Nkomo's letter from exile: Part 5

Dr Joshua M Nkomo
2 Stevenage Road
East Ham E6 2WL
London E 6 2WL
United Kingdom

June 7, 1983

DEAR Robert

97. Comrade Prime Minister, you know that about two weeks before election day in March 1980, then Governor of Southern Rhodesia, Lord Soames, called all leaders of political parties contesting in the election and told them that “because of the security situation in the eastern Districts of Zimbabwe there could be no free and fair election there”, which meant election would in fact not take place.

98. You will remember, I am sure, that about four or three days before polling day, Lord Soames unilaterally and without consultation, announced that elections will take place in all districts in the country, including the Eastern Districts.

I am sure you will agree with me that, with all the goodwill in the world, the good governor, could not have made the “Security Situation” in the Eastern Districts so stable in less than two weeks, to be able to conduct “free and fair elections”.

99. You know as well as I do, that the unstable and dangerous security situation in the Eastern Districts was caused by your party, Zanu PF which maintained armed former Zanla combatants throughout that area; who terrorised by beatings, tortures and even killing anyone who did not comply with Zanu PF directions.

It was made impossible for any party other than Zanu PF to operate in the Eastern Districts area.

100. We in Zapu tried to canvass support for elections in those districts, and ended up with two candidates killed, 18 party workers killed and several others severely beaten up, some of them permanently maimed, and while others disappeared to this day.

I approached you and told you what your party was doing with little or no effect at all on the situation there.

101. Now that the 1985 elections are approaching Zanu PF has begun using the same tactics as were used in the Eastern Districts before and during the 1980 elections.

This time the Fifth Brigade is being used as state machinery to terrorise and coerce the people in Matebeleland.

Some believe that you are doing all this not just for electoral advantage, but that your aim is genocide.

102. As an effective coercive stunt, the Fifth Brigade was deployed in the area ostensibly to root out dissidents but in fact to terrorise the masses by beatings, torture, killings, rapings, looting, burning of villages, and literally doing anything atrocious on such a large scale as to instil fear into the people, not only in the affected areas, but that the effects of the action would pervade the entire population of Zimbabwe.

103. This has been followed by maintenance in every area of sizeable groups of the Fifth Brigade and reinforced by armed Youth Brigades in areas like Gokwe and Zhombe to organise forced “Pungwes” (rallies held from dusk to dawn) at which the old and the young are forcibly given doses of Zanu PF indoctrination.

This group has continued to carry out selective beatings, torture, killings and kidnappings in their respective areas.

In areas like Nkayi, Lupane and Tsholotsho, only sizeable groups of the Fifth Brigade are maintained.

It is general practice during these “Pungwes” that young women, schoolgirls and residents’ wives are forced to have sexual intercourse with brigadiers.

104. District councillors, chiefs and headmen are ordered by these armed young men to give numbers of people under them, and then given corresponding number of Zanu PF membership cards and told to return with cash and lists of names on a given day.

These are the methods used for organising rallies for Zanu PF ministers and other officials.

105. I know and accept that the Fifth Brigade was deployed in these areas after the murder of about 200 people in about a year and the destruction of thousands of dollars worth of government equipment by dissidents.

But Prime Minister, I am sure you appreciate the absurdity of trying to protect people who have had 200 of their number killed in 12 months by dissidents while the Fifth Brigade in the process of that protection kills 3 000 to 5 000 people in six weeks.

106. I know that you have denied that any such things have taken place in Matebeleland, but the fact is that the evidence of this is irrefutable and based on the testimony of numerous first-hand witnesses, not least on that of many of the victims who survived. These victims include teachers, nurses, district councillors, etc.

Apart from victim witnesses, there are among others well-known international aid organisations who were friends of Zimbabwe during the war and after independence, came to work with our people on the ground level.

Added to these witnesses are different churches which work in the affected areas. I would refer especially to the testimony of no less than six Catholic Bishops who were moved to issue a joint signed pastoral statement at their Easter 1983 conference.

They did this, I would remind you, after I made my own disclosure at a Press Conference and in parliament late in February.

107. It has to be appreciated that, a Bishop of the Catholic Church, indeed any Christian Bishop, is a person who has devoted his life to the service of God. In order that his ministry shall be effective, he has an obvious interest in maintaining friendly and cordial relations with the government of the day.

It is certainly not in his interest, or that of his flock, to act in any way which will make such relations difficult or discordant. We may conclude therefore that when he is so moved he acts from a deep sense of personal conviction and from motives which can scarcely be said to spring from self-interest.

108. The following is an extract from their statement: “We entirely support the use of the army in a peace-keeping role. What we view with dismay are methods that have been adopted for doing so.

Methods which should be firm and just have degenerated into brutality and atrocity. We censure the frightful consequences of such methods.

Violent reaction against dissident activity has, to our certain knowledge, brought about the maiming and death of hundreds and hundreds of innocent people who are neither dissidents nor collaborators.

We are convinced by incontrovertible evidence that many wanton atrocities and brutalities have been and are still being perpetrated. We have already forwarded such evidence to the government”.

109. I would remind you of the basis on which this testimony is made.

It stems from the first-hand reports of numerous parish priests, priests who are articulate and responsible officers of their church and who are in close daily contact with the people of their parishes.

Again in the interest of their work they have everything to gain from maintaining good relations with the government of the day, and much to lose from a failure to do so.

110. Hence their testimony is surely to be judged to be disinterested, just as their motives for offering it can spring from nothing but a desire to serve their people.

In this light, is it possible for anyone in a position of authority and hence responsibility for these outrages, and possessed of the merest sense of human sensibility and compassion to feel other than a deep sense of shame and a desire to make amends for all this grievous suffering?

111. I was amazed and bewildered when Nathan Shamuyarira dismissed the Catholic Bishop’s statement as “irresponsible, contrived propaganda”.

But I thought because as minister of Information, he would swallow what the Bishops in their well-considered statement said about his government-controlled mass media which has, to quote the same pastoral statement: “singularly failed to keep the people of Zimbabwe properly informed of the facts which are common knowledge, both in areas concerned and outside them through the reports of reliable witnesses.

The facts point to a reign of terror caused by wanton killings, woundings, beatings, burnings and rapings.

Many homes have been burnt down.

People in rural areas are starving, not only because of the drought, but because in some cases supplies of food have been deliberately cut-off and in other cases access to food supplies has been restricted or stopped. The innocent have no recourse or redress, for fear of reprisals”.

112. I was shattered when you as Prime Minister said of the Bishops’ well thought and constructive pastoral letter: quote: “The seven Catholic Bishops’s pastoral statement sermonising my government on the morality of our military operations in Matebeleland as they affect human rights and our policy of reconciliation is the latest pronouncement on the subject.”

You further said the Bishops were playing to the international gallery and were “mere megaphone agents of your external masters” — “this band of Jeremiahs”.

“In these circumstances, your allegiance and loyalty to Zimbabwe becomes extremely questionable” considering that the church in general and the Catholic Bishops in particular on the question of human rights, were very outspoken during our war of independence, one wonders where we are being headed to.

113. Looking at your attitude towards this most serious occurrence in your country, it appears that for many of our people the result of a 15-year armed struggle has not been to achieve the liberties for which they fought, but an increase in the oppression against which they took up arms in the first place.

I agree completely with the bishops when they declare, “These brutal methods will have the opposite effect to what the government is intending to achieve”, and we would add that terror did not work under Smith and it will not work today under us.

114. As a direct result of government terrorism thousands of people have fled into neighbouring territory and many, many more have left their villages and gone into hiding. In keeping with the worst excesses of the Smith era there has been the burning of villages and other barbarities referred to in the report, as well as the widespread practice of extortion and attempts at compulsory indoctrination as stated in preceding paragraphs.

115. This is not government, it is the abuse of government, an abuse which transforms the rule of law into the law of rule. As such it cannot lead to a free, united, peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe.

But to one in which oppression, division, violence and poverty will shadow all our hopes, and make a mockery of the freedom struggle in which so many heroes gave their lives.

116. In the final section of their statement the bishops appeal to the government to use its authority to stop these excesses and call for the establishment of a judicial commission.

We fully support this call. But I feel that the problem facing us in Zimbabwe today requires an approach much more resolute, much more embracing than ever attempted by Zanu and Zapu before.

A judicial commission as proposed by the bishops should be a part of wider machinery composed of a wide spectrum of our society, who should examine our composite problems together with government, seek and find solutions which should be implemented jointly by the people and government.

If the people of Zimbabwe and their government fail to find a solution to this serious situation in which we find ourselves, our enemies will exploit the situation and destroy us.

117. Remember, Prime Minister, Zimbabwe and the people have to defend the country from these enemies. But today Zimbabwe is defenceless because the people live in fear, not of these enemies, but of their own government.

What has happened to the brave and determined, confident and fearless people of Zimbabwe and their soldiers of liberation, who showed the world that no power on earth could prevent us from achieving our freedom?

That was a time when even our enemies had to admire us for our courage and determination. Today our enemies laugh at us. What they see is a divided, confused and frightened people, led by a divided, confused and frightened government.

Government which has the love, respect and confidence of the people does not have to use the laws and weapons of colonial regimes to protect itself.

The people themselves will protect their government if they have full trust in it. Fear is a weapon of despair, used by those who fear the people. This is the time and opportunity to rebuild trust, find the solution to our problems and defend the country as a united people.

Yours sincerely

Joshua M. Nkomo

Comments (6)

Oh yaH seziphuma madoda. Alikaboni

phuzukhemisi - 3 January 2014

its not mugabe that suprises me. its the likes of msipa, dabengwa, khaya-moyo who have continued to prop up the regime. what buffles me more is why Joshua decided to join hands with the devil.

masimba - 3 January 2014

Umdhala wethu joined hands to achieve piece and unity which was at the core of his heart. When u love piece u can forgive even yo sworn enemy, just achieve that end.

chama - 4 January 2014

so zvkatanga kare zvinhu izvi...shiri inemaririro ayo hairegi..2002/2008"It is general practice during these “Pungwes” that young women, schoolgirls and residents' wives are forced to have sexual intercourse with brigadiers. 104. District councillors, chiefs and headmen are ordered by these armed young men to give numbers of people under them, and then given corresponding number of Zanu PF membership cards and told to return with cash and lists of names on a given day".zvakanyorwa 7 june 1983..umdhala wethu zvavakanyora izvi ndozviri kutaurwa ne "masellouts".

chokwadi - 4 January 2014

this paper called the daily news must be given a new name,the daily shit.Its bent on dividing the people of Zimbabwe,this will never happen

cobra - 5 January 2014

The writing is on the wall, we need a truth and reconciliation commission for us to close this excruciating and unforgettable horror. we have relatives that we still cant tell where they are buried or their remains are! it pains me and will till i die.

dokoza - 6 January 2014

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