Issue 3, 20-27 June 2003 "The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress"

CARTOONS
JOKES

ABOUT US
RULING PARTY ZANU PF
OPPOSITION MDC

BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE

AMERICAN STATE DEPT
Compiled by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, March 1997
REPORT ON THE 80S ATROCITIES IN MATABELELAND AND THE MIDLANDS  
THE DAMNING EVIDENCE THEY DIDN'T WANT YOU TO SEE

PREFACE
THE writing of the report in 1997 was possible only because Zimbabwe was enjoying a period of stability and national unity which did not exist ten years before. The country now known as Zimbabwe has, in the last hundred years, had a history marred by internal conflicts: the current state of peace in the nation is unprecedented. The signing of the Unity Accord in December 1987 brought an end to the disturbances which this report documents. In 1990, the lifting of the Emergency Powers Regulations, which had been in existence since the Rhodesian Government first instituted them in 1965, did away with the Zimbabwe Government's extra legal powers, many of which had allowed for the infringement of basic human rights. Zimbabwe's current human rights record, while still not perfect, is better than it has ever been since Independence in 1980.

PART ONE : DATA SOURCES AND METHODOLOGY
OFFICIAL VIOLENCE & IMPLICATIONS FOR VICTIMS
HUMAN RIGHTS DATA BASE - NAMED VICTIMS
HUMAN REMAINS - THEIR POSSIBLE RECOVERY
THE VILLAGE BY VILLAGE SUMMARY
INTRODUCTION
PREFACE

The disturbances documented in this report also need to be placed in a historical context. Zimbabwe did not come to Independence easily: the decade which preceded Independence was one which saw the fighting of an increasingly violent civil war, a war which cost many thousands of civilian lives and caused untold hardship and suffering. While the full number of casualties will never be known, it has been estimated that at least 30 000 people died countrywide, although real numbers of dead could be more than double this figure. Most of these casualties were in the north and eastern regions of Zimbabwe, or in external training and refugee camps in Zambia and Mozambique, although there was no region of the country that was not severely affected by the Liberation War.

As in any conflict, damage cannot be measured in deaths alone: tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were displaced from their rural homes in northern and eastern Zimbabwe into "Protected Villages" (PVs), run by the Rhodesian Defence Forces. The relocation of people into these PVs was done in an effort to prevent rural civilians from feeding, and providing intelligence to, the guerrilla armies: conditions were cruel, and led to massive human rights abuses, including wide-spread malnutrition. The PV policy was combined with "Operation Turkey", the code name given to the policy of destroying crops in rural areas in an attempt to cut the guerrillas off from their food supplies. Needless to say, such a policy also impacted adversely on innocent civilians, exacerbating the starvation already being caused by life in the PVs. The placing of people in PVs was a form of state organised violence against civilians: no doubt many, especially children raised in such places, still suffer the mental consequences of this experience.

Thousands of civilians were also detained indefinitely without trial during the 1970s, including many of those at the forefront of the nationalist movements, ZANU and ZAPU. President Robert Mugabe and Vice President Joshua Nkomo were both detained for many years.

Thousands of young men and women who left the country to train as freedom fighters also sacrificed their own opportunities to gain an education, while others ended the war with permanent physical or mental disabilities. While there are legal mechanisms in place through which war veterans can claim help and compensation, not all ex-fighters are aware of this, or know how to take advantage of the law. For many hundreds, possibly thousands, of war veterans and their families, the hardship continues.

It is also acknowledged that since Independence, Matabeleland and the Midlands are not the only parts of the country to have suffered as the result of internal disturbances. In the late 1980s, there were human rights abuses in the eastern districts of the country, as a result of MNR bandit activity. The South African-backed, Mozambique-based MNR bandits were responsible for serious human rights abuses, particularly in Mount Darwin in the north east of Zimbabwe and in Chipinge in the south east, from 1988 onwards. While these abuses involved only small areas of the country, their effects were extremely harsh for those civilians involved. Scores of innocent people in this region were murdered, mutilated, or had to live with daily insecurity as a result of this conflict.

The injustices and suffering caused by ninety years of colonial rule, and in particular by the ten years of civil war that brought Zimbabwe to Independence, have been well documented. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has played an important role in this process. As one of the few independent human rights organisations active in the country, CCJP played an important, politically impartial role in the 1970s: they were able to collect evidence of human rights abuses committed by the Rhodesian Defence Forces, and were able to publicise these abuses internationally. CCJP facilitated the international publication of several reports, including The Man in the Middle (May 1975), and The Civil War in Rhodesia (August 1976), both published by the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) in England. Since Independence, CCJP archival information has also been used to document the history of the 1970s. In 1992 Reaching for Justice, a history of CCJP was published (Mambo Press), and in the same year a CCJP video entitled Caught in the Crossfire was released: this detailed the plight of rural Zimbabweans in the Liberation War. Apart from CCJP, many other individuals and organisations have also recorded aspects of pre-Independence history. This process of documentation means that a crucial period in Zimbabwean history is on permanent record for the generations yet to come.

The whole southern African region is now enjoying unprecedented peace and stability. The coming of Independence in South Africa drew to a close the colonial history of Africa. It also began a new process of accountability, and highlighted the realisation that true reconciliation between people who have traditionally been opposed, is often best facilitated by honest public acknowledgement of the past. This process need not be vitriolic, but it is important, particularly to victims, to have their suffering publicly acknowledged. While the suffering caused by colonial rule is widely documented and internationally recognised, the suffering in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the 1980s is a history that is unknown except to those who experienced it at first hand. It is also apparent that while the signing of the Unity accord in December 1987 was an important step towards national reconciliation in Zimbabwe, there nonetheless remains in rural Matabeleland a deep seated mistrust of the Government, and a fear that events of the 1980s could be repeated in the future.

This report acknowledges the historical context within which events of the 1980s occurred, and does not seek to apportion blame. It seeks merely to break the silence surrounding this phase in the nation's history, by allowing approximately one thousand people who have approached the report compilers in the last year, a chance to tell the stories they want told. It is hoped that greater openness will lead to greater reconciliation. At the same time, the report alone cannot result in reconciliation: it is therefore accompanied by a Project Proposal, which puts forward some concrete suggestions as to how the hardship caused by the 1980s disturbances can now be redressed.

©The New Zimbabwe