Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Gukurahundi Massacres: How it all began (Part 1)

When Robert Mugabe assumed office as the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980, he was faced with the task of uniting a country which had been subjected to 90 years of increasingly repressive, racist rule.

The key men behind the Gukurahundi Massacres: Robert Mugabe (President), Emmerson Mnangagwa (then State Security Minister) and Perrence Shiri (then commander of the 5th Brigade).
The key men behind the Gukurahundi Massacres: Robert Mugabe (President), Emmerson Mnangagwa (then State Security Minister) and Perrence Shiri (then commander of the 5th Brigade).

There had also been over a decade of escalating military activity, which had served not only to accelerate the process of liberating the majority, but also to create some divisions within it.

In addition, the new Zimbabwe had a powerful and hostile neighbour, South Africa. It was obvious that integrating a community that had serious divisions within itself would be no easy task.

Mugabe himself had long been an assassination target, and attempts on his life continued. He escaped an attempt on his life near Masvingo during the election campaign. He and others narrowly escaped a “Rhodesian” assassination attempt planned to coincide with Independence Day in 1980.

In December 1981 South African agents attempted to kill him by blowing up the new ZANU-PF headquarters, and in July 1982 there was yet another abortive attempt on his life, involving exZIPRA combatants, when shots were fired at his residence in Harare.

In addition, there were sporadic outbreaks of violence emanating from the guerrilla assembly points (APs) countrywide. Such outbreaks began before Independence and continued throughout the early 1980s.

This violence was committed by both ZANLA and ZIPRA ex-combatants, sometimes against civilians and quite often against each other: the causes of this were complex.

The net result of the unstable situation was that by early 1982, Zimbabwe had serious security problems in various parts of the country, particularly in the western half. Bands of “dissidents” were killing civilians and destroying property.

The Government responded with a massive security clampdown on Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands. What is apparent in retrospect and will be shown in this report is that there were two overlapping “conflicts” going on in Matabeleland. The first conflict was between the dissidents and Government defence units, which included 4 Brigade, 6 Brigade, the Paratroopers, the CIO and the Police Support Unit.

The second conflict involved Government agencies and all those who were thought to support ZAPU. This was carried out mainly against unarmed civilians in those rural areas which traditionally supported ZAPU; it was also at times carried out against ZAPU supporters in urban areas.

The Government agencies which were engaged in this second conflict were primarily 5 Brigade, the CIO, PISI and the ZANU-PF Youth Brigades, as shown in this report. These units committed many human rights violations, which compounded the plight of civilians who were once more caught in the middle of a problem not of their own making.

The Government’s attitude was that the two conflicts were one and the same, and that to support ZAPU was the same as to support dissidents. Rural civilians, the ZAPU leadership and the dissidents themselves all denied and continue to deny this allegation.

Whatever the ultimate truth on that issue, it is indisputable that thousands of unarmed civilians died, were beaten, or suffered loss of property during the 1980s, some at the hands of dissidents and most as a result of the actions of Government agencies.

Gukurahundi Massacres: Zanla-Zipra antagonism (Part 2)

Taken from a report on the 1980’s disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands. Compiled by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, March 1997.

  • Mugabe,Mnangagwa,Shiri are all killers.The bastards leave no stone unturned when it’s a game of power.They must be jailed!!

    • Anonymous

      mugabe ,shiri and munangagwa what they did was for the best of the nation.lmgine kuti muno muine triabal war like what happened in rwanda hutu and tutsi,they united the nation.if people fail to learn the easy way teach them the hard way zapu was taught the hard way for they wanted to cause devision in the nation after a long time of war against whites.after all there forefather sold the nation lobengula.about gukura hunde people nyararai haina kutangira pamuri kufungira.but lets we forget bicoz peace is what we have and we are united shona and ndebele

      • notanidiot

        unopenga here. are you kidding me. are you seriously saying zwakaitika mugukurahundi was right?? you can’t say let’s move on from the past and then bring up lobengula. they were going to take the country whether he signed it or not, you stupid moron. so you think if he refused to put the x that he put they would’ve said; “oh ok. you can keep your country. we’ll just move on to the next one.” you’re the dumbest person i’ve ever come across. no wonder u remained anonymous.
        there wasn’t gonna be a tribal war. gukurahundi is exactly the same as what happened in rwanda. except the people were being attacked by both sides. and no! genocide never was and can never be for the best of the nation. people like you make me want to vomit.

        • The seer

          How would you have solved the issue at the time “notanidiot” musaite pfungwa dzinoperera mudhuze

    • Baba Fungie
  • When u have a zero don’t debate keep quit (hapana – hapana )

  • Joe Rug hauna nyaya

  • mwanawakanyidumbu

    Kuzalithola lani bobhoyi

  • Monk

    Frankly my view is this this Gukurahundi issue has been abused and it will only serve negatively to the unity of the people of Zimbabwe. I think its only a few very self-minded Zimbabweans who are agreesively persuing this and in turn who want a regional split in national politics. To what effect will this have influence in the recoery of Zimbabwe? I was saddened to hear a very small child talk of this issue and they are grown man and women who still trump around and try to either glorify or sensationalize the issue. Its a sad indication of the level of political amturity and integration will among zimbabweans. Frankly i don’t give a S***t about past issues, people should just forgive each other, unite and build our country not dwelling on what cames first chicken and egg, who caused what etc….

    • christie sadie bella

      in order to forgive the one who wronged must be sorry and not try and bury people in misfounded lies….we cannot build a country from lies

    • Percy Mutabaruka

      The axe tends to forget but the stumped tree still has fresh memories. Have you ever been commanded to bury your parents alive? have you ever been told to lie on your stomach and melting plastic being dropped on your back? By the way did it affect you my brother? When i hear Gukurahundi or see Mugabe and his allies…#tearsfall# its saddening my friend…I cant even talk because of the pain inflicted in me during that era

  • simbimubako!

    I’m with yu all the way, although to bury the issue wuld be to overkill it, but I agree that this issue is being serialized by people with negetive designs on our country, we won’t gain anything by accussing each other of killings but if we can but not certainly now, we shuld sit talk openly and frankly about what happened, we apologise to each other and we move forward.

  • KRS 1



  • Monk

    @ Simbimubako and KRS1, i am in total agreement, this is the kind of nonsense that leads to no development of a country, i am actually proud to be Zimbabwean because if you look around, there have been wars, strikes, etc all emanating from such trivial stupidities. Its funny towards elections this nonsense is dug up and splashed across. The sad thing though is that ultimately its the politically gullible who will fall for this age old trick and vote for pea brained buffons who want to manipulate the general polulace for their gains. One glaring thing that us as Africans have failed to see is that we are always divided by our ethnic backgrounds, promise of gains etc. In countries where this nonsense is promoted, there is always wars, strife etc. If you look at the developed countries, there are plenty ethnic groups, groups who at one point or the other warred on each other but they have gone beyond that and have mastered true democracy. Whats is the difference between a person who refers to a mouse as “Mbeva” or “Igundwani”? Will the language change the mouse? Yes, i agree with KRS1, there should be positive and constructive journalism……[email protected] Joe Rug, go and get an education, it was free at some point here….

  • anonymosy

    Guys u may think that this issue is nw water under the bridge but the truth is that this issue needs to revisited time and again becoz i’ts their historical blunder and it needs to be readressed,How can dignîfied prsn lyk him describes that massacres as “a moment of madnes” i’ts to know where we ur coming frm,where we are and were we are going

    • christie sadie bella

      i agree let people be honest first……..

  • rasta

    there is nothing divisive about asking those who commited these atrocious acts to account for their own actions.Its tantamount to a claer misdirection by non direction for one to say just leave the issue in pursuit of so called national unity,these politicians need to know that they cannot pursue power at all cost even at the expense of human lives.Moreso it is apparent that the dissident problem was abused by zanu pf to settle political scores by butchering perceived political enemies and there is evidence to the effect that the notorious fifth brigade was composed of zanu pf loyalist and hence was a political army that settled political scores and hence to dissmiss the matter is iil conceived and a perfect recipe for national disunity

    • Anonymous

      The government of that time set a bad precedent. The Gukurahundi issue cannot be swept under the carpet just like that. There is no human being on earth who has the uttermost right to take another man’s life. The perpetrators MUST be brought to book before we talk of forging foward. That madness left a lot of deep wounds that need to be healed. Innocent lives were lost. Orphans were created. We may talk, waffle, hullabaloo but the cock shall come to roost.

      • Anonymous


  • mabhosida

    in as much as people would blame Bob and his man(mnangagwa and shiri) we should also consider the part played by JoshuA Nkomo. Although i do respect the man as a politician i do think that he somehow made an error himself. It is a fact that uNkomo told abantu that they should not retaliate,why did he give such an instruction yet he knew thAt there was no such thing calleD amadissidents.Look Bob and his man come and shit on us and what do we do,we fold hands only to cry foul later.ZANU and ZANU made equal contributions in the struggle so how then did ZAPU suddenly become dissidents….Mugabe was power hungry and he had to find means of power by EITHER BY hook or crook.One way or the other those who pepetrated Gukurahundi should be brought to book,u cnt just commit a crime then walk scot free.NO JUSTICE MUST BE DONE……

  • william muwomba

    It is the duty of the government of the day to take overwhelming and decisive action especially against armed and militarily trained dissidents and although looking in retrospective,one would say that the government was a bit too heavy handed in its unselective manner in which they dealt with the issue, one should also understand that such decisions were made”IN THE HEAT OF THE MOMENT” and we were coming out of a bloody war where very unpleasent things had happened not only against the Smith regime but the liberation forces as well notably ZANLA and ZIPRA.Once again looking back with sober heads,it would have been done differently and in many different ways and unfortunately what the government did was one of the ways and unfortunately we are only looking at the negatives ignoring the fact that the dissident issue was dealt with once and for all otherwise we will be in the same situation as the great lakes region where dissidents are more powerfull than government and suffering of civilians is endless.Apologies for the mistakes that where made but a very strong arm was needed.Its my personal opinion fellow citizens.

    • Anonymous

      William, are you saying that the killing of those innocent unarmed people in Midlands and Matebeleland was a brilliant idea?

    • topido

      if i’m nt mistaken ,e conflict must b dealt w @ infant stage cz if it allowed 2 grow é gvt myt b in trouble lyc in North Africa(Great Lakes Region)..Nw in Sudan ,Nigeria, DRC…ther/ar thousands o graves as é gvts ar overpowered by rebels… UN is failing on ‘R2P’, so i dnt see much bad… I agree w u Willie.

  • Brighton Siwela

    really i think it was a job well done..Zim is not like DRC.

  • iinkwenkwezi

    Mr editor can I have this whole series in printable version Thank you in advance,

  • william muwomba

    Anonymas,killing people was not ” a brilliant idea”but collateral damage of the conflict which I said looking back with sobber minds(becoz we are in a period of peace)we regret and apologise but if history is anything that we have to take seriously, any country with a weak government and most notably its army,civilian suffering is endless eg the great lakes region.Who knows if the government did not do what it did then we would not be looking back with sobber minds becoz we could still be in the same mess now and by now it could be an Afganstan with a warlord every hilltop.IT HAD TO BE STOPPED AND IT WAS.Anonymas people are cowards becoz they are not able to stand by there opinions and I do not think you could have made a better decision than what Mugabe did then.He has balls.And let me tell you now,I am not prepared to be led by a weak president.

    • notanidiot

      you’re stupid. they were not eliminating dissidents, they were torturing and murdering innocent civilians. thousands of civilians were killed but the dissidents reached max of 200. the worst is that the perpetrators are still alive and we’ve done nothing to bring them to justice. a wound that isn’t cleaned will never heal, it will fester until it rots the flesh.

      • yowe

        do not rewrite history…I do not support what was done but also do not act as if Zapu was innocent. This issue has been twisted so much that a few people actually remember or have the guts to acknowledge exactly what happened to lead to those atroscious acts….Zapu especially Nkomo made grave mistakes that started this

  • william muwomba

    Mr or Mrs notanidiot,you spelt your name wrongly,eliminate the first N.O.T ok?The reason the 5th Brigade moved in in the first place was because dissidents were torturing and murdering innocent civilians and destroying property.SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE.The 5th Brigade moved in to protect innocent civilians but remember that not all civilians were innocent because for those 200 dissidents(remember its your number not mine)to operate they were being fed and protected by so called “innocent civilians” and the 5th brigade had to figure out the difference between innocent civilians and “innocent civilians” on their own and now thats when the torturing and murdering of civilians occured(pardon me for borrowing your phrase) when in fact they were looking for “innocent civilians”in a haystack remember.Human life is sacred and the killing of civilians was wrong and I 100% do not agree with that part but difficult choices had to be made some less favorable than others but the means needed to justify the end and the dissident issue was resolved.The president has apologised but most people dis agree with his choice of words,do you want him to kneel down?

    • PissedOff

      William,it is such flawed thinking that characterised the 5th brigade.If you could not conceptualize another method of weeding out the “dissidents”, it only goes to show the kind of training the 5th brigade received,sub-standard as only the North Koreans and Chinese can.The Gukurahundi is a national issue that has been trashed and trivilaised by the majority of people who are either complicity in the commission of said crimes, or just ignorant people that feel the issue is too distant before them.If you feel the Gukurahundi is a trivial issue, please SHUT THE FUCK UP, and let us who were personally affected talk about it.

      • yowe

        i was also personally affected but I am mature enough to state that this issue is being twisted for political and tribalistic purposes.The facts of what happened are being ignored and emotions are clouding reason. Why did Zapu accept training and weapons from Boer Secret police??? What was their intended end game?

  • Love Joe

    Why are some minority Ndebeles possessed by the Gukurahundi issue only and not include the Smith regime atrocities. To hell with them. what we want is peace in the Country.

    • christie sadie bella

      you cannot expect people to pretend their husbands,children and neighbours werent killed but at the same time the issue must be buried and people must move on like the christian country zimbabwe is…once we work on lies then the hatred between people will loom over everyone forever

  • Pinkys

    To hell with you love Joy,you must be a witch,if it was one of your own affected by this Gugurahundi you wouldn’t be singing the same tune.And wena William those civillians killed were suppose to be arrested,tried then convicted not to be butchered like dogs.mnnnnxxxx linyanyisa sometimes,you don’t jus kill some1 by assuming he/she is guilty ukuthhi wena uwubani under the sun,every1 has a right to stand. atrial in the Court of law.if it was ok uMugabe wenu uXolisani???

    • william muwomba

      Pinkys,there is no functioning court (IN A STATE OF WAR).

      • WarMyAss

        Lies as can only be peddled by a Zanu Pf dog, no functioning court is a state of war.What war?you call an armed group butchering innocent civilians a war?

  • makuhwa

    A point of correction. 6 Brigade was formed in the winter of 1986 and the recruitment was done at a place called Guinea-fowl in Gweru. Their first deployment after their 6 months training was Mozambique. So 6 Brigade was not involved in this.

    Now back to the issue in point, I think we need to deal with this for as long as it takes and find a lasting solution of solving this problem. We can talk about what happened, what caused what and what could have been done but for as long as we don’t talk about what should be done or what needs to be done, we remain in a situation of civil cold war. People were affected by this, so I personally think we should let them vent their their anger, we should let them decide freely what they think is a reasonable way forward without victimizing the victims. Isusu maShona we should not try to defend the indefensible. I think we should co-operate and then, and only then when this problem is solved, we can then live peacefully with our brothers and sisters side by side. I know not everybody will agree with this, but we are all entitled to our opinions. Kungofungawo kwanguwo.

  • zvikomborero kapuya

    when the situation in a state is not straight and needs to be adjusted, TERROR becomes a necessary evil. I applaud mudhara for such an action because if it wasnt for that, zimbabwe could have been like South Africa in as much as violence is concerned. THUMBS UP GUSHUNGO

    • Objective

      Hauzivi zvaunotaura/ nyora zviri nani usanyora kanakutaura. Have you read any of the reports on the supposed atrocities? These were written by non partisan well researched writers. Please do not display shallow mindedness on this issue it is very close to peoples hearts. Ko wakauwanepi moyo wakaoma kudayi. In as much as I agree that the dissident issue had to be tackled with agency and decisiveness, it did not require destroying villages and thousands of lives. A professional army could have used better methods

      • Bvoripfocho

        Suppose ure a Professional Army personnel, what methods would you have used

  • nelson ndlovu

    sometimes I wonder, seriously wonder if those bent on committing heinous crimes against humanity ever think about their mortality. it is utter stupidity to think by dying while glued on their seats of power they are unperishable, one day, alive or dead they will be called upon to account. I for one think the only compensation is the self determination of victims.

  • Likhwa Ncube

    NO we cant forget about Gukurahundi and regard it as a thing of the past whilst we still suffer its wounds, as we speak some children are failing to secure birth certificates because their parents were killed during Gukurahundi. since those who were children by then are now grown up which means they now have children of which they cant take birth certificates for them because them as parents they don,t have meaning they have no access to school. So how can we forget such thing and regard it as history whilst we still suffer its wounds???

  • heyy yu forget one man there kkkk MRT pwaaaaaaaa

  • for all the belivers we praise God for forgiveness. Hate is never the answer. #DecoloniseYourLife

  • At least they make mention of the fact that dissidents were there and they were killing

  • maita

    Were these attempts genuine or was to create a situation. Rhodesians would not have missed never to me it was a big lie which we have believed because the guy just wanted a large security entourage. Also on key people why is Nkala not there? ED said he has always been close to RGM so I believe now that he knew what was happening. There was one who when he gave examples of how to deal with dissident supporters he practically showed it by ripping a pregnant woman saying she will give birth to a dissident.

  • until wen do we talk of history instead of focusin on fixin th economy? is th current generation benefitin anythn by arguin bout graves and their history

  • This narrative has a fundamental flaw in declaring that ”Zapu dissidents” were killing civilians thus justifying deployment of the army.

    That is like claiming Inkatha in South Africa would have a strategy of massacring people in Kwazulu Natal – their stronghold!

  • yowe

    its interesting how ZAPU actions leading up to all this are always ignored…South African security agents inflitrated Zapu and armed them to the teeth so that they could carry out attacks on White farmers, Mozambique and the people ( both shona and ndebele) in and around Midlands…. Anyway lets rewrite history