On the same trip, blowing hard on the horn of Kim Il-sung and the language of socialist brotherhood so beloved by the “Great Leader”, he negotiated a deal for the Koreans to train and equip a brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army.
This Fifth Brigade was to operate separately from the units being trained by the British and was to become what amounted to a private army of ruling party.
Two years later, it was used to smash the grassroots structures of ZANU’s nationalist rival, ZAPU, and to massacre its supporters.
Not that Mugabe was any more grateful to the Koreans for their assistance in “consolidating” Zimbabwe’s independence (as the bilateral verbiage described it) than he had been for their help during the liberation struggle.
Contrary to the appearance of intimacy with the Koreans that was created by the notoriety of the Fifth Brigade, Mugabe remained as distrustful of them as he had been before.
Using West German technology and white Cold War warriors from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) – a Rhodesian institution previously much maligned by the nationalists but now appropriated by ZANU-PF – Mugabe tracked every move of the Koreans in the country.
A case in point is found in the transcript of a wiretap of October 1983, not long after the first Fifth Brigade military operation during which thousands of Zapu supporters were butchered in Matabeleland North – an operation (as new evidence shows) that was furthered by on-the-ground assistance from Korean officers.
Taken in its broader context, it is difficult to conceive of a document that exudes greater irony or speaks more eloquently of the mindset that Mugabe brought to the task of ruling Zimbabwe:
“P (Korean party secretary, Dar es Salaam): What’s wrong with this line? Something’s wrong.
K (Kim Won-Kyu, North Korean embassy official, Harare): Nothing. It’s Okay.
P: Isn’t somebody wire-tapping our telephone?
K: No way. It is quite alright.
P: Could someone be listening to our conversation?
K: No. There is nobody to listen to us here …
P: It seems like some section of the Zimbabwean Government wire-taps our telephone.
K: No way. We are the only ones here (who can speak Korean). Unless there is somebody at your side.
P: There is nobody over here who would listen to our talk.”
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