My blood turned to ice whenever I heard the very gentle reproaches recently spoken against Comrade President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe. The gentlest come from the African National Congress (ANC), as expected. Please, sir, perhaps you shouldn’t have arrested that journalist. Please, Dear Leader, maybe you shouldn’t have tortured those opposition members. Please, Beloved Revolutionary Leader, it might have been a mistake to rig the last election quite so blatantly.
Don’t these creepy-crawlies know whom they are addressing? This is E D Mnangagwa, one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th Century, soaked in the blood of tens of thousands of black Zimbabweans – black men, black women, black children and black babies unborn. This is the Butcher of Matabeleland, and his forgotten victims are sickening proof that in the eyes of the world Black Lives Don’t Matter.
Of course, Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa are politically identical, with the same wicked past, having committed the same atrocities. Mugabe was just a more polished speaker, and bears slightly more blame for the ruination of Zimbabwe since he was in charge most of the time. Otherwise Mugabe and Mnangagwa are one and the same. Mnangagwa overthrew Mugabe not because they had any political differences but because they were two identical politicians wanting the same office to do the same things.
The greatest of Mugabe’s great crimes happened early in his reign; his henchman was Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe is divided into two main tribes, the Shona, in the north, about 62% of the population, and the Ndebele, in the south, about 16%. During the war against the Rhodesian government, they formed two tribal liberation movements, Zapu (Ndebele) and Zanu (Shona). The ANC initially supported Zapu but changed sides when Zanu won. In 1980, in the first democratic election, the voting was tribal. Zanu, headed by Mugabe, won easily. Enmities remained. In 1983, Mugabe, with Mnangagwa as his Minister of State for National Security, embarked on Gukurahundi (‘the Rain that Washes Away the Chaff’), which killed over 20 000 black people – perhaps double that number. It is horrifying to hear so many people saying, ‘Robert Mugabe ruled very well until 2000’ (when he seized the white farms). But what about the 20 000 black people he killed in the 1980s? ‘Oh, them!’, and a dismissive wave, which means they were killed by other blacks and so they don’t matter.
The real reason
The excuse for Gukurahundi was to deal with some terrorist incidents in Matabeleland. The real reason was to smash Zapu, and this meant in practice smashing the Ndebele. North Korean military advisors trained the Zimbabwean Army’s Fifth Brigade to act rather like Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen, which killed Jews in areas conquered by the Nazis. Groups of soldiers walked into Ndebele villages and slaughtered anybody suspected of being a ‘dissident’ or being remotely connected with the dissidents, which usually meant just belonging to the wrong race. On the internet you can hear survivors giving accounts of rape, mutilation and murder. If you couldn’t speak Shona, you might be killed. If the soldiers spotted a pregnant woman, they might accuse her of carrying a dissident’s child and cut her womb open and rip out the unborn baby. The slaughter went on from 1983 to 1987. Years later, piles of bones were still being discovered in mass graves and abandoned mine shafts. The atrocities have been well documented and were quite well known at the time. The world watched but did nothing – the same world that had applied full-scale sanctions against the regime of Ian Smith, who never committed crimes even approaching Gukurahundi.
In 2003, South Africa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Dlamini-Zuma, announced that the ANC Government would never condemn the Zimbabwean Government. She either meant that the ANC saw nothing wrong with Gukurahundi or, worse, that she never considered it. By then Mugabe’s seizure of white farms had made him such an African hero that his slaughter of over 20 000 black people just didn’t matter.
In 2005 came Operation Murambatsvina (‘Drive Out the Rubbish’), where 700 000 black people in informal settlements were kicked out of their dwellings. In 2008, after Mugabe had lost the election by a landslide, there was Operation Makavhoterapapi (‘Where Did You Put Your X’), to identify and then beat, cripple or murder anybody suspected of having voted for the opposition. In charge of this operation was, once again, Emmerson Mnangagwa. The ANC supported it whole-heartedly and ensured that Mugabe was kept in power even if Zanu-PF had been rejected by the voters.
So, Mnangagwa must be wondering, what’s the fuss now over a few killings and tortures, a rigged election and a bit of censorship? That’s nothing to what I did in the past. Show me one woman who has had her womb ripped open in the last year. The criticism must be puzzling him. Expect the ANC to apologise soon for being so disrespectful.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR