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Home | ZimCrisis#62 -- Another Letter from Zimbabwe

Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 02:46:50 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#62 -- Another Letter from Zimbabwe
Cc: "Australian government":;, "British government":;,
"Canadian government":
;, "South African government":;,
"US government":;, Commonwealth:;, "NG organisations":;,
"African press":;, "Foreign press":;

Hi everyone,

This is a little dated in that it is a response to Don McKinnon's (the Commonwealth Secretary General) assertion some time ago that "free and fair" elections were possible in Zimbabwe. However, other than that reference in the first paragraph, the rest is as current now as it was several weeks ago. The author's identity has been protected, as he still lives in Zimbabwe and hopes to remain alive.


Dear Mr McKinnon,

I see and hear that following your meeting with Zimbabwe's President Mugabe, you said that it is possible to hold free and fair elections in Zimbabwe in June 2000. Perhaps you were misquoted, perhaps it was political diplomatic double-speak, perhaps it was naivete and then again, perhaps you know the reality but dare not speak it publicly.

Last week I worked with 15 engineers, who are employed by Rural District Councils throughout Zimbabwe in places like Chipinge, Chimanimani, Murewa, Pfura, and Beit Bridge. They read your comments as reported in the local newspaper and most of them just laughed. One didn't. He told me that he was standing for election in the forthcoming elections. "For which party?" I asked. "Which one do you think?" he asked me in return. I waited for him to answer his own question. "For the MDC of course," he told me, and the group. A short discussion on the current state of affairs ensued. "If I have to die," said this engineer, "then I have to die, but we have to create a better future for our children and I cannot sit by and watch the destruction of our country any longer." His views sum up the views of most educated professionals in Zimbabwe today, although most are unlikely to be ready to die for their cause.

I think it might help you and your Commonwealth colleagues if you are made aware of the events of 1979-80 and the supposedly "free and fair elections" held in this country in 1980 from someone who was there and witnessed the process from close quarters. During the latter part of 1979 and early 1980, I was the Staff Officer (Operations) to the then Commissioner Of Police, Mr P K Allum. Despite the high sounding title, I was a relative pawn in the hierarchy at Police General Headquarters, reporting directly to the Chief Staff Officer (Operations) the late Senior Assistant Commissioner Ron Gardner.

With the agreement reached at Lancaster House, the details of which I guess you know better than I, an interim governor in Lord Soames arrived in what was then Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. An entourage of people, including British policemen and election monitors, followed him. Their purpose was to oversee the cease fire and the elections that were to follow. Amongst Lord Soames team of advisors was Sir James Haughton, a retired Chief Constable of, I think, Manchester Police. Sir James was Police Advisor to Lord Soames. Over the weeks and months that Sir James was here I saw him everyday, Saturdays and Sundays included. As part of my job, I used to help Mr Gardner brief Sir James on the previous 24 hours security force and guerrilla activity throughout the country. It was my job to analyse the daily "sitreps" (situation reports) and prepare the briefing for Sir James. Then Mr Gardner and I would meet with Sir James, who always arrived promptly at 9am. While Mr Gardner carried out the briefing I would identify the location of each incident on the map and supplement the odd comment.

In Feb 1980 Mr Gardner went away for ten days and I briefed Sir James myself. Between the two of us there was a lowering of the authority gap and I could talk to Sir James as one man to another. We discussed openly the wholesale intimidation that was taking place throughout the country and was perpetrated by ZANLA/ZANU-PF guerrillas. To put this all into perspective a summary of events is necessary.

When the cease-fire was negotiated it was agreed that guerrillas would surrender themselves to British authorities in charge of what was referred to as "Assembly Points." This they did in a few short days but within days if not hours of surrendering the guerrillas were replaced in Assembly Points by "mujibas". A "mujiba" was the name of a youth collaborator who was not trained in guerrilla warfare but who acted as the eyes and ears of the guerrillas in the rural areas. The guerrillas themselves moved out of the assembly points back into the areas in which they had been operating prior to the cease-fire.

Now of course, guerrillas who had not been operating inside Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, but had been waiting to infiltrate from Mozambique and Zambia swelled their numbers. Once back in their areas of previous operation, they continued their campaign of terror to intimidate the rural folk. The primary election strategy was to tell them that if they did not vote for Mugabe, the war would continue. This threat inspired genuine fear for a number of reasons. The first was that in 1978 when Ian Smith and Abel Muzorewa reached an internal settlement, Muzorewa promised as part of his election campaign that, if elected, he would stop the war. He didn't of course. The war escalated in intensity after his election. The second reason was that it was not white Rhodesians who really suffered during the guerrilla war; it was the black people of the country. Hundreds of black people were murdered every month of the war, their murder being demonstration of what would happen to everyone else who did not support the guerrilla movement. The threat of this continuing was clearly sufficient motive to vote for its end. To support this threat, guerrillas carried out further murders and acts of atrocity on the black people of the country during the time of the cease-fire -- it was a cease fire for the government forces but not for the guerrillas and the civilian population.

On one of the days that I briefed Sir James, an incident of the previous day had been the assault of two young black girls in Murewa. They were suspected of being sympathisers of Abel Muzorewa. To teach them a lesson these two girls had burning pieces of wood thrust into their vaginas while their relatives were forced to watch the proceedings. This exemplifies the methods used to intimidate the people. Imagine having to watch this procedure being perpetrated on your child.

I remember appealing to Sir James to persuade the Governor to declare large swathes of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia to be "proscribed" in terms of the Lancaster House agreement and thus barred from taking part in the forthcoming vote. He spoke to me with feeling and said that no matter how many murders and atrocities were carried out, no matter how rife the intimidation, the Governor would not proscribe one single area or piece of the country. It was, so he said, essential to the end result that nothing should prejudice the continued involvement of Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

On the night before the election results of 1980 were announced I was a member of a Police SWAT team. Our team and all the other SWAT teams in the city were all called to Cranborne Police Hostel in the south of the city. We were briefed around 5pm and told that ZANU PF had won the elections by a large majority and that the British monitors, Lord Soames et al, had declared the process "free and fair." Our job was to patrol the city from 8am the following day until we were stood down, which would only be whenever it was perceived to be safe to do so. We could expect to work endlessly if there was anarchy, or the threat of it.

That night the team sat on the grass next to our vehicle and postulated the possible scenario that tomorrow would bring. We were fearful for our families if not for ourselves. We agreed that we would all visit our families at 7am. and return to start work at 8am. Later that night I listened to the sound of Hercules aircraft taking off from New Sarum airport as the British monitors and peace keepers fled the country, leaving us, the people who lived here, to resolve our future one way or another. It was a lonely feeling listening to these aircraft departing one by one. For several hours the drone of aeroplane engines at full throttle continued and then there was nothing. I slept fitfully, waking up and hoping I was dreaming but finding that I wasn't -- this was for real.

Zimbabwe was saved from total anarchy on that occasion by two factors; the one was that Julius Nenyere of Tanzania had persuaded a younger Mugabe that it was in his best (short term) interests to keep the white community to run commerce, industry and agriculture to ensure the retention of a vibrant economy. The other was a disciplined police force and army who had been brought up on the premise that they should serve the elected government of the day.

In 1983-86 Mugabe, stung by the rejection of his desire for a "one party state" by the Matabeles, adopted his ethnic cleansing programme in Matabeleland. Once again the country was plunged into anarchy to satisfy the personal power of one man. In those days in Zimbabwe there was no independent press. There was no television crews from the BBC. There were no satellite communication systems, no e-mail and no World Wide Web. What was happening was kept quiet and in any event, no one outside Zimbabwe cared, after all, in the eyes of the West it was only blacks killing other blacks.

Eventually the Matabeles capitulated through Joshua Nkomo, who became a well paid Government figurehead. Now in 2000 the people, not the white people, but the black people of this country -- have demonstrated their concern for the rambling economic mess that we are in. They want change. They want Mugabe to go. They want new blood to govern this country. Mugabe is adopting the same murderous tactics he adopted in 1979-80 and in 1883-86 in an effort to retain his power.

The temptation and the pressures will be enormous for you and the Commonwealth to walk away from this latest election farce in the same manner as the British did in 1980, "justified" that you have done your job, but 11 million Zimbabweans have to stay here. Don't believe for a moment that there will be "free and fair" elections. Ask any Zimbabwean -- black or white what he thinks of the prospect. There is an orgy of terror and violence taking place in this country right now. No one is safe. Every one is frightened to a greater or lesser degree.

Two black supporters of the MDC opposition party were petrol bombed to their death allegedly in full view of the police -- who did nothing. One white farmer was abducted from a police station and murdered. The police did nothing. Another farmer in Matabeleland was murdered while the police did nothing. It is rumoured that soldiers from the Zimbabwe National Army's Presidential Guard murdered the Matabele farmer. Four black members of the MDC were beaten to death in Kariba while the police stood by.

All in all, some 30 people have been murdered to date. Only one arrest has reportedly been made -- that being the murderer of a police officer. Scores of other atrocities and beatings have been carried out and others are being perpetrated as I write. The police have done nothing. Don't try to pretend that the election process was free and fair for the sake of political expediency. Don't be like Lord Soames and Margaret Thatcher. Don't turn a blind eye to what is happening. Don't be like Neville Chamberlain and proclaim "peace in our time". If you do, all you will be doing is postponing events and creating the opportunity for further bloodshed and for another endless civil war in Africa.

Zimbabwe has a real opportunity to commence the renaissance of Africa. There is a well educated middle class of black people in Zimbabwe who have tasted the effects of government -- sponsored anarchy. They know that it must be stopped. They also know how to stop it. That the renaissance will come is certain. What is not certain is how much more violence we will have to undergo to achieve that end. When you have to make decisions on Zimbabwe, think of the humiliating mutilation of those young black girls in 1980. Think of them as your own children and don't condemn a new generation of young Zimbabweans in 2000 and beyond to a similar fate.

Unfortunately the world outside Zimbabwe thinks that Mugabe's war is only against "thieving white farmers who stole the black man's land". This is a view perpetrated by Mugabe. Regrettably the BBC et al, who seem to care only when a white man is battered or murdered, re-enforce that perception and foist it on the world. Mugabe's war is, and has always been about personal power. He views other people's lives as trivial. It is time for the Commonwealth Forces For Good to stand up -- not for oil, not for gold or other mineral riches, but for people -- and this time before it's too late.

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