In June 1983, from exile, Joshua Nkomo – struggle icon, ZAPU leader and later VP of Zimbabwe – wrote a 9,700-word letter to the then Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe.
Nkomo died on July 1, 1999. On his anniversary, we republish his historic letter in full.
DR. JOSHUA M. NKOMO
2 Stevenage Road
East Ham E6 2WL
London E6 2WL
7th June, 1983
INFORMATIVE LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER MUGABE
1. I write to you as a citizen of Zimbabwe and one of the leaders of our country, to you not just as one of the leaders of Zimbabwe, but above all, as Prime Minister of the Government of Zimbabwe as provided for by the Constitution, that you and me, as well as other leaders signed in December 1979.
2. I write because I feel that our country is in danger of complete disintegration, to the detriment of all its citizens now living and of generations to come.
3. Not least, I write to you because I am convinced that you believe I am the main contributory factor to this dangerous situation.
4. You have stated publicly on several occasions that I have plotted, and continue to plot, to overthrow you and your government, that I have conspired, and continue to conspire, with South Africa to do that, that I have organized and continue to organize dissident groups for the purpose of destabilizing the country and finally to overthrow you.
5. You now say I have run to Britain, ostensibly because I thought my life was or is in danger, but that I have done so for the purpose of recruiting mercenaries and/or assassins to wrest power from you.
6. I also know that you and your party believe that because ZAPU lost in the last election we feel wounded, and therefore plan to wrest power from you by means, fair or foul.
7. You say we did all I have stated above despite the fact that we agreed to take part in your Government when you as Prime Minister, invited us to.
8. This whole series of accusations against me and ZAPU, which are false and without any foundation whatsoever started on the 6th February, 1982 when caches of arms were discovered at Escort Farm, and later at Hampton Farm, both of which were owned by Nitram, a private company, I assisted former ZIPRA combatants to form for occupation and use by those of them who were not incorporated into the (ZNA) Zimbabwe National Army and the (ZRP) Zimbabwe Republic Police.
9. The discovery of arms on the 6th February was followed by a number of categoric and definitive statements, by yourself, to the effect that arms were discovered in Nkomo and ZAPU owned properties and that the cache of arms were part of a plot to overthrow you and your government; and that all those properties were being used for subversive purposes.
You said in Marondera on the 14th February, 1982: “ZAPU had bought more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises throughout the country. We have now established they were not genuine business enterprises, but places of hiding military weapons to start another war at an appropriate time”. You added, “Dr. Nkomo was trying to overthrow my government”. “ZAPU and its leader, Dr. Joshua Nkomo, were like a cobra in a house.
The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head”
10. You will remember that you met me and three of my colleagues at your official residence on the 5th February to discuss a number of issues, and at the end of that meeting I mentioned to you that I had received a telephone message from Bulawayo to the effect that two Nitram Farms, Ascot and Woody Glen Farm had been invaded by the police the previous night and you said, you had also got information and you would inform me later what it was all about.
11. That evening I traveled with two of your Ministers on a plane to Bulawayo, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi. Little did I know that you had sent these two men to Bulawayo to display to the press arms allegedly unearthed in one of those farms, namely Ascot Farm.
12. I would have expected that as Minister under you, you would, after finding arms in Nitram owned properties, to have summoned me to your office to find out from me as to whether I knew anything about the arms.
13. I would have expected further, that you would have instructed me to have joined Mnangagwa and Sekeramayi in an attempt to uncover information about those arms.
I am sure, you realize how important it was for me to have physically seen the location, the quantity and nature of the arms that was discovered, especially at a time when I was still Minister. While I do not dispute that arms were found on these farms, how else would I have been expected to believe the quantity, and nature of the arms unearthed and displayed to the press were authentic.
14. As it is now, I cannot be made to believe that the quantities, quality and nature of arms presented to the press were in fact all unearthed just in those two farms. It is quite clear for the discovery to make an impact on the people of Zimbabwe and the world in general, it was necessary for those who assisted you, to ferry arms from elsewhere so as to make this accusation of a plot to overthrow the government to appear real. To quote a statement made at a press briefing at Brady Barracks on the 8th February 1982: “Arms and ammunitions so far recovered in the joint police and army search operation in Matabeleland are sufficient to equip a force of 5,000 men”. Note, in ‘Matabeleland’ and not in Ascot and Hampton Farms. However, this is neither here nor there.
15. By Monday the 15th February 1982, the two properties owned by Nitram, the only properties on which arms were found, together with properties owned by ZAPU and those owned by companies whose members were ZAPU, including properties owned by me and my family, were confiscated under the notorious Unlawful Organisations Act, which was enacted by settler regimes to suppress liberation organizations.
16. I would like to emphasise that no other property, even those others owned by Nitram, which were all confiscated, had any arms found on them.
17. Having reminded you that arms were discovered in only two Nitram owned farms, Ascot Farm near Bulawayo and Hampton Farm near Gweru, let me further remind you that in the course of your marathon speeches round the country, telling the story of having found caches of arms meant to perpetrate a plot to overthrow you and your government, you said among other things, “If all arms cached by ZIPRA were found in or near Assembly Camps only, my government and I would not have minded”. “But that”, you continued, “a large quantity of arms was found in ZAPU owned properties, it is clear they were intended for use against my government”. You said this because you knew that ZANLA had cached a lot of arms in and near their former Assembly Camps, and there was the question of a trainload of arms that had disappeared between the [Mozambiquean] border and Mutare.
18. It appears to me you have conveniently forgotten that Ntumbane in Bulawayo, was in fact an Assembly Point for both ZIPRA and ZANLA, that after the first Ntumbane disturbances every type of weapon not allowed there, was found in that assembly point.
The same happened after the second disturbances there; heavy weapons were found in both ZIPRA and ZANLA camps in Ntumbane. Why then did you find it surprising to have found arms at Ascot farm which is hardly seven miles from Ntumbane assembly point? 19. The same applies to Hampton Farm which is not far from Connemara Barracks where there were disturbances at the same time as there were disturbances in Ntumbane the second time. As a matter of fact, Comrade Mnangagwa on 26th February, said, “Four caches of arms including 600 G3 rifles stolen during the mutiny in Connemara more than a year ago were discovered on a farm near Gweru”.
20. Over and above what I have stated regarding arms caches I quote a statement by (PF) ZAPU Central Committee held in Bulawayo on the 15 February, 1982, “The Central Committee is dismayed at the deliberate attempt to build a case on an issue whose background the Prime Minister very well knows emanates from a war situation. The Central Committee denies the allegation that ZAPU had any prior knowledge of the arms caches anywhere. The administration of the army and all military issues, including former combatants’ assembly camps, were placed under the responsibility of the Joint Military Command, thus removing ZAPU and ZANU of responsibility over military affairs. We wish to categorically deny the allegation of a plot to overthrow the government. On the contrary, PF ZAPU did everything, and still does for the consolidation and success of our independence” (Herald).
21. On Thursday, February 17, you announced at a press conference that I and three of my colleagues, J.M. Chinamano, J.W. Msika and J.G. Ntuta were dismissed from your government. You made your announcement at a press conference and we learnt of our dismissal from your government by press, television and radio. I was completely flabbergasted and astounded by your accusations, your actions and the manner in which they were made. What stunned and bemused me even more is that I was convinced that you knew in your heart of hearts that all accusations were false.
22. I was also convinced that you could not have been unaware of the repercussions of your statements and actions on former ZANLA and ZIPRA combatants in the National Army and in the police, and the feelings of divisiveness and hostility they would arose.
23. You must know that it was soon after your initial statements and actions that there was talk of polarization of ZANLA and ZIPRA former combatants within the National Army.
Mutual suspicion and mistrust was maximized, and clashes between the two groups became commonplace.
24. Meanwhile, former ZIPRA Commanders were summoned by the Army Command, at your instruction, for questioning and investigation. This was done, it is said, by the military police and/or the C.I.O. Later, ordinary former ZIPRA men, irrespective of rank were also taken for investigation.
25. Information has it that during these investigations there was a lot of beatings and torture of all types, that a number of these young people were killed and others maimed.
26. These actions were followed by desertions and defections from the National Army not only by former ZIPRA combatants, but also by former ZANLA.
27. It was then that we learnt from your public speeches, and those of your Ministers, that the number of armed robbers and bandits in the country was growing, especially in the Western Province of Matabeleland.
28. Later your public statements and those of your Ministers began to stress that these armed bandits were in fact politically inspired dissidents.
29. Information has it also, that some 300 or so ZIPRA combatants and a few ZANLA who were arrested after the troubles in a battalion camp near Karoi were detained secretly somewhere near Harare and are taken in small batches to be court marshaled and executed, with no right of appeal and without informing their next of kin. It is further known that the last of these executions that has come to light took place on February 14, 1983.
30. It was when in your Parliamentary Speech you openly and blatantly accused me personally and ZAPU as a party of organising, maintaining and directing such armed dissident activities that I met you, and after thorough discussion, that I thought you accepted our position that we were not in any manner connected with these elements.
31. I found it necessary to meet you because despite the fact that I had continuously and persistently denounced and condemned the activities of these dissidents and had demanded that you appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee, without success, to investigate who these dissidents are and who succours them, instead you found it necessary to accuse us in parliament the way you did.
32. During December, overtures on unity between ZAPU and ZANU were ma de to me by your emissaries in the persons of President Canaan Banana and Minister Enos Nkala. After two meetings with them I thought we had made progress and suggested to them that the next meeting should be with yourself.
33. A meeting between us was accordingly held at State House, Bulawayo early in January 1983. The meeting did not go as well as I had expected because it appeared to me that you were averse to what I discussed with President Banana and Enos Nkala. However, despite that, we agreed between ourselves to form a Committee of 6, comprising three ZANU and three ZAPU representatives.
34. Although nothing much was achieved at the meeting between us, I believed nonetheless that moves towards an understanding between ZAPU and ZANU were making progress.
35. Yet on Tuesday, the 25th of January , I received information from people who were fleeing from Mbembesi that mass beatings and killings were being perpetrated by young men in camouflage uniforms who were calling themselves the ‘Fifth Brigade’.
36. By the 26th January, the numbers had grown and the information given us was that more people were being brutally beaten and killed by these young men.
37. On the 27th of January, I decided to take 12 of the people, who had themselves experienced violence at the hands of members of the Fifth Brigade, to Harare so that they may themselves explain to government what in fact was taking place.
38. When I arrived in Harare, I presented the matter to Comrade Muzenda who, in the absence of the Prime Minister, was acting Prime Minister. After I informed him of the situation in Mbembesi, which by that time had spread to Bubi and Tsholotsho, the acting Prime Minister delegated his Minister of Home Affairs, Ushewokunze, who had expressed ignorance of these happenings, to go and meet the afflicted people in Highfields.
39. When Ushewokunze failed to turn up until Friday afternoon, I decided to call a press conference and informed the conference of the mass killings by the Fifth Brigade; by that time the numbers reported killed by the Fifth brigade had risen to 95.
40. The following week a government spokesman made much play of the fact that Josiah Gumede; who I had told the conference that I understood by reports from Mbembesi, was among those who were killed; but because he had survived his ordeal, the spokesman completely ignored the fact that many more other people were killed, a fact Gumede himself had made known to you and president Banana.
41. During the first week of February a censure motion was presented to parliament by the chief whip of ZANU-PF against ZAPU and its leadership because of exposure of the carnage by the Fifth Brigade. Almost every ZANU member who spoke abused and scorned ZAPU, and more particularly myself, for having exposed the killings, which now had spread to Nkayi and Lupane. It was quite evident that ZANU-PF had full knowledge of what was happening but was not prepared to intervene or call a halt to those most barbarous actions which the Fifth Brigade, in the name of security, perpetrated against fellow citizens of Zimbabwe in the so-called ‘curfew’ areas.
42. On Saturday February the 19th, I was prevented from traveling to Prague to attend an executive meeting of the World Peace Council (which your press called Soviet sponsored) and which was to take place on the 21st and 22nd of that month. My ticket and passport and those of my three colleagues who were traveling with me were seized by the police when we were arrested. When I was released seven hours later, my three colleagues remained in custody and were later issued with detention orders which remain in force to this day.
43. On the 19th February, I was taken to the Bulawayo Charge Office where the police demanded that I make two ‘Warned and Cautioned’ statements to the effect that they were investigating the possibility that I had committed certain crimes: under the Law and Order Maintenance Act, because they had found on me, two sets of notes containing: (a) a statement I made in Parliament in connection with the serious situation in Matabeleland Province created by killings and other atrocities, and (b) notes prepared for a meeting I was to have had held with you about the same situation but did not come off.
2. That they were investigating a possible contravention of the Currency Exchange Control Act because they found on me $300 Zimbabwe dollars; meant for my wife, but in the packing rush was forgotten in my brief case.
Later that day, I was called back to the Charge Office and told that they (the police) had received a telegram from the Harare police to the effect that I should make another ‘Warned and Cautioned’ statement in reply to a possible charge that the police in Harare were investigating a possible contravention of the Precious Minerals Act in that the police had found emeralds in my Highfields residence when they were searching for arms in that house on the 5th October 1982.
44. About three weeks earlier, I had been made to make a ‘Warned and cautioned’ statement by the Harare police to the effect t that they were investigating a possible breach of the Law and Order Maintenance Act when I addressed a press conference in Harare, in which I had revealed the killings of people in Mbembesi, Bubi and Tsholotsho.
45. I made those ‘Warned and Cautioned’ statements denying those possible charges. It was clear to me, as it could be, to any responsible person that these were trumped up possible charges designed by your government to harass and embarrass me.
46. Is it reasonable for anybody to believe that possession of a copy of a speech made in parliament and unpublished notes to be used in a meeting with the Prime minister could be a breach of the Law and Order Maintenance Act? Is it reasonable for anyone to believe that I would export from the country $300 Zimbabwe dollars. To what purpose? Is it reasonable to believe that the so-called possession of emeralds in early October, 1982 could still be for investigation by the police in mid-February, 1983? What investigation after four months of physical so-called ‘possession of emeralds’.
47. On Sunday the 27th February, 1983, I received a letter from the police informing me that before leaving my house for any place, I should report to the Police Station. I refused doing this because I had no charge preferred against me, and could not understand why the police should have been so interested in my movements.
48. About the 1st or the 2nd of March, 1983, security forces, including the Fifth Brigade, were deployed in Bulawayo western suburbs and on the 5th March, 1983: my house was raided by the Fifth Brigade. Three people were killed and property, including three cars, was vandalized by the raiders. It was after this act that I realized why the police were interested in my movements.
49. I then decided to leave the country for the time being as it was clear to me that my life was threatened.
50. During the weeks that followed the deployment of the Fifth Brigade in the Western Province of Matabeleland, right up to the day I departed from Zimbabwe, hundreds of brutally assaulted people from the so-called ‘curfew’ areas of Mbembesi, Nyathi, Nkayi, Lupane and Tsholotsho had come to my home and related horrible accounts of brutal beatings, mass rapings, mass killings, maiming of hundreds of innocent unarmed, unresisting men, women and children as well as looting and burning of villages and houses.
51. Before leaving my house and finally Bulawayo on the 8th March, 1983, reports had come to me of untold brutalities and inhuman and degrading treatment of people within Bulawayo itself and of people being marched in their hundreds to the adjacent bush areas on the outskirts of Bulawayo, to be shot and their bodies left rotting and some taken away to unknown destinations and never to return.
52. Now that I have attempted to give an account of some of your publicly expressed opinions and beliefs about me and ZAPU, and have also tried to summarise the more important events that took place as well as actions or non-actions during the course of the three years since our independence, and have some bearing on your attempt to impose a one- ZANU Party State on the people of Zimbabwe, I give hereunder my reactions.
53. In retrospect, I now believe that I and ZAPU were deceived and cheated by you and your party when you talked of unity, reconciliation, peace and security. I now honestly and sincerely believe that when you invited us to take part in your government you believed that we would reject your offer and set ourselves up in strong opposition to you and thereby label us disgruntled rejected plotters.
54. I can now see that your insistence on establishing assembly camps in Bulawayo and Harare, and of your Ministers Nkala and others coming to Bulawayo to make inflammatory statements which sparked off the first Ntumbane incident, was all part of a plan and strategy to destabilize the country, especially the Western Province of Matabeleland, so that you could use incidents there as an excuse for using military action to crush me and my party.
55. It is now obvious to me that when you demoted me from the Ministry of Home Affairs which you knew was negotiated for a purpose at the time you invited us to take part in your government; that while you knew that we felt it was necessary for us to take part in one of the security ministries (Defence or Home Affairs) so that the former ZIPRA men drafted into the ZNA and ZRP may feel confident, thereby solidify both the army and the police, you deliberately took that action. It is clear you wanted us to pull out of your government at that time so as to destabilize the army and the police, create dissidents out of the deserting ZIPRA men and then call us plotters against your government.
56. It is clear you thought you had struck a political bonanza by the arms caches fiasco and you handled it the way you did, to achieve the following:
* To make the country believe that I and ZAPU wanted to overthrow your government.
* That the world at large should view us as a group of people who had lost the elections and now wanted to wrest power from you and your government.
* To polarize the population into bad guys and good guys and so destabilize the country.
* To polarize the former ZIPRA and ZANLA combatants both inside and outside the army and police, so as to create a former ZIPRA grouping to be labelled dissidents.
* To create within ZAPU a group that would believe there was a group within the party, that in fact, was plotting to overthrow the government.
As a pretext, to use discredited and archaic settler imperialist legislation, the Unlawful Organisations Act, to confiscate ZAPU supporters’ property.
57. When you announced the confiscation of ZAPU and Nitram properties, property belonging to Companies of individual ZAPU members and to me and my family, you said it was because all these properties were acquired for hiding arms. Now that it is known no arms were found on any property other than the two farms belonging to Nitram, Ascot and Hampton Farms, how do you justify the blatant and arbitrary forced acquisition of all these properties? 58. Even the confiscation of the two farms on which arms were discovered is questionable.
Nitram as a Co-operative company, whose membership was more than 4,000 former ZIPRA combatants, who had contributed towards the purchase of these farms, and therefore, could not be held responsible for action or actions of a few people, who have not been identified even at the High Court trial that ended in the acquittal of six of the seven people accused of treason and caching arms.
59. With regards properties owned by ZAPU formed companies as well as those formed by us individuals, I can only say your action against them was even much more obscure. I do hope Mr. Prime Minister, you realize the harm inflicted by your ill-considered action on these properties including those owned by Nitram. Thousands of people were thrown out of resident-employment; this includes former combatants as well as former employees of those farms, who had become members of co-operatives established there. The Herald of 17th February, 1982 says, about projects at Mguza, “The co-operative venture and Secretarial training centers for women ex-combatants have been hailed by several people, including the Minister of Finance, Enos Nkala, as a model of its kind”.
60. All this is gone; with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of movable property of all types including over-head irrigation equipment worth $700,000 [Zimbabwe dollars] is ruined and some of it missing. Other movable property which was looted from Mguza Complex is what Dr. Sekeramayi referred to as, “The other equipment, such as a very modern operating theatre lamp with its own generator, and a sophisticated dental unit, in excellent condition and not used at all was found”. This equipment meant for the College and co-operative farm inmates and people who attended a co-operative clinic there.
61. Among the most important properties of ZAPU that were taken away by the army and the C.I.O. from the Nitram farms, i.e. Nest Egg, were ZAPU Archives which were stored there for safe-keeping. They contained all ZAPU records covering the whole period of our struggle outside and inside the country, including the list of all ZAPU and ZIPRA war casualties. As a result of this, no names of ZIPRA dead were available for inclusion at the Heroes’ Acre Roll of Honor list on the 10th and 11th August, 1982.
This, you will agree, is a very serious matter.
62. What disturbs me most, is that when you banned the companies that ran various properties and projects you said, “ZAPU had bought more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises throughout the country. We had now established they were not genuine business enterprises, but places to hide military weapons to start another war at an appropriate time”, (Sunday mail, 7th February, 1982). This was a deliberate distortion.
63. At the time you made the above statement ZAPU had only 2 farms, one near Harare and the other near Gweru; and had only 5 business enterprises, 2 in Harare, 2 in Gweru and 1 in Masvingo. If by ZAPU you meant farms and businesses run by companies such as Nitram and those owned by individual members of ZAPU: the position is as follows: Nitram had only 4 farms and 4 business enterprises. Companies owned by individual members of ZAPU had 3 farms near Harare, 2 near Bulawayo and two business enterprises in Bulawayo and 1 in Mbalabala. All these ventures Mr. Prime Minister, cannot be said to be, “throughout the country”, nor, “more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises” as you said in your statement.
64. You deliberately gave the impression to the country that, projects on those properties were run clandestinely; and yet you knew, I had, without success, several times invited you, to visit Nijo Products, 1.2 million dollar ZAPU Composite Agricultural Project, just outside Harare. I said your visit to that particular project was important and necessary because I felt it could be used as a model for resettlement purposes.
65. You were aware further that the Mguza Secretarial Training College was officially opened by Minister Shaba and that that College and the Mguza Co-operative Farming Project were visited by President Banana and Enos Nkala a few weeks before your banning order was issued. I am certain, you must have been aware that the Lido Motel in Queens Park, Bulawayo was being used as a hostel for over 300 former ZIPRA war disabled, as government had failed to house them anywhere.
66. You will remember when I met you in your office in August, 1982, you made known to me that the involvement of my family property Walmer Ranch, where we built our Makwe home, would be revealed in evidence during the Masuku, Dabengwa trial at the High Court. The trial has come and gone, Masuku and Dabengwa acquitted. However, I was told by a defence lawyer of a bizarre story about some military training supposed to have been conducted at Makwe Farm which was presented by the prosecution and was later unconditionally withdrawn by them without argument. You will know that our home at Makwe has been surrounded by the army and police ever since you made your announcement of the 16th February, 1982. All meaningful activity came to a complete halt and incalculable damage was done to all we were trying to do there.
67. I am certain you should recall what I told you when we met in your office in August, that what I had at Makwe outside the working of the farm was a big gathering where I met members of the Gwanda Community Co-operative, to discuss a grand settlement scheme in which the Makwe Irrigation Scheme and our Makwe farm would be the core of the project.
White farmers had been approached to either donate or sell at very reduced prices their farms within the area, and the response was promising. This scheme had been forwarded to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement by the Gwanda Co-op through the local district council machinery. It was hoped that the Scheme would be presented to Government through appropriate channels for funding through ZIMCORD.
68. You must have known through your respective Government departments, local authorities and your various devices of information collection, that Kennellworth-Carisbrook Farm near Harare, Lingfield near Gweru and Mbalabala Village near Esigodini were all being processed to be handled in the same way as above, and as the Mguza complex had shown, be it in a small way, that it was feasible to implement such schemes, it was believed that the Makwe Project would succeed.
69. All these schemes were in the spirit of what I had discussed with you in December, 1981. I had made it plain to you Prime Minister, when I met you in your official residence; that your Resettlement policy was a national disaster, and you agreed with me. These schemes were meant to present practical approach models, to both rural and peri-urban resettlement, that would embrace everybody and not just a few who are said to ‘qualify’.
70. But, with full knowledge of all this, you chose to tell a crowd of more than 18,000 people at the Rudaka Stadium in Marondera on the 13th February, 1982, that, “We desire a new richer life for all … and we wish to see changes in people’s way of living standards and economic status. But in the midst of all our endeavours our colleagues in Government, were stockpiling and building enough weapons of war to arm 20,000 men”.
71. What baffles me even more, is that, you said all the above when you knew that less than 2 months prior to your Marondera meeting, I had offered myself to take over your Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in an effort to assist you and through you, the country to make a success of its most vital development programme. You turned down my offer, saying I was too old to handle that Ministry, however, you said you would invite me to be one of the members of a resettlement Ministerial Committee you were about to institute. To you all this meant plotting.
72. You also had knowledge that on December 29, 1982; while I was on holiday, I was requested by Brigadier Chinenge to assist him to demobilize more than 5,000 former ZIPRA combatants at Gwaai River Mine Assembly Point and willingly drove over 150 miles to help. How could I have done all these things if I was bent on overthrowing you? Who do you think I would have called on to use all those arms after assisting to integrate some ZIPRA combatants in the ZNA and ZRP and assisted in dispersing others to their respective homes.
73. It is now very clear to me that you were very unhappy with the extent of my cooperation and that of ZAPU because you did not want peace and tranquility. You did not want stability, progress and development, because such conditions would not give you the turmoil and instability you required for your political-military action to liquidate those you chose to, and thereby impose your one-ZANU Party State.
74. It is obvious to me why you decided to form the Fifth Brigade outside the structure and command of the National Army, so that you may use it as a party and Tribal Brigade for eliminating and liquidating, as you have many times said, those you chose to destroy. As a matter of fact, when I questioned the formation of the Fifth Brigade outside the Zimbabwe National Army without consultation, you angrily replied and said, “Who are you to be consulted? This Brigade”, you said, “has been formed to crush those who try to subvert my government, and if you attempt that, they will crush you too”.
75. You took action against what you called ZAPU sponsored dissidents. But because you wanted to maintain this show of subversion, you have not, for almost one year and 4 months, arrested and put on trial a single dissident. Yet you have continuously, for all this period, persistently accused the ZAPU structure and those who support that structure for organising, maintaining, feeding and directing the dissidents so as to justify an armed attack on the masses.
76. It is known through information given by the masses in the affected curfew areas, that in fact the people who go about killing, maiming, raping and burning government property are in fact organized provocateurs planted by ZANU-PF in the form of undercover pseudo- dissidents. … It is further known that government property destroyed by dissidents was property used by district councils who were made up of 100 ZAPU members, who were known to have worked hard to use this equipment for developing their areas vigorously and with great enthusiasm.
77. It is known that about 90% of the victims killed by dissidents were either top ZAPU officials, ZAPU businessmen and teachers, ZAPU local government officials and generally ZAPU supporters. The remaining 10% appear to be white people. Not a single ZANU supporter was killed during this period. Does not this fact speak for itself? One does not know what the position is or would be after the Fifth Brigade’s bloody escapade in the Western Province of Matabeleland.
78. It can be said without hesitation that to have used the police as if they were ZIPRA officers in the Dr. Bertrand case was an abominable and fascist like attempt to portray to the country and the world at large that former ZIPRA combatants had plotting tendencies so as to blemish the name of ZIPRA.
79. I believe that the notes that were purported to have been sent by former ‘ZIPRA dissidents’ to the police, when foreign tourists were abducted near Bulawayo in July 1982, were in fact an effort to show ZAPU and former ZIPRA combatants in bad light.
Having said that, I would like to make it clearly understood that former ZIPRA combatants are not the responsibility of ZAPU but of the Zimbabwe government, like anybody else. Despite this I found it necessary to activate and involve the masses in the areas where it was thought kidnappers may be hiding with the tourists, but before I concluded the exercise government declared a curfew in those areas, making them no- go places, causing an abrupt end to that effort. Why that was done I do not know to this day.
80. I now understand why you have maintained legislation such as the Law and Order Maintenance Act, the Unlawful Organisation Act and the Emergency Powers Act; which was enacted by former regimes specifically for the suppression and oppression of the black population of Zimbabwe, and for use against their effort to struggle for independence, social justice, enjoyment of freedom and human rights. You now seem to enjoy and justify the use of these notorious laws to deny your own people that which they fought and died to achieve.
What is it that makes you believe that this independence, which you and I and indeed the masses of Zimbabwe fought for, for so long should now be maintained and protected by this type of legislation? Don’t you think there is something wrong? 81. I am not surprised that you have decided to maintain a state of emergency which was declared by Ian Smith on the 5th November, 1965 in preparation for his illegal action to declare, control and protect his type of independence.
82. During the protracted war our people were subjected to every kind of cruelty and oppression. No man’s life was safe, it was the frequent fate of an innocent villager to be shot out hand, to be arbitrarily arrested and often to be tortured, to suffer the burning of his village, the massacre of his women and children, the destruction of crops and livestock, to suffer long years of imprisonment or to endure the pangs of long exile. The legal basis of this campaign of terror was the ‘State of Emergency’.
83. You well know that in point of fact the Law and Order maintenance Act was used to undermine and subvert law and order to quite a horrendous degree, and the declaration of a ‘state of emergency’ itself was instrumental in creating an acute state of emergency by unleashing forces which inflicted a wave of murder and brutality upon our people which, in its savagery and disregard for humanitarian considerations, had no precedent among our people.
84. Taken together, these facts indicate clearly that for many years an unparalleled campaign of barbarism and terror was waged against the masses. Yet this campaign failed; our people did not submit, they fought back until finally victory was won and independence achieved.
But what in fact has been achieved? It is painful to ask this question, for it springs from events which have increasingly darkened the horizons of Zimbabwe over the past year or more, events I am trying to summarise in this letter.
85. You knew that having created the confusion, you would then be able to take military and legal action against deliberately created ‘political and armed dissidents’; hence the arrest of men like Lookout Masuku, Dumiso Dabengwa and others, and decided to charge them with treason. It is a shame to all of us who fought for liberty, freedom and the rule of law, to see Dumiso, Masuku and others being immediately arbitrarily detained after acquittal by the High Court.
86. It is a well known fact that in Zimbabwe today, there are more people detained without trial than in fascist South Africa. Most of these people are also without formal detention orders and the next of kin have no idea as to whether they are alive or dead.
These people are not enemies of Zimbabwe, but patriots who have suffered, like us and many others, in the struggle to free their country, Zimbabwe, peasant men, women as well as young men and women who only happen to be caught, in a conflict the government itself created.
87. The double tragedy of Zimbabwe today is, firstly, that the routine and administrative use of detention, torture and arbitrary repression has been adopted by an independent government, and secondly, that this government uses the very same mercenaries and torturers as the former regime used against the struggling people. In fact the situation today is in some respects is even worse, as our government has abandoned even those standards of bourgeois legality which the Smith regime generally attempted to hide their repression behind. Under that regime you could be detained but a least you were more likely to be issued with a detention order. You were therefore, less likely to simply disappear as is the case today. The mercenaries and torturers used by the former regime are known and are very few, and therefore their exclusion from our security organs could not have disrupted those organs.
88. There are, in Zimbabwe today, so many different groups of armed men with power to do virtually anything to people. People get arrested by the C.I.O., the Law and Order Section of the police, the so-called ZIMPOLIS, the so-called ZANU Intelligence Service (which is not an arm of government), the Military Police of the Zimbabwe National Army, the Fifth Brigade (which seems to regard execution as the most effective method of arresting people), the Youth Brigade (which is also an arm of the party, but used as if it were part of the machinery of government), the Militia, by ZANU party officials, by undercover pseudo-dissidents – the list is endless. In fact, the rights of the Zimbabwe citizen as defined in the Constitution are meaningless.
89. One of the most disgraceful and shaming aspects of our independence which is difficult to defend, is that we have taken the methods and men used to oppress, torture and kill our people and tried to use them to consolidate our ‘independence’. You cannot take weapons, methods and people designed to defend colonial fascism and try to use to them defend the people. It is just not possible. Today in Zimbabwe the same torturers that Smith used against the people are back in business ‘defending a people’s government’. They must smile to themselves when they are ordered to continue their torture of patriots by an independent government.
90. The methods of torture are also the same: electric shocks, beatings, burning with cigarettes, suffocation using wet sacks, and psychological torture. In the recent case of the State vs Dabengwa and others, the government must surely have been embarrassed when the activities of Fraser, Arnold (of CIO) and DSO Kaurayi were revealed in court. These men whose record of torture and atrocities against the people during the liberation war are well known, were brought into this case by our government to use their same techniques against the heroes of the liberation struggle.
91. In court it was revealed that Fraser assaulted, tortured and threatened ZIPRA men to tell lies against their commanders. DSO Kaurayi did the same to workers on the NITRAM farms. Arnold, the so-called chief of the investigation offered bribes and threats to witnesses to try to get them to change their evidence. Fraser has now run back to his masters in Pretoria. Arnold and Kaurayi remain to be used again to prostitute justice and bring disgrace on the memories of the fallen heroes of our struggle.
92. Under the terms of the Indemnity Act, which we condemned as barbaric and fascist during the liberation struggle, a citizen has no right of appeal or redress against those who illegally torture, maim, kill, destroy property or do any illegal act on him or against him. I am sure you realize that the result of this use of Smith’s laws and torturers has been to create in an independent Zimbabwe a climate of terror and fear even more discriminate than that created by the Smith regime. Remember, there is no war in Zimbabwe today.
93. As it is in Zimbabwe, everyone faces this fear. It is a fear created by the fear the government itself obviously feels. What is it that the government is in fear of is not very clear, but the fact that our government lives in daily fear cannot be doubted.
Ministers fear to walk the streets without armed men around them, roads are sealed off, convoys of armed men race through the streets sirens wailing announcing this fear.
94. The real victims of this climate of fear are the people themselves. How can the people get on with the vital task of building the nation when all around them they feel this insecurity and fear? At any moment they know that this machinery of fear and repression may be turned against them. The people of Murewa may have not yet felt the bayonets of the Fifth Brigade, but they have already heard the stories. In their faces is the fear that one day this party army may be turned against them. It is certain that some ZANU members fear that the Fifth Brigade may be turned against ZANU and that it may even turn against its creators. Is this the climate of a confident, free, proud and independent people and government? You do not teach young people to be contemptuous of human life and expect them to respect yours.
95. Mr. Prime Minister, as I have mentioned above, the way the security organs of Government in their generality is being used has created fear and despondency in the minds of a wide section of our people. But, let me stress, that the activities of the Fifth Brigade in particular are something I never expected could happen in Zimbabwe. I could not make myself believe that such activities could have been carried out with your knowledge and approval.
96. It was when you were reported to have given an astounding declaration at a rally in Zhombe that I realized you support what the Fifth Brigade has done and continue to do in Matabeleland; quote “When men and women provide food for dissidents, when we get there we eradicate them. We do not select who we fight, because we cannot tell who is a dissident and who is not ” (Financial Times, Telegraph and The Times, 15.4.83).
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 terrorized 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 Matabeleland. 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 instill 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 organize 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 Councilors, Chiefs and Headmen are o 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 Mr. 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 Matabeleland, 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 Councilors, etc. Apart from victim witnesses, there are among others well known international aid organizations 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 6 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 Dr. 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’ pastoral statement sermonizing my Government on the morality of our military operations in Matabeleland 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 you are 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.
Joshua M. Nkomo
The Hon. Robert Gabriel Mugabe
The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
Milton Buildings, Causeway,