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Mugabe thought he had hit a political bonanza: Nkomo



THE following is a continuation from last week of a letter written by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo (in the picture) to President Robert Mugabe on June 7 1983 condemning the way the then prime minister had treated him

after “discovering” arms that saw the government unleashing the Korean-trained Fifth Brigade on the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces that left 20 000 people dead:



A meeting between us was accordingly held at State House, Bulawayo, early in January 1983. The meeting did not go as well as I had expected because it appeared to me that you were averse to what I discussed with President Banana and Enos Nkala. However, despite that, we agreed between ourselves to form a committee of six, comprising three Zanu and three Zapu representatives.


Although nothing much was achieved at the meeting between us, I believed nonetheless that moves towards an understanding between Zapu and Zanu were making progress.


Yet on Tuesday, the 25th of January (1983), I received information from people who were fleeing from Mbembesi that mass beatings and killings were being perpetrated by young men in camouflage uniforms who were calling themselves the “Fifth Brigade”.


By the 26th of January, the numbers had grown and the information given us was that more people were being brutally beaten and killed by these young men.


On the 27th of January, I decided to take 12 of the people, who had themselves experienced violence at the hands of members of the Fifth Brigade, to Harare so that they may themselves explain to government what in fact was talking place.


When I arrived in Harare, I presented the matter to Comrade Muzenda who, in the absence of the prime minister, was acting prime minister. After I informed him of the situation in Mbembesi, which by that time had spread to Bubi and Tsholotsho, the acting prime minister delegated his Minister of Home Affairs, Herbert Ushewokunze, who had expressed ignorance of these happenings, to go and meet the afflicted people in Highfield.


When Ushewokunze failed to turn up until Friday afternoon, I decided to call a press conference and informed the conference of the mass killings by the Fifth Brigade; by that time the numbers reported killed by the Fifth Brigade had risen to 95.


The following week a government spokesman made much play of the fact that Josiah Gumede; who I had told the conference that I understood by reports from Mbembesi was among those who were killed; but because he had survived his ordeal, the spokesman completely ignored the fact that many more other people were killed, a fact Gumede himself had made known to you and President Banana.


During the first week of February a censure motion was presented to parliament by the chief whip of Zanu PF against Zapu and its leadership because of exposure of the carnage by the Fifth Brigade. Almost every Zanu member who spoke abused and scorned Zapu, and more particularly myself, for having exposed the killings, which now had spread to Nkayi and Lupane.


It was quite evident that Zanu PF had full knowledge of what was happening but was not prepared to intervene or call a halt to those most barbarous actions which the Fifth Brigade, in the name of security, perpetrated against fellow citizens of Zimbabwe in the so-called “curfew” areas.


On Saturday February the 19th, I was prevented from travelling to Prague to attend an executive meeting of the World Peace Council (which your press called Soviet-sponsored) and which was to take place on the 21st and 22nd of that month.


My ticket and passport and those of my three colleagues who were travelling with me were seized by the police when we were arrested. When I was released seven hours later, my three colleagues remained in custody and were later issued with detention orders which remain in force to this day.


On the 19th of February, I was taken to the Bulawayo Charge Office where the police demanded that I make two “warned and cautioned” statements to the effect that they were investigating the possibility that I had committed certain crimes: under the Law and Order Maintenance Act, because they had found on me, two sets of notes containing: (a) a statement I made in parliament in connection with the serious situation in Matabeleland province created by killings and other atrocities, and (b) notes prepared for a meeting I was to have had held with you about the same situation but did not come off.


That they were investigating a possible contravention of the Currency Exchange Control Act because they found on me $300; meant for my wife, but in the packing rush was forgotten in my briefcase.


Later that day, I was called back to the charge office and told that they (the police) had received a telegram from the Harare police to the effect that I should make another “warned and cautioned” statement in reply to a possible charge that the police in Harare were investigating a possible contravention of the Precious Minerals Act in that the police had found emeralds in my Highfield residence when they were searching for arms in that house on the 5th of October 1982.


About three weeks earlier, I had been made to make a “warned and cautioned” statement by the Harare police to the effect that they were investigating a possible breach of the Law and Order Maintenance Act when I addressed a press conference in Harare, in which I had revealed the killings of people in Mbembesi, Bubi and Tsholotsho.


I made those “warned and cautioned” statements denying those possible charges. It was clear to me, as it could be to any responsible person, that these were trumped-up possible charges designed by your government to harass and embarrass me.


Is it reasonable for anybody to believe that possession of a copy of a speech made in parliament and unpublished notes to be used in a meeting with the prime minister could be a breach of the Law and Order Maintenance Act?


Is it reasonable for anyone to believe that I would export from the country $300? To what purpose? Is it reasonable to believe that the so-called possession of emeralds in early October 1982 could still be for investigation by the police in mid-February, 1983? What investigation after four months of physical so-called “possession of emeralds”?


On Sunday the 27th of February 1983, I received a letter from the police informing me that before leaving my house for any place, I should report to the police station. I refused doing this because I had no charge preferred against me, and could not understand why the police should have been so interested in my movements.


About the 1st or the 2nd of March 1983, security forces, including the Fifth Brigade, were deployed in Bulawayo western suburbs and on the 5th of March 1983 my house was raided by the Fifth Brigade. Three people were killed and property, including three cars, were vandalised by the raiders. It was after this act that I realised why the police were interested in my movements.


I then decided to leave the country for the time being as it was clear to me that my life was threatened.


During the weeks that followed the deployment of the Fifth Brigade in the western province of Matebeleland, right up to the day I departed from Zimbabwe, hundreds of brutally assaulted people from the so-called “curfew” areas of Mbembesi, Nyathi, Nkayi, Lupane and Tsholotsho had come to my home and related horrible accounts of brutal beatings, mass rapings, mass killings, maiming of hundreds of innocent unarmed, unresisting men, women and children as well as looting and burning of villages and houses.


Before leaving my house and finally Bulawayo on the 8th of March, 1983, reports had come to me of untold brutalities and inhuman and degrading treatment of people within Bulawayo itself and of people being marched in their hundreds to the adjacent bush areas on the outskirts of Bulawayo, to be shot and their bodies left rotting and some taken away to unknown destinations and never to return.


Now that I have attempted to give an account of some of your publicly expressed opinions and beliefs about me and Zapu, and have also tried to summarise the more important events that took place as well as actions or non-actions during the course of the three years since our Independence, and have some bearing on your attempt to impose a one-Zanu party state on the people of Zimbabwe, I give hereunder my reactions.


In retrospect, I now believe that I and Zapu were deceived and cheated by you and your party when you talked of unity, reconciliation, peace and security. I now honestly and sincerely believe that when you invited us to take part in your government you believed that we would reject your offer and set ourselves up in strong opposition to you and thereby label us disgruntled rejected plotters.


I can now see that your insistence on establishing assembly camps in Bulawayo and Harare, and of your ministers Nkala and others coming to Bulawayo to make inflammatory statements which sparked off the first Ntumbane incident was all part of a plan and strategy to destabilise the country, especially the western province of Matabeleland, so that you could use incidents there as an excuse for using military action to crush me and my party.


It is now obvious to me that when you demoted me from the Ministry of Home Affairs which you knew was negotiated for a purpose at the time you invited us to take part in your government; that while you knew that we felt it was necessary for us to take part in one of the security ministries (Defence or Home Affairs) so that the former Zipra men drafted into the ZNA and ZRP may feel confident, thereby solidify both the army and the police, you deliberately took that action.


It is clear you wanted us to pull out of your government at that time so as to destabilise the army and the police, create dissidents out of the deserting Zipra men and then call us plotters against your government.


It is clear you thought you had struck a political bonanza by the arms caches fiasco and you handled it the way you did, to achieve the following: to make the country believe that I and Zapu wanted to overthrow your government; that the world at large should view us as a group of people who had lost the elections and now wanted to wrest power from you and your government; to polarise the population into bad guys and good guys and so destabilise the country; to polarise the former Zipra and Zanla combatants both inside and outside the army and police, so as to create a former Zipra grouping to be labelled dissidents; to create within Zapu a group that would believe there was a group within the party that, in fact, was plotting to overthrow the government; and, as a pretext, to use discredited and archaic settler imperialist legislation, the Unlawful Organisations Act, to confiscate Zapu supporters’ property.


When you announced the confiscation of Zapu and Nitram properties, property belonging to companies of individual Zapu members and to me and my family, you said it was because all these properties were acquired for hiding arms. Now that it is known no arms were found on any property other than the two farms belonging to Nitram, Ascot and Hampton Farms, how do you justify the blatant and arbitrary forced acquisition of all these properties?


Even the confiscation of the two farms on which arms were discovered is questionable. Nitram as a co-operative company, whose membership was more than 4 000 former Zipra combatants, who had contributed towards the purchase of these farms, and therefore, could not be held responsible for action or actions of a few people, who have not been identified even at the High Court trial that ended in the acquittal of six of the seven people accused of treason and caching arms.


With regards to properties owned by Zapu-formed companies as well as those formed by us individuals, I can only say your action against them was even much more obscure. I do hope, Mr Prime Minister, you realise the harm inflicted by your ill-considered action on these properties including those owned by Nitram.


Thousands of people were thrown out of resident-employment; this includes former combatants as well as former employees of those farms, who had become members of co-operatives established there.


The Herald of 17th February 1982 says about projects at Mguza: “The co-operative venture and secretarial training centres for women ex-combatants have been hailed by several people, including the Minister of Finance, Enos Nkala, as a model of its kind.”


All this is gone; with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of movable property of all types including overhead irrigation equipment worth $700 000 (Zimbabwe dollars) is ruined and some of it missing.


Other movable property which was looted from Mguza Complex is what Dr Sekeramai referred to as: “The other equipment, such as a very modern operating theatre lamp with its own generator, and a sophisticated dental unit, in excellent condition and not used at all, was found.”


This equipment was meant for the college and co-operative farm inmates and people who attended a co-operative clinic there.


Among the most important properties of Zapu that were taken away by the army and the CIO from the Nitram farms, ie Nest Egg, were Zapu archives which were stored there for safe-keeping. They contained all Zapu records covering the whole period of our struggle outside and inside the country, including the list of all Zapu and Zipra war casualties. As a result of this, no names of Zipra dead were available for inclusion at the Heroes’ Acre Roll of Honour list on the 10th and 11th August, 1982.

This, you will agree, is a very serious matter.


What disturbs me most is that when you banned the companies that ran various properties and projects you said: “Zapu had bought more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises throughout the country. We had now established they were not genuine business enterprises, but places to hide military weapons to start another war at an appropriate time.” (The Sunday Mail, 7th of February 1982.) This was a deliberate distortion.


At the time you made the above statement Zapu had only two farms, one near Harare and the other near Gweru; and had only five business enterprises, two in Harare, two in Gweru and one in Masvingo.


If by Zapu you meant farms and businesses run by companies such as Nitram and those owned by individual members of Zapu, the position is as follows:


Nitram had only four farms and four business enterprises. Companies owned by individual members of Zapu had three farms near Harare, two near Bulawayo and two business enterprises in Bulawayo and one in Mbalabala. All these ventures, Mr Prime Minister, cannot be said to be “throughout the country”, nor “more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises” as you said in your statement.


You deliberately gave the impression to the country that projects on those properties were run clandestinely; and yet you knew I had, without success, several times invited you to visit Nijo Products, a $1,2 million Zapu composite agricultural project, just outside Harare. I said your visit to that particular project was important and necessary because I felt it could be used as a model for resettlement purposes.


You were aware further that the Mguza Secretarial Training College was officially opened by Minister Shaba and that that college and the Mguza Co-operative Farming Project were visited by President Banana and Enos Nkala a few weeks before your banning order was issued. I am certain you must have been aware that the Lido Motel in Queens Park, Bulawayo, was being used as a hostel for over 300 former Zipra war disabled, as government had failed to house them anywhere.


You will remember when I met you in your office in August 1982, you made known to me that the involvement of my family property Walmer Ranch, where we built our Makwe home, would be revealed in evidence during the (Lookout) Masuku/(Dumiso) Dabengwa trial at the High Court. The trial has come and gone, Masuku and Dabengwa acquitted.


However, I was told by a defence lawyer of a bizarre story about some military training supposed to have been conducted at Makwe Farm which was presented by the prosecution and was later unconditionally withdrawn by them without argument. You will know that our home at Makwe has been surrounded by the army and police ever since you made your announcement on the 16th of February 1982. All meaningful activity came to a complete halt and incalculable damage was done to all we were trying to do there.


I am certain you should recall what I told you when we met in your office in August, that what I had at Makwe outside the working of the farm was a big gathering where I met members of the Gwanda Community Co-operative to discuss a grand settlement scheme in which the Makwe Irrigation Scheme and our Makwe Farm would be the core of the project.


White farmers had been approached to either donate or sell at very reduced prices their farms within the area, and the response was promising. This scheme had been forwarded to the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement by the Gwanda Co-op through the local district council machinery. It was hoped that the scheme would be presented to government through appropriate channels for funding through Zimcord.


You must have known through your respective government departments, local authorities and your various devices of information collection, that Kennellworth-Carisbrook Farm near Harare, Lingfield near Gweru and Mbalabala Village near Esigodini were all being processed to be handled in the same way as above, and as the Mguza complex had shown, be it in a small way, that it was feasible to implement such schemes, it was believed that the Makwe project would succeed.


All these schemes were in the spirit of what I had discussed with you in December 1981. I had made it plain to you, Prime Minister, when I met you in your official residence that your resettlement policy was a national disaster, and you agreed with me. These schemes were meant to present practical approach models, to both rural and peri-urban resettlement, that would embrace everybody and not just a few who are said to “qualify”.


But, with full knowledge of all this, you chose to tell a crowd of more than 18 000 people at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera on the 13th of February 1982: “We desire a new richer life for all . . . and we wish to see changes in people’s way of living standards and economic status. But in the midst of all our endeavours our colleagues in government were stockpiling and building enough weapons of war to arm 20 000 men.”


What baffles me even more is that you said all the above when you knew that less than two months prior to your Marondera meeting, I had offered myself to take over your Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in an effort to assist you and, through you, the country to make a success of its most vital development programme. You turned down my offer, saying I was too old to handle that ministry. However, you said you would invite me to be one of the members of a resettlement ministerial committee you were about to institute. To you all this meant plotting.


You also had knowledge that on December 29 1982, while I was on holiday, I was requested by Brigadier Chinenge to assist him to demobilise more than 5 000 former Zipra combatants at Gwaai River Mine Assembly Point and willingly drove over 150 miles to help.


How could I have done all these things if I was bent on overthrowing you? Who do you think I would have called on to use all those arms after assisting to integrate some Zipra combatants in the ZNA and ZRP and assisted in dispersing others to their respective homes?


It is now very clear to me that you were very unhappy with the extent of my cooperation and that of Zapu because you did not want peace and tranquillity. You did not want stability, progress and development, because such conditions would not give you the turmoil and instability you required for your political-military action to liquidate those you chose to, and thereby impose your one-Zanu-party state.


It is obvious to me why you decided to form the Fifth Brigade outside the structure and command of the national army, so that you may use it as a party and tribal brigade for eliminating and liquidating, as you have many times said, those you chose to destroy.


As a matter of fact, when I questioned the formation of the Fifth Brigade outside the Zimbabwe National Army without consultation, you angrily replied and said: “Who are you to be consulted? This brigade,” you said, “has been formed to crush those who try to subvert my government, and if you attempt that, they will crush you too.”


You took action against what you called Zapu-sponsored dissidents. But because you wanted to maintain this show of subversion, you have not, for almost one year and four months, arrested and put on trial a single dissident. Yet you have continuously, for all this period, persistently accused the Zapu structure and those who support that structure of organising, maintaining, feeding and directing the dissidents so as to justify an armed attack on the masses.


To be continued next week.

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