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Britain behind Gukurahundi massacres

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A former Zimbabwean freedom fighter who, himself, was a victim of Gukurahundi says Britain and not South Africa was behind the 1980s massacres that left nearly 30 000 innocent civilians from Matabeleland and the Midlands dead. Douglas Moyo* says South Africa was just a front. Britain was the brains behind the massacres. All it wanted was to stall land redistribution which was only implemented 20 years after independence but with devastating consequences.  President Robert Mugabe’s government was forced to “grab” land from mostly white commercial farmers in 2000 but was immediately slapped with sanctions and international isolation.  The country plunged from an agricultural and economic powerhouse to a basket case. Nearly a third of its population fled the country. Inflation soared, and now stands at a record 3 700 percent, the highest in the world.   Moyo, a former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) cadre, who was integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army and was attested to 1:2 Brigade, says he was picked up from his hospital bed at Mpilo on 11 February 1982 soon after the discovery of arms caches on properties owned by the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) around Bulawayo.  Several other high ranking ZAPU officials including the ZIPRA intelligence chief, Dumiso Dabengwa, had already been arrested. Moyo, who was based at Ntabazinduna, had been involved in a car accident and was recuperating at the central hospital. He says he was whisked to Stops Camp in Bulawayo where he was initially detained before being shunted to Esigodini and finally to the dungeons at Goromonzi where he spent two years. No one knew that he had been detained or where he was. Not even his fiancée. He was never charged and was equally never officially released. He was just dumped outside the bus rank along Batsch Street on 21 November 1984. After finding his way home, he discovered that he had been saved by a white police officer whom he only remembers as Inspector Roberts. Roberts had learnt that Moyo was being detained at Goromonzi and had informed his fiancée who in turn sought help from Bulawayo lawyer, advocate Kennedy Sibanda, who was later to become a High Court Judge. There was another tragedy. Security forces had killed his grandfather while he was in detention. They were allegedly looking for him and wanted his grandfather to tell them where he was. Moyo, now a staunch member of the war veterans association which has propped President Robert Mugabe since the land invasions, says it is a delusion to think that South African was behind Gukurahundi.  Several writers have claimed that South Africa was involved in destablising its northern neighbours to prolong its apartheid rule. According to: Breaking the Silence: a report on the disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands from 1980 to 1998, compiled by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace together with the Legal Resources Foundation, South African intervention in Zimbabwe was two-fold. It consisted of the systematic misinformation to the government, and also military attacks on the government and on the country’s infrastructure. The report, which was released 10 years after the disturbances, says the discovery of arms caches which caused the “final rift between ZANU-PF and ZAPU”, was almost certainly engineered by a South African agent, Matt Calloway.  Calloway was a head of a branch of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) at the time the arms were stockpiled but later defected to South Africa. Moyo, who trained in military intelligence in East German specialising in reconnaissance and urban guerrilla warfare, said South Africa was just used as a front for western imperialism. If it were behind the disturbances why were they concentrated in Tsholotsho, Lupane and Nkayi and not in Plumtree, Beitbridge and Chiredzi which are closer to its border? he queried. “The only country that had a reason to destabilise Zimbabwe was Britain.  The war was not political. It was about who controlled the country’s wealth,” he said.  “Britain relinquished power without a fight in Zambia, Malawi and Botswana because the people there were fighting more for political independence. The issue was different in Zimbabwe. People were fighting for the equitable distribution of the country’s wealth. Their struggle was centred on land, hence their slogan mwana wevhu- son of the soil.” Britain had never wanted to surrender power to a black government in Zimbabwe because it had invested heavily in the country. Most of the talks aimed at a settlement from the time the then Rhodesian government declared unilateral independence were just meant to hoodwink the black nationalists that it was doing something when it actually sympathised with the Rhodesian government as it protected its investments. It even turned a blind eye as British oil companies busted sanctions to keep the Rhodesian economy going. Moyo said at Lancaster House, where the agreement that ushered Zimbabwe’s independence was panel beaten, Britain tried to avoid the land issue by all means and put pressure on Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique to force the liberation movements, ZAPU and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), to sign the agreement which guaranteed whites a stake in the government for a decade, before the land issue had been thrashed out. “After the agreement had been signed, Britain went all out to erase the fact that the liberation movements had won a military victory. It called for the integration of the liberation fighters into a new army that was dominated by the former Rhodesian soldiers. That army was retrained by the British Military Advisory Team (BMAT). The aim was to turn political soldiers to regular men who would merely follow orders which was totally against what they had been trained to do: to make sure land was equitably redistributed as this was the main reason why most had gone to war.” Despite its victory as Lancaster, Moyo says Britain was disappointed when the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe set up a government of national unity. Though it included some whites, it had taken in top ZAPU leaders and this meant that with a united front it only had 10 years to deliver land. It had to find a way to stop this. With most newly independent African states entering into conflicts soon after the British surrendered power, Britain decided to start one in Zimbabwe. It could not start a political war because ZAPU and ZANU were already working together. So it engineered a tribal war.   Moyo says it started by frustrating ZIPRA cadres, but mainly the Ndebele-speaking ones. Clashes broke out between members of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and those of ZIPRA. The British slowly steered the clashes away from a political war to a tribal war pitting the Shona against the Ndebele. “It is a fallacy to say Gukurahundi was a clash between ZAPU and ZANU. If it was, why was the fighting confined to Matabeleland and only the Ndebele speaking areas of the Midlands?” Moyo argues. “People forget that ZAPU was a national party. Its top leaders were from all over Zimbabwe. We had people like Josiah Chinamano, Marange, Nyashanu, Chinamasa, and Madzimbamuto, just to name a few but there were no clashes in Mashonaland, Manicaland or Masvingo. Why?  Because the British did not want a conflict between ZAPU and ZANU. They wanted a tribal war, because as long as the war was seen to be tribal, it would not end.” While Moyo’s argument seems to be purely hypothetical, it seems to be backed by reports that the CIO was responsible for igniting Gukurahundi. The difference between Moyo’s theory and the widely accepted argument is that while most analysts including Breaking the Silence say Calloway was responsible for igniting the conflict, Moyo says the British intelligence agency, MI6, was. Its man was Calloway’s boss, Ken Flower, head of the CIO. Flower was appointed head of CIO in 1963 after the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (a federation of what is now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi). He had been deputy police commissioner for Rhodesia.   An entry in Wikipedia says “astonishingly Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was content to keep Ken Flower in the role of head of CIO after majority rule in 1980, when the country’s name changed to Zimbabwe”. It adds: “This was seen by some commentators as proof that Flower had worked covertly and intermittently with the British intelligence services to undermine Ian Smith’s government, and was in sharp contrast to the treatment of General Peter Walls, chief of the Rhodesian Armed Forces, who was exiled and deprived of Zimbabwean citizenship in 1980.” British scientist and friend of Ian Smith, Dr Kitty Little, who had a keen interest in the Lancaster House talks and went there to meet Smith, is reported to have insisted that Flower was, or had been, a member of Britain's intelligence section, MI6.  She said that Ken Flower might qualify for the Guinness Book of Records as the “doublest of double agents”!  While head of Rhodesian intelligence, she said, Flower also worked for MI6, the KGB, East European intelligence, the CIA, and a number of African intelligence networks. He reportedly worked with the "D" group of MI6 operatives who “did nasty things and had them blamed on Ian Smith".  In his autobiography Serving Secretly, Flower says when he took up the post of head of CIO he felt it was essential to study intelligence systems elsewhere in the world and decided to start with Britain. He says he learnt a lot about how the “gamekeepers (MI5) and the poachers (MI6)” worked, but he also states that at the Lancaster House conference he got more information from the Foreign office than from British intelligence. On South Africa’s involvement in instigating Gukurahundi, Flower says initially he thought they would not but he was wrong. He says he had constantly told Mugabe that South Africa “would not be so stupid or so short-sighted” to pursue a policy of destablisation on Zimbabwe. “How wrong I was!” he says. “What could anyone like myself do to help whilst South Africans believe that they must ensure the failure of black government because this confirms the superiority of white government.” Obviously Flower would never have admitted that he instigated the massacres. But if he did nasty things and had them blamed on Smith, he could equally have done nasty things and have them blamed on South Africa. After all he too wanted to ensure the failure of a black government when he formed the Mozambiquan National Resistance Movement to fight against Samora Machel. Flower admits that he worked with South Africans while he was head of CIO and continued to work with them after retiring. He says Mugabe retained his services because while he was adamant that no black member of his government should associate with South Africa’s white regime, he “saw practical advantages in continuing the association via a white like myself.” Moyo says British complicity in instigating Gukurahundi is also exposed in the selective manner in which they apportioned blame for the massacres. Britain distanced itself and those closely associated with it from the killings. Blame was heaped on the CIO and Five Brigade yet Five Brigade was deployed more than a year after the disturbances and was withdrawn before they ended. Though it was responsible for the bulk of the killings, the role of the Police Support Unit and other army units is played down, perhaps because most of the army units were retrained by the British while Five Brigade was trained by North Koreans. Most of the blame for the atrocities was heaped on State Security Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and head of Five Brigade, Perence Shiri, but there was little or no mention of Minister of State for Defence, Sidney Sekeremayi, or the commander of the army, Rex Nhongo who later changed his name to Solomon Mujuru. Moyo believes this was deliberate. Ken Flower admits in his book that Mnangagwa had given him full control of the CIO.  Moyo also says though nearly 30 000 people were killed during the massacres, including six white tourists some of whom were British and 16 missionaries who were butchered to death, there was no outcry from the British. At least they were not as outraged as they were during the “land grab” of 2000 onwards yet only 11 white farmers were killed over a period. Instead, Mugabe was showered with awards by the West.  He was awarded 13 honorary doctorate degrees three of them by United States universities and two by British ones. He was awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership for Sustainable End of Hunger and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. He chaired the World Solar Summit, the Commonwealth for three years, the G15 and was even awarded the Olympic Order of Gold for his contribution to Olympic ideals.  He was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II. This entitled him to use the postnominal letters KCB, but not the title "Sir." Incidentally all this happen before Mugabe started threatening to take over land from the whites, which he started in 1997 with the listing of more than 1 500 commercial farms. “No one raised an eyebrow or the issue of human rights during the massacres because British interests were not affected,” Moyo says.  *The name of the freedom fighter has been changed to protect his identity.  
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Rukuni is currently the Bulawayo Bureau chief of the Financial Gazette , a weekly paper. He has freelanced extensively for The Voice (South Africa), Gemini News Service (London) , Africa Magazine (London), The Daily Nation (Kenya), Radio (more...)
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