GUKURAHUNDI IS NOT A BAD DREAM :DABENGWA | ZAPU president Dumiso Dabengwa who also served as the chief of Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) intelligence – has poured his heart out on the highly emotive issue – reminding the authorities that the atrocities will not be forgotten.
Dabengwa, now 78, said the Gukurahundi atrocities should be remembered as the country’s darkest period in post-independence.
The veteran politician, who alongside radical pressure group Ibhesthu Likazulu, was last weekend barred by riot police from visiting Bhalagwe, one of the Gukurahundi flash points in Kezi, Matabeleland South Province, said any efforts by the Zanu PF government to obliterate that chapter in history will be starkly resisted.
“We are witnesses to mass killings on a scale that future generations (will find difficult) to comprehend, yet even we ourselves at times wish it was just a bad dream.
“In Bhalagwe, we remember what should not have happened to the people of Matabeleland and Midlands and indeed what should not have happened to anyone in newly-independent Zimbabwe.
“We recall and recount these gruesome facts of the Gukurahundi massacres so that those who died unnecessary and painful deaths may not be forgotten for the great price they did not have to pay but which they paid so soon after the children, siblings, parents and friends died in the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe,” the soft-spoken Dabengwa told the Southern News.
In the 1980s, an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians were killed by a North Korea-trained Zimbabwe army unit — the Fifth Brigade, which was deployed in the Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces — in an operation which government said was meant to fight insurrection in these regions.
President Robert Mugabe has since said the killings were ‘‘a moment of madness”.
Dabengwa described Bhalagwe, where thousands are believed to have been ruthlessly thrown into a disused mine, as a memorial site which deserves great respect and honour.
“In Matabeleland South, Bhalagwe became a notorious place of sadistic beatings and torture. We recall with sadness and outrage that this place experienced daily deaths as a result of these cruel acts of armed men. Many families can attest to the constant digging of graves by survivors. At the same time, some of the bodies of victims were taken away in truckloads and dumped in Antelope Mine shafts.
“When Zanu PF gained control of Zimbabwe in April 1980 following our independence from Britain, it did not take long to show its intent to destroy Zapu.
“In October 1980, . . . Mugabe, who was prime minister at the time, came to an agreement with the government of North Korea for the training of the Fifth Brigade,” recalled Dabengwa.
“The next step was the arrival in 1981 of 106 military instructors to train the Fifth Brigade which according to the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo was recruited from the Zezuru ethnic group, Zvimba.
“As it turned out, the purpose of the Fifth Brigade was to carry out ethnic cleansing dubbed Gukurahundi as well as crushing Zapu to pave way for a one-party state controlled by Zanu PF,” Dabengwa claimed.
He said as a result “false” allegations were made against Zipra cadres which saw him and many others being targeted, arrested and subsequently detained without trial.
“At the end of January 1983, Mugabe unleashed his Fifth Brigade on a genocide expedition in Matabeleland and Ndebele-speaking parts of the Midlands.
“Over 20 000 civilians were killed yet the excuse of the operation was that it was to fight so-called dissidents who were threatening the security of the State.”
Early this year, the Americans released damaging claims of who among Zimbabwe’s ruling class allegedly directed the Gukurahundi massacres.
According to declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that were released in January, very senior government and military officials — whose names the Daily News opted to withhold — allegedly plotted at the time to annihilate Zapu and the Ndebeles, as Zanu PF sought to create a one-party State.
The reports further claimed that a rattled Zanu PF leadership also feared at the time that the then in power apartheid South Africa government, working with unrepentant Rhodesians, would join forces with the late revered Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo, to destabilise the new Zimbabwe government.
The released CIA documents also revealed how the USA viewed Mugabe’s new government in the early 1980s as a key player in regional peace-building efforts, as well as, bizarrely, in Washington’s fight against the Soviet Union during the Cold War era.
The Americans also feared then that Mugabe would be assassinated, and overtly and covertly worked to keep the nonagenarian in power to protect their interests.