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Mnangagwa was not the architect of Gukurahundi but he was one of them

The first is that the CIO was not the lead agency in the killings. The vast majority of civilian deaths were perpetrated by 5 Brigade.

In the main, CIO officers were engaged in apprehending and interrogating alleged “dissidents”, armed bandits who were operating in Matabeleland and who were, according to ZANU-PF, coordinating an incipient rebellion against the government.

Moreover, a significant segment of the CIO’s staff was physically excluded from 5 Brigade’s area of operations.

The second grain of truth in Mnangagwa’s statement is that he (unintentionally) put his finger on the fact that the orchestration of the Gukurahundi was not overseen by one man.

It was much broader than that. In this sense, the notion that Mnangagwa was the architect or mastermind of the killings is, indeed, false and thoroughly ahistorical.

Yet that is where the factual basis of Mnangagwa’s defence ends.

On a bureaucratic level, the CIO may not have been at the forefront of the killings, but it most certainly played a critical part in the Gukurahundi.

It is important to remember that the Gukurahundi was a lengthy campaign, not a single event. Equally, it involved a number of different angles and an array of targets that went beyond the civilian population in Matabeleland.

The broad objective of the campaign was political – to attain a one-party state, which in turn necessitated the obliteration of the rival nationalist party, ZAPU.

Many “dissidents” arrested, tortured and murdered by the CIO were not rebels but were specifically targeted because they were ZAPU office bearers or members of its former military wing, ZIPRA.

The intention was to demolish ZAPU structures, while 5 Brigade’s indiscriminate violence against civilians was meant to wipe out ZAPU’s grass roots base.

CIO officers such as Menard Muzariri were at the forefront of the more focused violence committed during the Gukurahundi.

The CIO also provided operational intelligence to 5 Brigade and other arms of government.

ZIPRA personnel files held by the CIO formed the basis of lists used by 5 Brigade to hunt down ex-ZIPRAs and ZAPU officials in the rural areas.

Further, intelligence garnered by CIO surveillance teams was used by the army to target individuals – the most prominent example being the attempt to assassinate ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo in March 1983.

Thus, there was significant cooperation across agencies, and the CIO was an important cog in the wheel. This reality has been obscured by the entrenched perception that 5 Brigade and the Gukurahundi period are synonymous; in other words, that the brigade and its activities define the Gukurahundi in its totality.

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