We have degrees in violence
Mugabe is famous for many sayings - including the above where he was openly
acknowledging that Zanu PF not only used violence as a weapon but actually
boasted that they were violent people. He also once said he admired Hitler
for his ruthless establishment of a dictatorship in Europe that nearly
dominated half the world.
There was a time when violence was perhaps the only way to achieve change -
when all other avenues has been exhausted and no alternative route seemed to
present itself. The people who make up the Zimbabwe nation are not by nature
violent people, the majority are Christians and would not espouse violence
in any form under normal circumstances. In the early 70's there was probably
no real alternative - partly because nationalist leaders had themselves
decided that they wanted more rapid change than the then settler regimes
were prepared to grant. Whatever the merits or demerits of the case, the
fire of war started in earnest in 1972 and went on until it was finally put
out in 1980.
Mugabe and many of his cohorts are a product of that period. Had Mugabe got
his way he would have gone on fighting until the then regime collapsed and
he was able to march into Harare at the head of a victorious army in the
same way that the Vietnamese took over Saigon when that war effort
collapsed. But he did not get his way because the Americans and South Africa
decided that they had to intervene and get regime change under way. The
local leaders conveniently forget that part of our history.
The transition in 1980 was nearly as miraculous as that which took place in
South Africa in 1994. To my knowledge only one shot was fired during the
whole process and that was by a soldier who ran amuck in Harare. It did not
take long however for the demons of the past to come back and haunt us.
There was a short lived rebellion among Zipra troops - suppressed mainly by
elements of the former Rhodesian Army now under Mugabe control, then came
the South African inspired and managed destabilization programme that saw
more white farmers killed in Matabeleland than had been killed in the war.
This was followed by the effort to destroy the only effective opposition in
the country in the form of Zapu under the leadership of the father of
nationalism in Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo.
A secret campaign, known as Gukurahundi - a 'storm' got under way and in a
period of three years some 40 000 people were murdered, perhaps 400 000 were
injured or displaced and their homes destroyed. The leadership of Zapu was
imprisoned - some for years, and others fled. In the end they capitulated
and were absorbed into Zanu PF.
What is not widely known about this period is that the actual violence was
accompanied by political control of all resources and food and the denial of
opportunities to the Ndebele population. Specific sanctions were implemented
targeting any person who spoke Ndebele or had Zapu connections.
After the subjugation of the Ndebele and the elimination of Zapu from the
political scene, peace returned to Zimbabwe and Zanu simply targeted the
various political formations that came into existence to try and influence
Zanu PF and secure changes in the way the country was being governed.
The campaign against these smaller parties was just as unrelenting as the
one that had been used against Zapu. Its leaders were targeted and
humiliated or driven into the wilderness. Poorly funded and resourced they
were easily brushed aside and posed no real threat to Zanu PF hegemony. That
is until the MDC came on the scene in 1999.
When the MDC proved to be more than a match for the Zanu PF machine, the
machine resorted to its roots and resumed the use of physical violence to
get its way. The targets were anyone who stood in the way or helped MDC in
its campaigns and activities. The business persons who funded our first
Congress were forced to flee the country, supporters and activists were
targeted and killed.
In the ensuing 7 years and three national campaigns later, it is difficult
to estimate the numbers killed and injured in acts of political violence.
The main target has been the MDC although other groups have been also on the
receiving end. What is unusual is the extent to which the regime in Harare
has been prepared to go to achieve its objectives.
Operations such as the one launched against the large scale commercial
farmers is one example - they destroyed the productive capacity of some 4000
farms, in the process reducing food production to less than 20 per cent of
our needs and in the process displacing the entire population of farm
workers and their families - nearly 1,5 million people.
In the Murambatsvina campaign in 2005, 300 000 homes were destroyed, 1,4
million people displaced and all in a period of three months. They have
systematically destroyed what is left of a once diversified and vibrant
economy, in the process driving out of the country millions of people who
otherwise would have voted MDC. The fact that in doing so they have
undermined the security and stability of the region was never of any
consequence, that they have destroyed thousands of families is also of
Then came this final effort to crush the MDC and its structures. It started
in March 2007 and continues today. In all at least 1500 people have been
murdered, several hundred thousand beaten and displaced. There has been
widespread use of torture and beatings. In the most recent episode some 8000
people have been injured in the past two weeks and ten times that many
displaced. The theme used in almost all cases is that 'we have come to teach
you how to vote'. I wondered why so many have broken hands and then
discovered that these thugs are saying to people - you used your hands to
vote wrongly - we will teach you how to vote or stop you voting.
Will it work for Zanu PF again, or is this their final fling before
oblivion? All we want to know is who will ensure that when we win this time
round - clearly and decisively, who will ensure that we are allowed to take
over and form the next government?
7th May 2008