points to Entumbane near Bulawayo. 1981
    FEB There is a second, major outbreak of violence at Entumbane which spills over to Ntabazinduna and

    Connemara in the Midlands. More than 300 die. The Dumbutshena Report is commissioned by the government to investigate events surrounding the Entumbane uprising: to date its findings have been suppressed. AUG Inkomo Army Barracks are sabotaged by South African agents destroying $50 million in ammunition and

    equipment. AUG North Korean instructors arrive to begin training the “5 Brigade”, which will be used to “combat dissidents”. DEC South African agents sabotage ZANUPF headquarters, killing 7 and injuring 124. 1982
    FEB “Discovery” of arms caches in Matabeleland leads to arrest of ZIPRA high commanders and expulsion of ZAPU leaders from cabinet. Ex-ZIPRAs defect in large numbers and banditry increases. JUNE There is an abortive attack on Prime Minister Mugabe’s residence. A ZIPRA connection is established, leading to curfews, detentions and weapon searches in Bulawayo. JULY Six foreign tourists are kidnapped and killed, although their deaths are only confirmed years later. Curfews are imposed in Matabeleland, troop numbers and detentions are stepped up. JULY Thornhill Air Base in Gweru is sabotaged by South African Agents, and 13 military planes are destroyed. JULY Government reinstates the lndemnity and Compensation Bill first used in 1975, granting immunity from prosecution to government agencies. NOV CCJPZ sends a confidential report to the Prime Minister expressing concern at army excesses. DEC The 5 Brigade has its “passing out” parade and is ready for deployment. 1983 6 JAN The Government allows farmers to re-arm, to protect themselves against dissidents, after a spate of attacks killing 6 people on commercial farms. Between Nov 1982 and Dec 1983, 33 people will be murdered by dissidents on commercial farms. 26 JAN The 5 Brigade is deployed in Matabeleland North. Reports of atrocities begin within days. FEB Atrocities continue and first documentation is presented to government. MAR Nkomo is placed under house arrest and flees to Botswana. A four-day cordon around Bulawayo leads to 1 000
    detentions. MAR Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) speak personally to Prime Minister Mugabe and present their paper “Reconciliation is Still Possible”. 5 APR The curfew is lifted in Matabeleland North. 22JULY Five Brigade is withdrawn from Matabeleland for a brief retraining session. 29 AUG Five Brigade is re-deployed in Matabeleland North. SEPT Chihambakwe Commission of Inquiry is set up to investigate atrocities in Matabeleland. 1984 JAN It is announced in Parliament that since January 1983, dissidents have murdered 120, mutilated 25, raped 4 7
    and committed 284 robberies. JAN The Chihambakwe Committee begins to collect evidence of army atrocities in Bulawayo. 4 FEB A food embargo is imposed on Matabeleland South and 5 Brigade is simultaneously deployed in the region.
    Mass detentions follow, with thousands of civilians being incarcerated at Bhalagwe Camp in Matobo District. 7 APR ZCBC expresses deep concern over conditions in Matabeleland South. 10 APR The curfew is relaxed and the food embargo is lifted. JULY It is announced in Parliament that since January 1984, dissidents have killed 45 civilians, raped 37 and committed 253 robberies. LATE The 5 Brigade is withdrawn and retrained and in 1985 it is redeployed in Matabeleland, 1984 pre- election violence begins, mainly at the hands of the ZANU-PF Youth Brigades. Areas notably affected include Gweru, Kwekwe, Beitbridge and Plumtree. 1985 ZANU-PF Youth rampages continue before and after the July elections, resulting in 2000 being left homeless and scores dead in Matabeleland, the Midlands and Harare. FEB The CIO orchestrates a spate of detentions of ZAPU officials countrywide. Many of those detained disappear permanently. MAR CCJPZ send a confidential report to the Prime Minister condemning the bullying of the opposition party members. JULY It is announced in Parliament that since January 1985, dissidents have killed 45, raped 40 and committed 215 robberies. JLY Zimbabwe has its second General Election and ZANU-PF wins convincingly although ZAPU retains all 15 seats in Matabeleland. There is a spate of post-election violence targetting ZAPU supporters. Top ZAPU men including five MPs are detained on grounds of treasonous activity. AUG Dissidents target Shona-speaking civilians in an attack in Mwenezi, killing 22. CCJPZ is among those who condemn the attack. NOV It is announced the Chihambakwe Commission’s report will not be made public.

    1986 MAR Two ZIPRA commanders in jail for four years are released.

    DEC A ZIPRA High Commander is released, to facilitate unity talks.

    1987 JAN It is announced in Parliament that during 1986 dissidents killed 11 6civilians, raped 57, abducted 20

    and committed 210 robberies.

    CCJPZ release a confidential report on Torture in Zimbabwe to the Prime Minister. FEB It is announced at a rally in Bulawayo that Unity is immi nent. APR Unity talks break down. JUNE All ZAPU rallies and meetings are banned. SEPT ZAPU is effectively banned: offices are raided and officials detained. OCT Unity talks resume. NOV Dissidents murder 16 on a mission farm in Matobo. DEC The Unitv Accord is signed by Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. 1988 APR An Amnesty is announced for all dissidents, and 122 surrender. JUNE The Amnesty is extended to include all members of the army who committed offences before the Unity Accord. 1990 JULY The State of Emergency is not renewed.


    Breaking the Silence
    This report is a short version of a much longer book, the original of which was published and released for sale in Zimbabwe in 1997. This first book was researched and written by the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ). 2000 copies of the original book have been published, and most have been sold.
    A copy was sent to his Excellency the President, and other Cabinet Ministers in Zimbabwe have also read the report. There has been no official comment about the report from the President or the Government.
    Why was the original book written?
    People who live in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands know only too well what happened to them during the 1980s. Their lives were affected in serious ways by both Government troops and also by dissidents and Youth Brigades at this time.
    However, most people from other parts of Zimbabwe still have no idea what it was like for those who were suffering. They have no idea how people still suffer as a result of the violence that took place. People who were affected also do not have ways of talking to people in other parts of the country about what happened. Ordinary people all over Zimbabwe, need to know what happened during those years in their own country.
    Why has this summary been written?
    The first book was very long, and had to include many details in order to make sure that the claims of the book were well supported. This made the book expensive to produce and expensive to buy.
    The writing of a short version was therefore seen as a good idea. It includes only the most important parts of the first book. It has been produced more cheaply so that it can be available in communities that want to know what the report says. Thi s shorter version has also been translated into Ndebele and Shona. In this way, people in affected regions can read how their history has been told, and people in unaffected regions can learn about it for the first time.
    How is the book structured?
    Part One of the report tells the history of the 1980s in Zimbabwe, written as a general story. Many types of information were used to put this history together, including human rights reports, histories by others, Government sources, and The Chronicle newspaper. This section tells what Government ministers and dissidents and army troops were saying and doing at the time, and shows how events happened in Zimbabwe during these years.
    Part Two includes two case studies, which are covered in more detail. These are Tsholotsho and Matobo, one district from each province of Matabeleland. These short histories tell what actually happened day by day and week by week, exactly as ordinary people who live in these districts told it to us.
    We know that the stories told here are only a handful of the stories still to be told, but it is a beginning. Because of limited finance, it was not possible to include every district in one book, or to speak to every person in Tsholotsho and Matobo. But it was hoped that by including two areas in some detail, other people reading the report could start to get an idea of what life was like for those affected by the violence.
    Part Three of the report looks at some of the problems people still face because of the disturbances. It tries to begin assessing what the real material and emotional cost has been to the region. It also looks at the problems of mass graves and shallow graves in some detail, and has some recommendations about these.
    Part Four of the report has some important recommendations about how damage to the region can be repaired, and how steps can be taken to ensure this never happens again. The recommendations are summarised at the end of this document.
    Zimbabwe is currently enjoying a period of stability which did no t exist twelve years ago. There are now no emergency powers in force, and people have more freedom of movement and speech than ever before. Before Independence, ninety years of colonial rule caused great injustices and suffering. In particular, the 1970s War of Liberation cost the lives of possibly 30 000 people. There were other costs to this war. Thousands lost property, livestock and suffered permanent injuries. Thousands more gave up their opportunity to get an education, or were forced to live for year s in protected villages. For all these people, the suffering continues in many ways. The events of the 1970s have been well documented. CCJPZ is among the many organizations that stood up for human rights during these years, and who have published books and videos making sure that there is a permanent record of these things. The Man in the Middle (1975) and The Civil


    Breaking the Silence
    War in Rhodesia (1976) are two such publications, among others. The LRF was not established until 1984. While much has been written about the liberation struggle, there has been little written about what happened in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. This report acknowledges the historical context within which events of the 1980s took place and does not seek to blame anyone. This report now seeks to break the silence surrounding what happened in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Over one thousand people came forward to tell their stories in recent years. The report seeks to give these people a chance to be heard. It is hoped that truth will lead to reconci liation. To help this happen, there are practical recommendations at the end of the report on how to help the people affected.
    What happened in Matabeleland after Independence? Zimbabwe was a seriously divided country at Inde pendence in 1980. Ten years of war had not only served to liberate Zimbabwe, but had created divisions within it. South Africa was also a hostile neighbour who wanted to weaken Zimbabwe. There were problems between ZIPRA and ZANLA, and outbreaks of violence in areas surrounding the guerrilla holding camps all over the country. At times this spilled over into serious violence, such as at Entumbane in 1981. By early 1982 there were groups of bandits in Matabeleland. Armed men were killing, robbing, and damagi ng property.
    The Government responded by launching a double attack in Matabeleland. The first attack was on the dissidents, and the army units used were 4 Brigade, 6 Brigade, the Paratroopers, the CIO and Police Support Unit. The second attack was on ZAPU and its unarmed civilian supporters, mainly in rural areas and at times in the cities. The units used for this second, undeclared conflict, were 5 Brigade, CIO, PISI and the ZANU-PF Youth Brigades.
    The Government’s attitude was that the two conflicts were one and the same, and that to support ZAPU meant to support dissidents. ZAPU denied it was supporting dissidents. Whatever the truth of this, it is clear that thousands of innocent civilians in Matabeleland were killed or beaten and had their houses burnt during these years, mostly at the hands of Government forces.
    Why should people know this history? Unity – national acknowledgement The violence of those years was ended by the signing of the Unity Accord on 22 December 1987. Prime Minister Mugabe and Cde Joshua Nkomo shook hands and agreed they and their parties should work together from this day. However, many people say that true national unity was not achieved and that only a few leaders have benefited and not the ordinary people who suffered through these years. People have said that true unity cannot take place until the Government is prepared to admit what happened and to discuss it openly. From truth will come reconciliation.
    Unity is a good thing to aim for, to try and truly bring together peopl e from different regions of the country. This is for the sake of all our children who may otherwise face violence in the future. Such unity only seems likely if all Zimbabweans face up to what happened in the 1980s, and take steps to prevent Government soldiers from ever torturing civilians again in Zimbabwe.
    But people all over Zimbabwe need first to know what happened, in order to understand the need to change some things so that they can never happen again. This is why the history needs to be known.
    Painful wounds – healing through talking and being heard This story is not just about the past, but about how the past affects the present. There are many problems that remain in communities as a result of what happened, in particular from the murders and beatings by soldiers.
    Many people can tell stories of how they have failed to get death certificates for those who died, or how such certificates have a false cause of death, which upsets them.
    Others tell of mass graves or shallow graves in their areas an d how this disturbs their communities. Some tell how members of their families were taken at night and have never been seen again.
    Many other individuals have to live with physical injuries, which means they cannot work well in the fields, or travel easily on buses, for example. And still others lost homesteads or possessions and have been poor ever since.
    There is still much pain in the communities as a result of what happened. This affects not only the bodies, but the hearts and minds of those who suffered. Some people are bitter and suspicious of the Government to this day. This means people often do not feel that their ability to contribute in Zimbabwe is recognised, or do not see any point in taking part in development projects


    Breaking the Silence
    Telling stories, and being listened to, can allow the healing of these painful memories to begin. While there were some people speaking out at the time atrocities were occurring, these claims were not being “heard”, either in the country or outside the country. Only a few churches and human rights workers and a few journalists from overseas, really listened to these stories. Until the report was released in 1997, the story of the 1980s remained almost entirely unspoken and unheard.
    This book will speed up the process of “Breaking the Silence” and, it is hoped, of “Building True Peace”. It is hoped that more people will feel safe to tell their stories once they see others have done so. This means that more people will hear about the events and see the need to do something to speed development in affected regions.
    Restoring communities through development While the telling of stories is an important step, there is also need for some kind of economic compensation. It is difficult to obtain compensation for individuals now. Proof of injury or loss is hard to prove after so many years. Other laws prevent cases from being brought forward now.
    But there is need to repair communities through development. This may mean more schools, better roads, dams, jobs and other types of economic progress for affected regions. By showing that events of the past are still damaging in the present, it is hoped that both internal and external founders, including the Government, will speed development in Matabeleland.
    Where did the information about the events come from?
    Written records from the 1980s We know what happened during these years because some people recorded what happened at the time. These people were mainly missionaries but also journalists and lawyers. During the l980s human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in USA also produced documents about what happened. A few historians have also included details of events in their books.
    The CCJPZ has kept many letters and reports, including reports they sent to the Government at the time, asking them to stop the killings and beatings. They also kept the statements from victims they collected for the Government Commission of Inquiry into events, which took place in 1984.
    The daily newspapers also provide a record of what was happening, in particular of what the Government claimed the dissidents were doing, and what certain Government ministers had to say about events. The Bulawayo Chronicle was used a great deal to confirm opinions and dates of events. Monthly magazines such as Horizon and Moto also had information.
    Medical records Some missions still have medical records of civilians who were beaten or shot and then treated at their hospitals. Other people we spoke to still have their clinic or hospital cards and x -rays showing their injuries.
    Evidence from graves and mine shafts Skeletons have been taken out of mine shafts at Antelope Mine in Matobo, and at Old Hat Mine in Silobela in the Midlands, together some with coins showi ng they were killed after Independence. In 1983, bodies were also taken from a mass grave at Cyrene Mission in Matobo. These bodies at Cyrene showed clear evidence of gunshot wounds.
    Evidence collected from people in the 1990s In order to try and get a more complete idea of what it was like to be a civilian in a rural area in the 1980s, the Bulawayo Legal Project Centre (BLPC) sent interviewers into two chosen districts to collect more information. It was only possible to reach a few hundred people in this way, and it was only possible to go to these two areas. We know there are thousands of others who suffered and who did not speak to us. We also know those districts such as Lupane; Nkayi, Silobela, Gokwe, Bulilimamangwe, Gwanda, Beitbridge and others also suffered violence in the 1980s. It would have been too expensive and have taken too long to try to speak to everyone. But by choosing one district in each province, we hoped to give everyone some idea of how things were in these years.
    This history is far from complete. But what we have written in the original report we know to be accurate, because we used only those pieces of evidence that we felt were reliable. In the end, more than a thousand people told something of their stories. Others can now add t o this history.
    How has the information been used?
    Computer records All the names of people who suffered during these years were entered into a computer. Information from the human rights groups like CCIPZ and BLPC was entered into one part of the computer. Information from The Chronicle newspaper was entered into another part of the computer.
    The computer sorted names alphabetically which meant that it was easy to see if the same person had been entered twice. It was also possible to see if the newspaper was reporting the same things


    Breaking the Silence
    as the other sources. In this way it was possible to count up all the people who had suffered different kinds of injuries whether this was death, torture or property loss and also to note the year, and districts where people were from. Who committed the offences, such as 5 Brigade or dissidents, was also recorded. From this information it was possible to draw graphs showing the general way in which things happened over the years from 1982 to 1987. This is one way the informat ion was looked at.
    Village by village summaries In the two case studies of Tsholotsho and Matobo, all the information about these districts was looked at again. This time it was organised in terms of which village (or line) had been involved in the violence. This meant looking at a large number of reports about a small group of villages, and proceeding in this way through the whole district. In this way it was possible to write a detailed history on a small scale, to help others understand how it was durin g those years.
    1. What happened in the 1970s?
    From the 1960s onwards, the people of Zimbabwe were involved in a civil war to get rid of the colonial Government of Ian Smith. This civil war became more and more violent during the 1970s. There was the Rhodesian army on one side, and the two armies of ZANLA and ZIPRA on the other side. ZANLA was the armed wing of ZANU, the Zimbabwe African National Union, and ZIPRA was the armed wing of ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union. Ordinary people living in rural areas of Zimbabwe were the worst off during this war. They were caught in the middle of the conflict and suffered in many ways. They were punished by the Rhodesians if they helped the freedom fighters, and punished by the freedom fighters if they would not help them. Many of those who went to training camps or refugee camps in Mozambique and Zambia were bombed by the Rhodesians. Some things that happened in the 1970s made what happened after Independence much more likely. In particular, certain laws were passed by the Rhodesian Front, which made it impossible for Government officials to be punished for what they did, even if they murdered innocent people. The Rhodesian Front and the Governments before them, passed many laws which severely limited most people’s rights to live where they chose, go to school, work, or express any freedom of thought or movement. People in Rhodesia became used to a situation where the Government showed no respect for their civil rights.

    In addition, ZIPRA and ZANLA competed with each other for territory and support, and frequently fought and killed each other before Independence. This meant that they were suspicious of each other after Independence.

    Laws from the 1970s In 1965, the Smith Government declared a state of emergency in order to allow the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) to take place. Other laws were enacted, such as the Emergency Powers (Maintenance of Law and Order) Regulations, which allowed for detention without trial, the banning of public meetings and curtailment of political activity.
    After Independence, these emergency powers remained in force right up until July 1990. The Zimbabwean Government used them in the same way the Rhodesian Government did, to silence political opponents. So the bad laws put in place by the Rhodesian Front made it easy for Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, to deny ordinary people their basic rights whenever they so chose.
    Before the first election in Zimbabwe there was also a general amnesty granted under the peace agreement drawn up by Lord Soames, the British High Commissioner at this time. This amnesty meant that all those who had committed human rights violations could not face prosecution, whether they were Rhodesians or ex-freedom fighters. This meant people who had done terrible things during the 1970s were not punished.
    Some of these Rhodesians who had tortured remained on in the Zimbabwean CIO and other units. A few used their position to act as South African agents to destabilise Zimbab we. Others were recruited from ZANLA into 5 Brigade.
    In 1988, after the Unity Accord had brought an end to violence, a second amnesty was announced in Zimbabwe. This time those who were being saved from prosecution for crimes committed against civilians were 5 Brigade, CIO, other army units and dissidents.

    The very men who tortured people in the 1970s used the same methods to torture people again in the 1980s. Both times they got away with it and were never punished. Some of these men still hold senior positions in the Zimbabwean Government and armed forces.

    Conflict between ZANLA and ZIPRA Until 1963, there was one main liberation movement, known as ZAPU. At this time, the party split for many reasons, some political and some personal. A new party was f ormed, called ZANU. Neither party was tribalist by nature. Both had people from all tribal groups within their membership. However, over time, the two parties became quite different in certain ways. ZAPU’s army was trained in Russia, ZANU’s in China. They used different battle techniques and began to recruit from different