What was the Gukurahundi massacre about?
Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 with Robert Mugabe as the new Prime Minister.
In his Independence Day speech, he said: “If yesterday I fought as an enemy, today you have become a friend and ally with the same national interest, loyalty, rights and duties as myself….”
Despite his reassuring words, he initiated the Gukurahundi Massacres just three years after independence.
Gukurahundi, a Shona word which means "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains", refers to massacres carried out by Mugabe’s North Korean-trained 5th Brigade between 1983 and 1987 in the predominantly Ndebele regions of Zimbabwe.
In 1980, a few short months after Independence Day, Robert Mugabe signed an agreement with the North Korean President Kim Il Sung to have the North Korean military train a brigade for the Zimbabwean army. Training of the 5th Brigade lasted until September 1982.
The objective of the 5th Brigade was to crush the people of Matabeleland, force them to submit to Mugabe's Zanu PF and relinquish their loyalty to Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu).
The infamous red-bereted 5 Brigade were soldiers equipped with unusually cruel skills. Through the report 'Breaking the Silence' the methods used to address "reorientation", "change", "unfounded grievances" - methods designed to teach a community to "accept defeat" - included civilian murders, rapes, torture and the destruction of their property.
The report describes in detail some of the techniques used. All were calculated to maximise terror, pain, grief and humiliation. The soldiers, under Mugabe's instruction, set out to injure and mutilate human beings, to kill them, but to do so in such evil cruel ways that the scars would be indelibly etched in memories for generations to come.
Mugabe intended to leave this civilian population with fear for the rest of their lives, for the horror to be so great that they would pass the fear down to subsequent generations. This is how he believed he would manage discontent in the region, and hold onto power indefinitely.
In September 2010, the Gukurahundi massacres were classified as a genocide by the internationally recognised group Genocide Watch.