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by Staff reporter

Gukurahundi - When Robert Mugabe Refused To Apologise

The Gukurahundi was a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early 1983 to late 1987. It derives from a Shona language term which loosely translates to "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains".

During the Rhodesian Bush War two rival nationalist parties, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), had emerged to challenge Rhodesia's predominantly white government.  ZANU initially defined Gukurahundi as an ideological strategy aimed at carrying the war into major settlements and individual homesteads. Following Mugabe's ascension to power, his government remained threatened by ZAPU and manufactured "dissidents" – saying that they disgruntled former guerrillas and supporters of ZAPU.

ZANU recruited mainly from the majority Shona people, whereas the ZAPU had its greatest support among the minority Ndebele. In early 1983, the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade began a crackdown on Ndebele tribes in Matabeleland and Midlands, every area where ZAPU had its supporters; the Ndebele homelands. Over the following two years, thousands of Ndebele were detained by government forces and either marched to slaughter camps summarily executed, some buried alive, thrown in disused old mines. Women raped, pregnant girls bayoneted, foetus pulled out from their stomachs and left dying.

Although there are different estimates, the consensus of the International Association of Genocide Scholars is that more than 20,000 people were killed. Mugabe refused to apologise, even the current Mnangagwa government, because they were involved in this massacre, are running away from addressing the issue; instead, they formed a fit of no purpose committee and called it “Peace and Reconciliation Committee”. How can one talk about Peace and reconciliation before accepting that what happened was wrong and make a public apology first?

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