Psychological torture too defies easy description,
but all forms identified share common elements in the creation of
extreme fear in a situation of uncontrollability. However, uncontrollability
is a factor common to most torture methods, and, furthermore, it
is difficult in practice to make clear distinctions between the
effects of general psychological torture, and the specific anguish
caused by "witnessing" and "disappearances".
The clearest distinctions can always be found between what are termed
"impact torture" and "non-impact torture" where
the presence of physical injuries is the major difference. As can
be seen below in the findings reported by Rasmussen, the variety
of forms of psychological torture is very wide.
TYPES OF PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE
Threats of execution 60%
Threats towards family members 43%
Sham execution 31%
Sexual verbal assaults 20%
Changing attitudes(hard/soft) 12%
Noise torture 5%
Excrement abuse 3%
Nontherapeutic use of drugs 4%
Torture via exposure to animals 1%
Physical torture in itself must always have psychological
consequences, and psychological torture therefore is probably the
most common form of torture used. Psychological torture is also
frequently applied on its own, and can be very successful in causing
both short-term and long-term damage to a person. Psychological
torture should therefore not be seen as a lesser form of ill treatment.
Threats, verbal abuse, mock executions, and the
like are all intended to convey fear and instil obedience and, furthermore,
usually convey some threat for the future.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE IN THE 1980s
Entire communities consisting of thousands of people were subjected
to psychological torture. The "Commander Jesus speech"
above is a good example of the way the 5 Brigade often prefaced
their arrival in an area with dire threats against all residents
of Matabeleland. Any subsequent meeting with 5 Brigade after such
a speech would cause acute fear and anxiety for civilians. 5 Brigade
also often used the salutary execution of randomly selected people
as a threat of further executions in communities. People would also
be detained and threatened with executions which were then not carried
Forced nudity was also a psychological weapon at
times: the Tsholotsho case study reports the forced stripping of
entire village communities before mass beating, and other cases
where people were selectively stripped in front of their communities.
The effectiveness of this strategy in causing extreme humiliation,
anger and helplessness is evident from the interviews.In Matabeleland
South in particular, there were frequently verbal sexual abuse and
insults. Some interviews report 5 Brigade making sexual suggestions
to naked victims, including suggesting forced sex between related
family members, or between school children, or between people and
animals. In addition, some political detainees were interrogated
The following statement is part of a far longer
statement made to project personnel in October 1996 by a man who
was sixteen in 1984 - Interview Case Number 3737. He was detained
with 12 others from his village on the day the curfew began, and
was among the first ever to arrive at Bhalagwe. As in all the previous
testimonies, his case serves to illustrate several types of physical
and psychological torture: threatened execution is just one.
The 5 Brigade herded everyone in our village together,
about 70 or more people. From 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. we were beaten,
including women and children, with sticks and fanbelts. Then they
chose 12 people to come to Bhalagwe - 4 women and 8 men. 2 of the
women were old and 2 were schoolgirls. 3 of the men were schoolboys,
including myself: I was sixteen.
We were taken first to Kezi, and the 5 Brigade told
us we were being taken there to be shot. When we arrived, they told
us we would be taken two by two at 1p.m. and be shot. When 1 o'clock
came, they told us they had decided to throw us down a mine instead.
They then loaded us in a truck and drove off. We thought we were
being taken to be killed, but we were brought to Bhalagwe....
At Bhalagwe the charge office was full of blood.
We had to sit in lines outside the office waiting our turn to be
beaten. When you were in front of the line, you knew it was your
turn next. The beatings started at 5.30 a.m. I saw 2 people being
shot, and 7 being beaten to death. Very many died, but I helped
to bury only these 9 I saw die. I dug their graves. People were
buried two or three to a grave....
There are large numbers of persons who reported
witnessing others being abused. This is reported from the mass beatings,
the "pungwes", and the places of detention, both interrogation
centres and Bhalagwe camp. The following case illustrates the point
by reference to a pungwe. This case was recorded in the form of
a sworn statement by a 31 year old man from a village near Donkwe
Donkwe, in Matobo, made to CCJP officials on 8 March 1984.
In the morning of 5 February, 1984, soldiers came
to our village and told us to go to Dingi Store. We were made to
wriggle like snakes towards the store. When we got there I saw other
people already gathered, and some of them were being beaten while
lying down, by about nineteen soldiers.
When we joined the gathering we were made to run around while being
beaten; others were beaten lying down. There were men, women and
children who could roughly fill two and a half buses (200?) The
soldiers hit us with mapani sticks and kicked us with their boots.
The soldiers were speaking Shona and through an
interpreter they were saying, "You support dissidents."
We were being beaten at the shop from about sunrise
until about 10 a.m. Then afterwards we were all taken behind our
houses to a spot about 100 metres away where there are two mapani
trees and we were made to sit down. The soldiers asked for two picks
and two shovels and they were brought to them.
While some were being beaten, others were told to
fight each other while at the same time being beaten by soldiers.
Others were lying down while being beaten.
As this was going on soldiers were selecting six
young men at random. Three were put on one side and three on the
other side of the crowd. Two soldiers then shot dead the three in
one group, and two other soldiers also shot dead the three young
men in the other group.
The other men and women and children who were sitting
down were asked to sing while soldiers went among them beating them
up. We were singing things like "Pansi loNkomo, Pambili loMugabe."
Some songs were in Ndebele and others were in Shona.
The six killed were: MM, aged 24 years - my brother
BD, aged about 24 years
BN, aged about 30 years
MB, aged about 31 years
ON, aged about 24 years
Z?, aged about 31 years
In two groups the older people were asked to dig
two graves quickly or they themselves would be buried in the graves.
The rest of the people in the meantime were being asked to sing
and dance while being beaten.
I dug the grave in which my brother was buried - two faced one side
and the other in the opposite direction. The graves were shallow,
about thigh deep. They were buried in their clothes. The burial
arrangements for the second grave were the same as for the first.
We covered the graves after which we were made to join the others
in the singing while being beaten.
At about 4 p.m. a group of about nineteen young
men carried the bags of the soldiers and went away with the soldiers.
These young men had come along with the soldiers in the morning.
We were told by the soldiers to wait for five minutes after they
left before we could go back to our homes. My younger brother heard
one shot as they left, and the following morning we heard that soldiers
had killed GD near the store.
I arrived in Bulawayo on 11 February at about 2
p.m. having left home on foot on 5 February at night. I was sick
and bleeding through the mouth, and that is why it took me so long
to get here. I used to sleep in the bush. I spent two days without
food, and afterwards I would ask for food at kraals along the way.
There are a significant number or reports that mention
being witness to an execution. This is also a factor that many survivors
from the Chimurenga mention. In Mount Darwin, survivors of such
multiple abuse were all found to be suffering from Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder: the same would be expected for 1980s survivors.
People in Matabeleland and the Midlands have now been subjected
to two successive periods of intense violence and the witnessing
of violence. It is therefore important for the future that the effects
of the massed, public violence be examined.
5.WITNESSING OF ORGANISED VIOLENCE
Some earlier workers in the field of traumatic stress
argued that civilian populations were little affected by war. Rachman,
for example, claimed that there was little evidence of increased
psychological disorder during the Second World War in the United
Kingdom (Rachman.1986). However, there was little direct investigation
of trauma in civilian populations until the last decade, and, following
the invention of PTSD (see section following), there has been the
continual demonstration of psychological disorder in populations
in situations of war and civil conflict. These situations are usefully
described by the term "High War Zone Stress", but can
equally be described as "witnessing".
The term, High War Zone Stress, was originally applied to differentiate
soldiers in combat settings from those in non-combat zones, and
examined how frequent experience of military fighting, or proximity
to people being killed, affected fears about oneself being killed.
Sadly, High War Zone Stress is today not unique to military personnel.
and describes the daily life of many civilians. It is particularly
relevant to situations of guerrilla war, and obviously to Southern
Africa. Modern wars are distinguished by the strategic involvement
of civilians: up to 80% of the casualties of wars now are civilians,
mostly women and children. Civilians world wide not only frequently
suffer physically from conflicts, but inevitably they also witness
violence and death.
Furthermore, deliberate massacres, executions, threats
and abuse are frequently forced upon ordinary people by military
and paramilitary forces in an attempt to remove support for guerrillas
or political parties.This frequently leads to both sides terrorising
civilians in order to prevent support for the other side. This creats
a situation of sustained fear and stress for the ordinary person.
The experience of being "The Man in the Middle" was common
in the Liberation War, throughout Zimbabwe. And as this report has
documented above, this situation was repeated in Matabeleland and
the Midlands in the 1980s, with civilians trapped between the dissidents
and the security forces.
Witnessing can vary in terms of the degree of resulting
psychological torture depending on the element of controllability.
A person among thousands of people at a mass rally where beatings
are taking place, for example, could close his/her eyes or look
the other way. However, such an option was not open to people in
the rally described above, where proximity to the executions and
the accompanying beatings and demands being made by the soldiers
would have made witnessing of violence almost impossible to avoid,
if one were lucky enough to avoid an actual beating.
One should not minimise the seriousness of witnessing
extreme violence, nor the depth of fear that it can create.
WITNESSING IN THE 1980s
Forcing civilians to witness violence was a deliberate facet of
5 Brigade behaviour, both in Mat North and the Midlands in 1983,
and in Mat South in 1984. Tens of thousands of civilians can be
estimated to have observed violence, if one considers, for example,
the high forced attendance at political rallies during these years,
and the prevalence of public beatings at these. In addition, possibly
thousands witnessed executions, particularly in 1983, when it was
common practice for 5 Brigade to execute people in the village setting.
All those who have reported their experiences at Bhalagwe in 1984
also witnessed killings in this camp, and if their experiences are
typical, which they seem to be as they coincide to a remarkable
degree, then thousands at Bhalagwe also witnessed executions. All
the testimonies already included in this chapter give ample support
for the prevalence of witnessed violence during these years.
One very sinister form of psychological torture
is the use of forced disappearances. This refers to the abduction
of individuals, who may be kept in secret detention for long periods,
but are often executed in secret. This is a strategy that has been
growing in recent decades, and some of the most tragic examples
can be found in Latin America. For example, about 10 000 individuals
were "disappeared" in Argentina during the rule of the
military junta in the 1970s. It is also a strategy that has been
used in Zimbabwe, both during the Liberation War and the 1980s disturbances.
Disappearances are used for two reasons. Firstly, the disappeared
person is usually some kind of an opponent of the government, and
it serves a strategic purpose to get rid of opposition. Secondly,
it puts extreme pressure on the targeted group and particularly
the families of the disappeared.
It creates enormous psychological and social problems
for the surviving people, and this has been well documented by several
Latin American groups who work with the families of disappeared
persons. For example, in Argentina it has been argued that the life-expectancy
of the fathers of the disappeared is reduced below the national
average, and it has also been shown that the surviving children
often have marked psychological difficulties (Lagos.1995).
In Africa, disappearances may have even more profound
effects. Since death and misfortune are always events of extreme
concern for the entire extended family, a disappearance that may
or may not be a death creates a wide range of problems. African
families are compelled by spiritual belief to undertake proper rituals
for the burial of the dead, and anything that prevents this happening
can leave the family with the expectation of future misfortune (Mupinda.1995).
For example, it was frequently observed in the refugee setting that
many Mozambican refugees were preoccupied with worries about not
having properly buried their dead when they fled into exile (Reeler.1995).
It has also been observed in Zimbabwe that many
families were deeply distressed by the non return of family members
from the Liberation War: large numbers of young men and women left
home to join the guerrillas in Mozambique, and large numbers never
returned. The families have no information about the fate of their
relatives, and some have even engaged in lengthy searches to find
out what happened, to find where they were buried if they died (Mupinda.1995).
So disappearances in Africa can range from forcible
abductions to disappearances in the sense of "missing in action"
to disappearances in the sense of an individual never being heard
of again. These seem to have identical effects on the surviving
members of the family, and we need to understand much more about
DISAPPEARANCES IN THE 1980s
Disappearances were a deliberate part of the state strategy in the
1980s, although to date there are only 354 named "disappeared"
victims. Even this number is indicative of disappearance having
been an official policy. Many dozens of others were picked up in
midnight raids by mysterious government agents, and held incommunicado
for some months before their release. The manner of their removal
from their homes, and the uncertainty this resulted in, generated
intense psychological stress for their families. The timing of disappearances
was also significant: they coincided with the months prior to Zimbabwe's
general election, targetted opposition party officials, and generally
added to a climate of fear and intimidation already prevalent at
As we mentioned above there are some reasons for
considering disappearances to be an especially broad-reaching form
of abuse.The effects of disappearances have been partially documented
in Mashonaland (Mupinda.1995). Anecdotal evidence and Richard Werbner's
comments in his anthropological work Tears of the Dead suggest that
the effects of disappearances are profound on surviving family members
in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
There is evidence to suggest that disappearances cause long-term
depression, family dysfunction, and even long-term community disruption.
The number reported in this report is modest, but it should be borne
in mind that this abuse targets whole families, and has long term
effects. For many of the families of the disappeared the burden
of living without a death certificate for a loved one has been enormous
- stopping them getting state-aided education for orphans, for example
- and every encounter with the bureaucracy a reminder of the event.
Bear in mind, further, that many disappearances took place in forcible
abductions, often in very frightening circumstances.
The following statement, Interview Case Number 1099,
is about an incident that took place in Tsholotsho in May 1985.
It is typical of those on file.
Late at night, people knocked at our door, while
we were all sleeping. I went to open and two men asked for my husband.
I told them he was blind, and asleep. They asked for him and took
him to the gate, where there were many others. I did not hear what
they said to him, although I heard him reply that he did not know
whatever it was they wanted to know.
They returned him to the house and said he should
get his ID card and come back with me. This man in cross belts noticed
I was in an advanced state of pregnancy. He ordered me back into
the house and they went away with my husband.
The next morning we found my husband's ID card. It was 2 km away
from our home, and broken into two pieces. A little further on we
found blood clots, sticks and vehicle tracks. The footprints ended
here. We have not seen or heard of my husband since. We are destitutes.
Internationally, disappearances have become the
focus of major attention, with even the United Nations laying down
principles to be applied in cases of disappearance. The long-term
effects are only beginning to be understood, but it is continually
stressed, by those working in this particular area, that the effects
are exceedingly widespread and long-term. The disappearance of a
person by the state strikes at the foundations of the state's trustworthiness:
survivors seem rarely to feel any confidence or safety in the state's
protection after this, and especially when no investigations take
place to determine the legality of this behaviour. Various Argentinian
and Chilean researchers have commented that corruption, increased
violence, voter apathy and a climate of silence frequently follow
undisclosed disappearances. We might speculate here on a reason
for declining voting attendances at elections, and not just in Matabeleland,
for the same comment might easily be made of all areas in Zimbabwe
that have experienced epidemic violence.
C.CONSEQUENCES OF ORGANISED VIOLENCE
The consequences of repressive violence are many
and complex, and include both physical and psychological effects.
The psychological study of the effects of organised violence is
a new field, and there are still controversies about the effects
and how best to classify them. However, the physical effects of
torture are generally more clear cut. Before considering the current
findings, it is pertinent to consider some local and regional evidence
as regards violence and its effects.
In Zimbabwe it is estimated that between 20-30%
of primary care patients are suffering from psychological disorders
(Reeler & Todd.1993; Reeler et al.1991; Reeler.1986), but there
are no accurate estimates of the prevalence or incidence of disorders
due to violence. However, one of the earlier studies of psychological
morbidity, carried out by Hall and Williams at Karanda Mission Hospital
in 1984, estimated morbidity at 39% of all outpatients, and this
was carried out in an area that experienced extreme violence during
the Second Chimurenga.. The Hall and Williams study has provided
one of the highest estimates of psychological morbidity, and, although
the authors made no comment about violence, more recent observations
at the same site suggest that disorders due to violence may explain
this high rate (Reeler & Mupinda.1995).
There are good grounds in Zimbabwe for already suspecting
high rates of disorders due to organized violence, but there are
no good estimates of the physical consequences of organized violence.
This is a general comment of many observers of the effects of recent
Zimbabwean conflicts, and there is nothing remarkable in this assertion.
Studies of Mozambican refugees and reports from the Zimbabwean community
all indicate that many patients suffer from the effects of war,
torture and ill-treatment, but all this data is drawn largely from
the field of psychiatry, and the data that deals with physical sequelae
is mostly self-report. There are therefore no good estimates to
help in the assessment of likely morbidity as a result of the 1980s
violence. However, comparisons with international studies, especially
as regards physical effects, are possible.
1.PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ORGANISED VIOLENCE
In general the physical effects of organized violence
can be classified into 2 categories: one group of people who have
a wide range of non-specific somatic complaints, and another group
who describe specific symptoms corresponding to the type of violence
they experienced (Juhler.1992). To some extent this is an arbritrary
classification, for some survivors can present with both types of
complaints. We will briefly summarise the general findings here.
a.) Non-specific somatic complaints: this refers to people showing
signs of general stress , or psychological reactions to torture.
As Juhler has commented (Juhler.1991), the most frequent complaints
come from 4 organ systems: the central nervous system (headaches),
the musculo-skeletal system (joint and muscle pains), the cardio-vascular
system (palpitations), and the gastro-intestinal system (abdominal
pains). These are very common symptoms in Zimbabwean primary care
settings, but there are clear differences between general psychological
disorders (due to ordinary stresses) and disorders due to organized
The most important of these relates to musculo-skeletal
symptoms. Studies carried out in Denmark have concluded that two
main symptom clusters can be identified: those in joints (due to
overstretching), and those in muscles, that are due to general stress.
Joint pains are therefore an importantly different symptom in the
complaints of survivors, but it is also clear that it is very difficult
to find objective evidence of pathological lesions or injuries.
It is also clear that many survivors associate their
pains with the torture or ill-treatment in an almost symbolic way,
often as a consequence of the way in which the torture is delivered.
Here we can give the example of electrical shocks given to the genitalia
leading to later sexual dysfunction. It is rare that the sexual
dysfunction is due to any physical lesion, but the conditioning
effect is extremely powerful. This kind of conditioning effect is
common to many forms of torture, and rape would be another good
b.) Specific Symptoms: the more violent the torture
the more likely there is to be sound evidence of physical damage.
There is endless medical evidence of brain injury, paralysis, fractures,
damaged organs, and altered functions. There are a large number
of studies which show the pathological damage of falanga, burnings,
beatings, cutting, head injuries and the like.
In the current study there were a large number of
interviewees who gave anecdotal evidence of deafness and partial
blindness which they attributed to beatings in the 1980s. Such reports
are in accordance with other studies, which report a high frequency
of deafness in survivors who have been beaten on the head. There
were also many reports of permanent damage to limbs and to reproductive
and urinary functioning. While there is archival medical evidence
for many injuries being suffered in the 1980s, the current medical
status of those who suffered then, still remains to be established.
As mentioned above, it is difficult years after
the event to provide objective evidence of what originally caused
a physical injury. It is enough to reiterate here that the only
thing that distinguishes torture from other similar damage is the
intent and the legal responsibility of the perpetrator.
2.PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF ORGANISED VIOLENCE:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
These effects are perhaps not as well-known, but
are certainly better understood than they were two decades ago.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most commonly used
current term to describe the psychological effects of organised
violence, and it provides a catch-all description for all disorders
and symptoms in which the stressor is of a "catastrophic"
Earlier descriptions of these effects had been classified mainly
by reference to the precipitating event, and "concentration
camp syndrome", "post-Vietnam syndrome", and "rape
trauma syndrome" are all well-known examples of this approach
to classification (Rasmussen.1990).
The prevalence of post traumatic disorders is rather
variable, and has been assessed in two ways: one approach has been
to examine prevalence in the general population, whilst the other
has been to examine prevalence in "at risk" groups. As
Shay has commented, the prevalence rates for PTSD amongst Vietnam
veterans is 32 times greater than the comparable prevalence rates
amongst demographically similar civilians (Shay.1996).
This is an extremely high prevalence, but data derived
from studies of military veterans may not be directly useful for
this report: many Vietnam veterans report both experiencing violence
as well as perpetrating severe human rights violations themselves.
Thus, data from persons who are both victims and perpetrators may
not be useful for the understanding of persons who are victims alone.
This does not mean that we should not understand the perpetrators,
merely that we are here concerned with victims alone.
Despite some conflicting findings, current research
suggests a dose-response effect due to the magnitude of the stressor,
and, according to this argument, torture will represent the most
severe of all stressors, and the prevalence of PTSD should be highest
in this population.
In terms of psychological torture and witnessing,
if a stressful situation lasts an afternoon, or several weeks, or
several years, its consequences for survivors should differ. In
the 1980s, the situation of high war zone stress lasted from 1982/3
until the Unity Agreement in1987: although the 5 Brigade, the most
feared unit, was disbanded in 1986, civilians still felt under siege
from multiple forces until December 1987. Indeed, some still do
not rule out the return of persecution in the future.
The way in which the violence developed exacerbated
this: 5 Brigade impact was unexpected, profound and unprecedented.
Having once experienced the utterly unexpected, civilians in affected
areas still believe it could happen again. The slow build up of
violence which typified the Second Chimurenga differed significantly
from the sudden epidemic violence of the 5 Brigade, and its psychological
consequences can be expected to have differed accordingly, with
the 1980s violence being perceived as worse by sufferers.
Recent studies of Holocaust victims suggest clinical
disturbance in third-generation survivors (Hardi & Szilagyi.1993),
but it is not clear that the disturbance measured in the grandchildren
of concentration camp victims can be described as PTSD. Perhaps
the significant aspect of these studies is that there is a pattern
of disturbance in descendants of torture victims: this clearly has
a bearing for the report on hand, and for other parts of Zimbabwe.
All of this epidemiological work has been substantially
supported by empirical work. Studies of sleep show a wide range
of differences between PTSD sufferers and other populations, both
civilian and military, with PTSD sufferers showing greater problems
with falling asleep and maintaining sleep.
Some of the key features of PTSD - sleep disturbance,
intrusive cognitions, psychological reactivity and physiological
distress - seem to be supported empirically, and there is support
for the notion of a specific disorder produced by trauma, and capable
of being delineated from other disorders.
It seems clear that exposure to violence has severe,
persistent and delayed sequelae, with an apparent dose-response
effect, but there still remain some difficulties, and some critics.
The major critics come from amongst those working with torture survivors,
who are critical of many aspects of the PTSD definition, and suggest
that there may still be such a thing as a "torture syndrome"
apart from PTSD.
TORTURE - PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES
Torture clearly represents an extreme form of exposure to violence,
in that the effects are premeditated and designed, the process usually
involves attacks of both a physical and psychological nature, and,
most importantly, torture has an explicitly political purpose in
a clear socio-political context. One estimate sees "government-sanctioned
torture" as being present in 78 countries in the world (Jacobsen
& Vesti.1992), whilst another estimate reckons that between
5% and 35% of the worlds refugees have suffered at least one torture
It may seem to be hair-splitting to raise the socio-political
in a consideration of psychopathology, but it is obvious that it
is just this aspect of torture that sets it aside from disasters,
catastrophes, wars, accidents and abuse. Torture and repressive
violence are specifically targeted at individuals and groups with
the specific intention of causing harm, forcing compliance, and
destroying political will, frequently in the absence of war, but
always in a situation of civil conflict (Somnier & Genefke.1986).
The deliberate and systematic attack on people, and the attempt
to destroy personality and political will, are felt to be such intrinsic
features of torture that a narrow definition, such as PTSD, may
miss this. In fact, torture survivors suffer a wide range of adverse
consequences, and this frequently means that the process can carry
on over a very extended time period. For this reason, many workers
feel that "ongoing traumatic stress disorder" would be
a much more accurate expression of torture (Straker.1987).
"The deliberate infliction of harm seems to
place torture in the position of a distinct form of stressor, and
the specific purpose behind torture makes it very different from
random violence or catastrophe, whether natural or man-made. Furthermore,
the violence is decidedly purposive, with the aim of the systematic
destruction of individual and community identity, and it is very
hard to know how to include in a definition what is surely a notion
of "evil", however unpalatable this notion might seem
to a scientist." (Reeler.1994)
The argument in support of a discreet and recognisable
`torture syndrome', has been partially resolved by some recent British
research (Ramsay et al.1993; Gorst-Unsworth et al.1993; Turner &
Gorst-Unsworth.1990). In Zimbabwe, this model has received partial
validation in a study of war veterans (Reeler & Mupinda.1996).
D.CONSEQUENCES OF ORGANISED VIOLENCE FOR SOCIETY
Repressive violence is not just an issue that affects
individuals, but, as was pointed out above, much modern violence
has the purpose of terrorizing whole communities. So we have to
consider the consequences for society as a whole, and not just merely
for the affected individuals. It is not a simple task, however,
to identify the societal: not even attempts to explain the Nazi
phenomenon have proved wholly satisfactory. Some general consequences
can nonetheless be briefly indicated.
Firstly, there is frequently a sustained climate
of fear amongst the affected population, and this is borne out by
all contacts with person who were involved during the various wars
and disturbances in Southern Africa. This affects all aspects of
peoples' lives, may be exaggerated during times of political disturbance,
and profoundly affects peoples' ability to live full, social lives.
There is now a considerable literature from South Africa speculating
about the consequences of the decades of organised violence, and
the persistence of fear, helplessness and insecurity in social groups
has been noted in many other national settings. One South African
study, one of the best studies to date, followed up school children
affected by the township violence of the 1980s, and found marked
differences in how well the children adapted in later years (Straker
Secondly, there may be an increase in violent behaviour
in the affected population. Here the focus is not so much on the
increase in violent crime per se, but in the increase in violence
of a random or motiveless nature: reprisal killings, rampage killings,
violent outbursts, etc. It is generally observed that sustained
civil violence results in a general increase in all violence, not
merely political violence. Northern Ireland provides a good case
example here, where studies of children show a marked increase in
child violence, violent attitudes amongst children, as well as higher
levels of anxiety, depression, and family pathology. South Africa
is an even more relevant example, and all observers are agreed that
the violence in South Africa is of epidemic proportions, and is
not merely a political phenomenon (Michelson.1994).
Thirdly, there is the reappearance of silence in
group situations, which is usually related to fears about reprisals.
This fear, seen as fear of speaking out in groups or fears about
being overheard, can severely impair the ability to indulge in social
and political activities. This can obviously have profound economic
and political consequences, and it is worth noting that even the
World Bank now views psychopathology as a significant impediment
to social and economic development. Disorders due to violence should
be included in the general category of psychopathology.
Fourthly, there is a concern amongst human rights
workers for the future, albeit a speculative concern. It has been
noted in several international meetings that the transition from
strong repressive government to weak democratic government, which
is the case for Zimbabwe, can often lead to highly destabilized
situations in which violence increases rather than decreases. Here
we should note carefully the recent events in the Balkans.
Clearly, none of these situations, especially the
last, is desirable in the future, and suggests that, unless a determined
effort is made to redress the wrongs and rehabilitate the survivors,
there are likely to be long-term sequelae from war, destabilization
and human rights violations. At the societal level there is the
need for action.
E.RELEVANCE TO MATABELELAND AND THE MIDLANDS
There are several conclusions that emerge from the
reports on the violence in the 1980s. The first has to do with the
way in which the violence developed. As was seen earlier, there
was a massive escalation in violence in the early years (1982-1984),
with a marked decline in violence subsequently. This is very different
to the violence seen during the Second Chimurenga, where the violence
began at low levels and then increased over the years to reach the
highest levels before the end of the war in 1980. It is fair to
conclude that the violence in the 1980s was of an epidemic nature
in which there was very widespread exposure to violence for many
There is a significant group of individuals, not
fewer than 7 000, for whom active help may be needed now, and it
is very probable that the total number is much higher. There are
hospital records describing some of the injuries in the 1980s and
their consequences, supporting the general assumption of epidemic
violence made above. We should bear in mind here the findings from
other settings and countries, which mostly suggest the dose-response
effect - that there is an association between high levels of violence
and the frequency and severity of disorders due to violence. There
is an urgent need to investigate the current status of victims.
The findings of this report give much cause for concern. However,
until it is possible to establish the numbers of people affected,
the frequency and severity of the injuries sustained, and the range
of long-term effects, all conclusions must be tentative. It is probable
that the numbers of survivors is much higher than this study has
indicated, and some epidemiological study is called for in the likely
debate over numbers affected.
Torture and ill-treatment are the most common experiences
reported, and these have severe long-term effects. Given that beatings
were the most common experiences reported, there must be concern
for the extent of the physical damage to the survivors, and this
will require detailed medical examination by doctors and physiotherapists.
Similarly, psychological disorders are also likely to be common,
and we would expect PTSD, Depression, and Somatization Disorders
to be among the most common if the studies from other Zimbabwean
settings are anything to go by. There has also clearly been a very
high rate of witnessed violence in affected parts of the country,
particularly in 1983 and 1984.
Thus, the possible effects - individual, familial,
and community - are serious indeed. There are those living now in
our country that have been tortured, watched others being tortured
too, seen deaths by execution, and even had a close family relative
abducted, never to be seen again. It also pertinent to observe the
very real poverty of many of these survivors, and to remember the
findings on property loss. The general air of economic stress scarcely
provides a climate for healing and rehabilitation, and may, worse
than this, be a source of continued trauma, or what one South African
worker has termed "continuous traumatic stress" (Straker.1987).
There is very little in the reports of the survivors
that is surprising or unusual, and very little that is not found
in other settings in Zimbabwe, or even in other countries. There
is little reason to expect that the findings from this investigation
will be any different to previous findings. The survivors of Gukurahundi
will show physical and psychological injuries and disorders, and
will probably have little faith in these being addressed, given
it is the same government that inflicted the injuries that they
must go to for help. As one Chilean worker has expressed this dilemma:
"... how can we continue to help to relieve others of their
sorrow and liberate them from the sufferings of grief if society
keeps shutting the door on truth and full redress? Is it at all
possible to imagine peace of mind for a person if you force him/her
completely to give up any hope of finding out the whereabouts of
a son, a spouse, the most beloved? How do we succeed in making a
survivor of cruel and inhuman torture feel completely rehabilitated
if this society continues to disgrace the survivor and lets the
torturer go unpunished?"
Perhaps Zimbabwe can be different to Chile, and
perhaps it will not take another 10 years before we heal the wounds
and assuage the grief. The task will be difficult, but not impossible
without the will and commitment to change the future by acknowledging