The Mugabe state: a shack built on viscount scraps
Edmund Msiska, zimeye.
WHAT brouhaha was kicked up by that British conservative (or is it New Labour?) MP Kate Hoey’s proposal for the commemoration of the shooting of the viscount during the Rhodesian war! But brouhaha aside, the whole episode has helped to shed more light on our sad past and has equally illuminated the present. We can see clearly now. With apologies to my good old friend, Mkwati Zuze, whose recent linkage of the whole saga to the Matabeleland Genocide was a collective intellectual bath for us all, let me, taking over from where he left, share my vision.
A favourite trick of many guilty Western diplomats, journalists and local beneficiaries of the Gukurahundi Genocide and hence the so-called ‘Zimbabwe Crisis’, is to minimise the pogrom by pretending that it is long past and does not warrant any space in today’s politics. One frequently encounters diplomats and many Zimbabweans, opposition figures included, who feel that the genocide long lost relevance and in no way does it still inform modern politics.
The tendency is to tar anybody who dwells on the genocide as a divisive element deserving isolation if not elimination. It was a crime yes, they say, but it must be dealt with separately from the current crisis which, as they say, is more current and more urgent.
This was the view of Navy Pillay, the UN Human Rights Chief, during her visit a couple of years back and is still the view of many Western diplomats even though they will, as always, deny that. And yet, as things stand today, Gukurahundi is at the centre of Zimbabwe’s problems; it informs and influences the behaviour of many people across political persuasions. Mugabe’s spirited refusal to vacate from power can successfully be traced back to the genocide. His grandstanding as a revolutionary par excellence is a cover up for the fear of justice.
What then is the reason for this stoic dedication to denial? Gukurahundi, as the Matabeleland genocide is known, was and still is an international crime in which a whole range of eminent people were either directly involved or complicit in varying degrees and remain so to this day. For example, the truth we hear often is that the Fifth Brigade-Mugabe’s genocide goons-were trained by the North Koreans but hardly do we hear the cousin truth which is that the British provided the funding and personnel for the training including for both the CIO and the conventional army units most of whom worked hand in glove with the Fifth Brigade during the heinous operation.
Traditionally, when the West wants to eliminate a particular individual or a group of people in faraway lands especially in Africa, they will cunningly recruit those that also have an axe to grind with the targets. Unbeknown to them, these recruits will then be the West’s running dogs. Always, the idea is to manipulate local discontent into an organised and authentic insurrection with the participants believing that they are involved in a noble cause. In the end it will appear as if the act was executed by the oppressed locals in search for either liberation or justice. And yet, the Western plan would be to have the locals emerge with blood on their hands and afoul of international law. With blood on their hands, these locals will then be easy to control for the rest of their rule. This is a tried and tested strategy that has worked wonders for the West. As recent as two years ago, young Libyan activists, angry with Gaddafi’s dictatorship, were manipulated and aided by the Western intelligence outfits to commit indisputable crimes against humanity. Throughout the episode, the executors were convinced that they were liberating themselves and yet it was all liberation by criminal means. At the end of the day what it means is that the West, fully aware of the executors’ identities and crime which included the illegal and brutal killing of Gaddafi and his followers, will now assume total control of the internal affairs of Libya. Naturally, they will ransack the Libyan economy and milk the country dry. Anybody inclined towards protesting will have the liberation war crimes brandished against them.
Something almost similar happened in Zimbabwe following Mugabe’s ascendancy in 1980 only that in this case it wasn’t a war but sheer genocide. Also, Mugabe has, since seeing through the Western machinations, been daring enough to try and shackle off the Western yoke albeit in vain. To get a fuller picture, a question must be asked first: where did ZANU PF, with all the lawyers, Western trained professionals and cowards among them all fully aware of the consequences of flouting international law, get the courage to commit genocide of that scale and in such brazen fashion in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trials? The answer is that they knew they had both the blessing and the backing of the West.
The story so far: following Mugabe’s ascendancy after the 1980 election thanks to British and Julius Nyerere’s assistance, the Rhodesian elements within the new look Central Intelligence Organisation got wind of ZANU PF’s resentment for their PF ZAPU counterparts; and of their anti-Ndebele strategy. Instantly, a plan was hatched to manipulate the situation.
With the PF ZAPU’s ZIPRA forces having, in 1978 and 9, felled viscounts carrying Rhodesian passengers, the mood for revenge amongst some whites had not vanished nor had it subsided well into independence. With ZANU bigots baying for the Ndebele blood, it was only natural that the Rhodesians and the West would seek to ride on the mood to avenge the viscount shooting all because ZIPRA was largely Ndebele although there were many Shona people within the ranks.
It should be noted that most of the passengers, some of whom are said to have been bayoneted and shot at on the ground by the ZIPRA forces, were either citizens or descendents of various Western countries and members of connected families with either international business or intelligence links, for how could they not have been considering they were being flown into Rhodesia a country under sanctions? Flying a whole plane full of civilians into a country at war and under sanctions must have been blessed by who is who of the international politics.
Cognisant of ZANU PF’s secret agenda, former Rhodesian agents and their Western counterparts alerted Emerson Mnangagwa, then minister of the state security, to the possibility of a joint operation. Being a bigot himself, Mnangagwa received the information with glee and broke it to Mugabe who in turn sought Nyerere’s advice on the merits and demerits of the act. It must be noted that while Mugabe harboured some resentment for Nkomo and the Ndebele people, the confidence and room to inflict any physical damage was always lacking. Now here was an opportunity for their agenda to feed into the viscount revenge mission.
Nyerere who, according Nkomo in his autobiography, had a personal animus for the ZIPRA leader and had also lobbied the British for Mugabe’s victory at the last election, took Mugabe’s request seriously. It made matters worse that PF ZAPU had historical ties with the African National Congress of South Africa whom Nyerere had expelled from Tanzania following allegations that they were involved in an alleged coup to oust him in 1969. It is no surprise that to this date many witnesses to the genocide insist that some of the Fifth brigade thugs spoke nothing but Swahili.
Being a friend of Lord Carrington Nyerere did his intelligence; and thereafter he advised Mugabe that he was free to proceed with the project as the West were all fine with it but could he please, for a neat operation, outsource training and in North Korea if possible.
It was not just Nyerere who had an axe to grind with the ANC though. The then British Prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, so resented the ANC that she saw them as nothing but a bunch of ‘terrorists’ and to the extent that she even refused to back sanctions against South Africa and pursued a policy of “constructive engagement” instead. Republican politician, latter to become the US vice President, Dick Cheney, thought as much. Many within the Regan administration were cut from the same cloth.
More than that, Nkomo, following the incident, had committed an unforgivable act. Admitting responsibility on the BBC, Nkomo did not just appear in jovial mood but was seen laughing in the process much to the chagrin of the Rhodesians.
Worsening the situation was the fact that the ZIPRA forces had felled the Viscounts with a Soviet-made Strela 2 surface-to-air infrared homing missile. With the Cold War still raging and with the former Rhodesian intelligence agents now serving the SA intelligence; and with some prominent historians privately justifying the ZANU PF mood for inflicting any form of harm on the Ndebele people on historical Shona-Ndebele rivalries, the whole project fell in place so well. The West, who had initially appeared restrained from vigorously condemning the incident at the time it took place, now felt the resolve to cover up for their earlier indifference. The revenge project was just too tempting to forgo. It simply had to take-off.
Emboldened by the assurances and advice from Nyerere and from the ex-Rhodesian spies, Mugabe surged ahead with the nefarious scheme. Mnangagwa, that chief supplier of souls to both heaven and hell, routinely brags about his intelligence credentials. Among other things, he prides himself in having set up the present day CIO and in having cowed Nkomo and Dumiso Dabengwa, ZAPU’s wartime intelligence supremo. In Jeremy Brickhill’s film, the Hidden Hand, for example, Mnangagwa brags about how he foiled an attempt by the South African based counter insurgents to bomb the 1980 independence celebrations which included Prince Charles. And yet, as we already now know, it was all the work of the Rhodesians and the Western spooks; some of whom, as CNN’s Christine Amanpour unwittingly reveals during her 2009 interview with Mugabe, latter became journalists in the West. It is them who, as Amanpour says in the interview, push the line that things started off very well in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. What they mean by starting off very well is that they carried out the genocide together with Mugabe for a mutual benefit. More damaging for Mnangagwa, recent intelligence documentation released by South Africa show all too well that he may have been an Apartheid spy himself as he met Pretoria agents to exchange intelligence on both PF ZAPU and the ANC.
To further disprove Mnangagwa’s claim to efficiency, instead of the so called dissidents he, as the genocide overseer, chief logistician, and strategist, deliberately targeted civilians. Also, both Dabengwa and Masuku, arrested on spurious allegations, were picked from their homes. Jealous of PF ZAPU’s impressive credentials, Mnangagwa unleashed official mayhem on PF ZAPU’s institutional memory. Whole documents and other vast amounts of information sources were confiscated and harvested for intelligence clues before being burnt.
Moreover, considering the way it was executed, the September 1983 whirlwind search exercise which saw the CIO and the army cordoning off Bulawayo’s Western suburbs as they swept through killing and wounding many in the process, had one sole goal: the brutal assassination of an armed Nkomo. The idea was that the Fifth Brigade would descend on Nkomo’s house and shoot him at point blank range exactly the way the Sri Lankan army killed Prabakaran’s son only four years ago.
It was going to be claimed that Nkomo had pulled the gun and the Fifth Brigade had only acted in self defence. It is said that the night the Fifth Brigade called at Nkomo’s residence Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramayi, the then minister of defence, had flown down to Bulawayo to join Constantine Chiwenga whose genocide code name was Dominic then based at the CABS building and Magnet House.
Back in Harare, Mugabe remained by the phone in anticipation of a call from Mnangagwa with a message that Nkomo had been assassinated.
Unbeknown to them, Nkomo had been tipped off and had sneaked out. Needless to say a planned barbeque party to celebrate his assassination at Mnangagwa’s Malindela house went on but by another name and minus the initially desired atmosphere.
These calculations and deliberate targeting of unarmed people were all meant to be a fitting revenge for the viscount shooting and for the killing of survivors. In any case, according to Eliakim Sibanda, the Friends of Rhodesia Society in South Africa, had at the time of the incident, offered a reward of R100,000 to anybody who would either kill Nkomo or bring him to Salisbury to stand trial.
So, come the 1980s, that price was picked the reward only it wasn’t in cash but in kind as they were offered a blank cheque to settle their scores with Nkomo and his people in any form they wanted. As for Nkomo, he was now being hunted by fellow freedom fighters now doing the dirty job for the former colonial masters. This is a serious indictment for Mugabe and his compatriots. The people who today want to be seen and held as revolutionaries were, soon after independence, the running dogs for the colonialists. Not only that, but against fellow nationalists and liberation war fighters.
Nkomo’s refusal to see the genocide in Shona-Ndebele terms and his capitulation to ZANU PF must, perhaps, be seen in this light. It seems he understood that the whole Gukurahundi project went beyond the simple Shona-Ndebele interpretations. As can be seen, powerful and external interests rode on the Hitler in Mugabe and deflected his resentment for the whites towards black Ndebele people. It says much that Nkomo’s friend Kenneth Kaunda remained mum on the issue even when he was fully aware of the scale of the genocide. Not even the ANC and Mandela have ever said anything about it even up to this date.
Mugabe’s many awards must be understood in this light too. There can be no other explanation for Mugabe’s awards other than that he was being awarded for committing genocide on behalf of and for rendering other related services to the Rhodesians and their powerful kith and kin in the West. Rhodesians are all over the world especially in the powerful nations from whence Mugabe’s honours came. There, they have settled into good and influential positions meaning that they may have lobbied for Mugabe’s honours.
The 1988 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, for example, granted only a year after the end of the food embargo which killed many children and starved thousands in Matabeleland, was meant to boost white agriculture and the whites’ status as so called providers of food for the black majority. Also, it was a thank you to Mugabe for having let the white farmers prosper. Awarding Mugabe, Joan Holmes, director of the Hunger Project, said Zimbabwe had become the ”agricultural success story” of Africa. And yet they did not just prosper but fleeced the country of millions of revenues as they routinely hid their profits in Western capitals while declaring loses for their exports.
The whole act of awarding malevolence, both materially and in kind, was meant to crown a mammoth achievement for Mugabe for having created a navigable state in which white privilege had continued after independence only by another name. After Nkomo’s capitulation and the death of PF ZAPU through the 1987 Unity Accord, the Pope visited Zimbabwe to cleanse Mugabe of the blood and to confirm him as a good African and authentic member of the civilised race deserving Western honours. The roving musical Human Rights concert, ironically aimed at awakening the world to the plight of political prisoners, followed. The Commonwealth Heads of States, graced by her Majesty the Queen of England followed in 1991. It should not surprise anybody today that this trend is being replicated today with the CHOGM set to be held in Sri Lanka in November 2013 only a few years after the genocide there. Butcher President Percy Mahendra “Mahinda” Rajapaksa’s bloody had will shake Her Majesty’s.
And the BBC, as usual, will not dare say anything.
In Mugabe’s case, he, a few years after the CHOGM, was appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath. In London as in Harare he shook Her Majesty’s hand. Soon after, Princess Diana visited Zimbabwe and dined with Mugabe. There was no end to the awards, so it seemed. It wasn’t until his 1995 attack on the gays that the awards stopped. It is there after that the West stepped up their funding for the civil society and pro democracy projects. But, rather than go peacefully, Mugabe rebelled; and noisily hence the crisis today.
How does this history fit into modern Zimbabwean politics? Perfectly! In fact, as we have seen, the modern day Zimbabwean (Mugabe?) state, embattled as it is, is nothing but a shack built on the scraps of the viscounts and painted with the blood of the Ndebele people.
As we have seen, Gukurahundi was collaboration between African evil and Western evil. So obvious was the crime that it can never be wished away. To cover up for their deed, the perpetrators were quickly and efficiently redeployed into new state departments and positions. In other words, Gukurahundi credentials determined one’s upward social mobility.
While the rest were posted to the Air Force, some were posted to diplomatic missions exactly the same way as some of the perpetrators of the recent Sri Lankan genocide. Others earned scholarships with the most notable beneficiary being Perence Shiri who was seconded to a British Military Academy soon after rounding up his blood fest. Many are today heading international NGOs and are known as experts on Zimbabwe. Most of them are in the MDC and in the academia. Their children are trusted by the Western intelligence organisations.
It is no wonder why Lawrence Vambe, a top bigot and Mugabe servant during the genocide, is a friend of senior British citizens. Like Mugabe, Vambe was knighted albeit well before the genocide. His son, Maurice Vambe, who is equally bigoted if not worse, has become a willing academic face for the Gukurahundi. Well known and deadly Fifth Brigade operatives are happily operating from London and the rest of the Western world.
The list is endless.
It is no wonder why it is taboo to talk of Matabeleland today. Even those that talk of devolution are ostracised because it raises demographic issues and therefore history which may disturb the Mugabe state as created on the basis of Western bigoted benevolence. Anybody else who sees things different from them must be eliminated. This explains Welshman Ncube’s fate. A whole American envoy, Ambassador Christopher Dell, even had the temerity to recommend Ncube’s elimination. The BBC took the anti-Ncube crusade further through a horrible interview researched and organised by bigoted conservative spooks with the help of the British Embassy in Harare. And yet try as they can, the shack made of viscount scraps and painted in Ndebele blood will surely crumble and a new state shall be built. Just as its guarantor and the West’s fallen hero, Mugabe, has lost his initial reverence the false bigoted state shall also diminish and crumble.
There may well be several reasons why Zimbabwe is in this state today but the 1980s genocide is, without any doubt, a major one. For as long as Gukurahundi is not dealt with there shall never be consensus in Zimbabwe.
Msiska is a Zimbabwean based in Karoi. He witnessed the 1978 Viscount shooting incident as a farm worker in Mashonaland.