Long Read: The first Zimbabwean Genocide, Gukurahundi One

Nine years ago, more than 1,400 people were murdered in Kenya. To date, no one has been prosecuted for these crimes – and, following the dismissal of the last Kenyan case at the International Criminal Court, it doesn’t look as though anyone ever will
Nine years ago, more than 1,400 people were murdered in Kenya. To date, no one has been prosecuted for these crimes – and, following the dismissal of the last Kenyan case at the International Criminal Court, it doesn’t look as though anyone ever will

Walking with the Comrades: Gukurahundi Strategy and independence that never was

If you train a dog to eat potatoes and then afterwards put a piece of meat in front of him, he’ll snap at it, it’s his nature. And if you give a man a little bit of authority he behaves just the same way, he snaps at it too. The things are precisely the same. In himself man is essentially a beast, only he butters it over like a slice of bread with a little decorum. The army is based on that; one man must always have power over the other” (Kuhne 2017)

By Roy Muroyi

The periodization approach taken in this article was deliberately adopted as a way to articulate to the reader the core issue the article is aimed at addressing. The Gukurahundi subject has always been part of the Zanu Pf strategy to consolidate power from pre to post independence Zimbabwe. As early as 1963 when Zanu split from Joshua Nkoms’s Zapu Enos Nkala (a man who had personal hatrade towards Joshua Nkomo declared “Now I am going to see to it that Joshua Nkomo is crushed” Meredith (2002). The political nature of violence in Zimbabwe can be traced from the days of nationalist politics. Towship politics was characterised with violence , intimidation in the colonial townships of Rhodesia between Zanu and Zapu supporters as far back as 1963 such that by the year 1979 when Zanu declared “Gore reGukurahundi” Gukurahundi had already been practised a number of times against anyone who differs with the views of Zanu Pf.

The supreme counsel of the War “Dare ReChimurenga faced with the great rebellion Nhari rebellion failed dismally to deal with the issue. After the Chairman of the war counsel Chairman Hebert Chitepo ( the only man who had the final say on the direction of the war) had given a directive to discipline the Cadres involved in the Nhari rebellion by demoting them from their ranks the army commander a man who was supposed to take orders from Chitepo shifted goal posts.

In one of my articles The battle for Zimbabwe: Ethnicity and the internal battles within Zimbabwe African National Union I strongly argue that relations between Chitepo and Tongogara had already been strained by ethnicity battles that were going on between the Manyika and the Karanga at this period. As a result of the conflicts Tongogara had felt that Chitepo’s punishment on the Nhari rebels was not detrimental enough, there by taking the law into his own hands. I further argue that the relations between Tongogara and Chitepo were further strained by the fact that Tongogara believed that Chitepo was primarily responsible for the loss of lives of many guerrillas as he was a civilian . Tongo believed only a soldier was capable of leading the struggle as he would understand the solder’s grievances more. Edgar Tekere in his book  A lifetime of Struggle mentions an incident that supports Tongogara’s view about civilians not being capable to deal with soldiers. Tekere says as they were driving on one night they got to a camp and the soldiers were smoking marijuana “mbanje” instead of reprimanding the soldiers Tongo encouraged the behaviour.

The idea of Comradeship was supposed to foster a bond within Zanla liberation fighters. The bond was further cemented by a strong doctrine of Chimurenga. The guerrillas were to be treated with respect by the masses as they were said to have sacrificed their lives for the masses. Whenever they got into a village they had to be treated a s a “special “ people. Being fingered as a sell-out was a huge offense and very often punishable by death. The determination to expose sell-outs became a virtual obsession Mazarire (2011). According to Fay Chung , the Zanu Pf high command believed in the old biblical doctrine of an eye for an eye which automatically meant discipline by elimination “Gukurahundi” Even without proof. Geoffrey Nyarota in his memoirs;  Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman, makes a mention of a school teacher in his home village who was brutally murdered at one “pungwe”  after being fingered as a sell-out without concrete proof. The famous doctrine of  Gandanga haridye derere mukoma / a guerrilla does not eat   junk food was preached to the masses and villagers had to part company with their most valued livestock when the guerrillas/vanamukoma arrived in their villages. Zanu pf believed in the ideology of confrontation which basically meant “the gun “ to solve political matters and the gun was used to clean up the rot, in 1979 Edson Zvobgo had to draft a list of “hit enemies “ list that had to be dealt with Mazarire (2011)

The Chimurenga monologue was also dominated by indiscipline amongst the ZANLA guerrillas who went against the very same doctrine of Mao –Tse Tung that they claimed to be following. The guerrillas would move around settlers’ farms stealing livestock from the settlers and giving them to villagers so they could cook for them and also for the villagers to eat. These were constantly termed “makabheji” so as to confuse the colonial police Nyarota (2006) The Zanla “pungwes” were characterised with mass human rights violations with  young women/chimbidos being rapped  and mujibhas constantly beaten up and even killed for flimsy reasons. Young boys would often lose their clothes to vana mukoma especially jeans as the guerrillas claimed they were fighting for them.  The abuse of women is further noted in Fay Chun’s Re- living the Second Chimurenga.  Young commanders that eventually carried out the Nhari relellion were also at logger heads with army commanders over the abuse of women. Dakarai Badza himself had lost his wife to Tongogara after he had been sent by the later on a dangerous mission on the front Mutanda (1985)

The ideology of Chimurenga and the strategy of Gukurahundi have always been two strong pillars used by Zanu pf since pre independence. The Gukurahundi entails the idea of physical elimination of enemies and political opponents Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2012). Politically Gukurahundi was meant to crust the white settlers regime , the internal settlement puppets”, capitalism and all other Zanu pf obstacles

If one goes back, into history of the liberation war, there is also little unity of a hegemonic sort, power struggles characterised life in the trenches. The ideology of Chimurenga was used by commanders and the leaders to stamp their authority and gain a hold over power. The list of tensions is long one, the split eventuating in ZANU emerging out of ZAPU, the March 11 Movement ,the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (David Moore 2008)

The Zimbabwean liberation story has not been told as it is rulers of post-independence Zimbabwe. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2011) has therefore, argued that ‘patriotic history’ forms Zimbabwe’s current master-narrative. The Gukurahindi issue did not start after independence targeted at Zapu- Ndebele supporters but rather it is an issue with its roots deeply sinking from the days of the liberation war.To some extent the nationalist war was a breeding ground of intolerance, violence and commandism and Mugabe is a product of this very same struggle Ndlovu –Gatsheni (2012).

Roy Muroyi is a pro-democracy promoter who also believes in youth emancipation and participation in all facets of governance. He is also the Secretary General of a youth movement called Youth Democratic Front –Zimbabwe. He writes in his own capacity