Shame on those South Africans who cheer Mugabe

via Politicsweb – Shame on those South Africans who cheer Mugabe by Paul Trewhela 22 December 2013

Paul Trewhela says the murderous Zanu-PF leader is “no hero of African liberation”

Cheering for Mugabe at the tribute to Mandela

South Africans need to think about Gukurahundi, what it means for South Africa – and what it means, when it means so little.

Robert Mugabe received loud cheers when he appeared at the memorial tribute to Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday 10 December. Similarly, Andile Mngxitama – who spoke on the BBC television programme, Question Time, two days later in a debate staged in Johannesburg, wearing the red beret of Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters – published an article in the Sunday Independent on 2 June this year under the title, “Mugabe hero of African liberation.”

According to Mngxitama’s opening sentence, “President Robert Mugabe is the greatest black statesman alive today in Africa.”

The question is: What does it mean, when South Africans celebrate Robert Mugabe?

There is no question that Mugabe ordered the mass murder of more than 20,000 isiNdebele-speakers in Zimbabwe in the two years after January 1983, when his Fifth Brigade – trained by the fascist dictatorship of North Korea, and responsible to himself alone as Prime Minister – was deployed to kill in Matabeleland.

Wikipedia states this about the massacre:

“Most of the dead were shot in public executions, often after being forced to dig their own graves in front of family and fellow villagers. The largest number of dead in a single killing was on 5 March 1983, when 62 young men and women were shot on the banks of the Cewale River, Lupane.  Seven survived with gunshot wounds, the other 55 died.

“Another way 5 Brigade used to kill large groups of people was to burn them alive in huts. They did this in Tsholotsho and also in Lupane. They would routinely round up dozens, or even hundreds, of civilians and march them at gun point to a central place, like a school or bore-hole. There they would be forced to sing Shona songs praising ZANU, at the same time being beaten with sticks. These gatherings usually ended with public executions. Those killed could be ex-ZIPRAs, ZAPU officials, or anybody chosen at random.”

ZIPRA – the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army – was the army of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo, the political rival of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

The army of ZANU which was fighting against the government of Ian Smith over the same period as ZIPRA in then white-ruled Rhodesia was ZANLA, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army.

The word “Gukurahundi”  is an expression in the chiShona language, meaning “the first rain that washes away the chaff of the last harvest before the spring rains.”

The grim reality of Zimbabwe is that both of its main political parties – ZANU and ZAPU – were and remain tribalist political parties, not nationalist parties. Both armies, ZANLA and ZIPRA, were in effect tribalist armies.

In the best firsthand account so far of the joint military campaign in 1967 by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) together with ZIPRA in the Wankie and Sipolilo areas of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia, under the white minority regime of Ian Smith), the two authors – both isiZulu-speaking members of MK, Thula Bophela and Daluxolo Luthuli – register their shock at when they and their comrades discovered this huge difference of principle between MK and ZIPRA.

“The ZIPRA men puzzled the MK soldiers,” they write in their joint autobiographical history, Umkhonto we Sizwe: Fighting for a Divided People (Galago, Alberton, 2005). “They spent much of their time boasting about what they intended to do to ZANLA if they ever met up in the bush. They swore they would wipe them out….It seemed they considered ZANLA the real enemy and not the Rhodesians.”

As the two authors recall, “This ZAPU-ZANU rivalry would cause us great distress later.” (p.53)

What happened, however, was this: between the Wankie/Sipolilo campaign in 1967 and formation of the first independence government of Zimbabwe in 1979, for a variety of reasons ZIPRA failed as a military force, while ZANLA succeeded.

ZIPRA, and ZAPU, rested on a minority tribe, the Ndebele. ZANLA, and ZANU, rested on the overwhelming majority tribe, the Shona.

The phrase “gukurahundi” for the campaign of mass murder of the amaNdebele by the ZANU government meant that the minority tribe was to be punished. Human beings were to be treated as “chaff”, as dead dry husks of maize from the previous year’s harvest.

The account in Wikipedia of the Gukurahundi genocide is consistent with the detailed, carefully researched account published by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, together with the Legal Resources Foundation of Zimbabwe, under the title Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980-1988 (Hurst and Co, London, 2007. First published in 1997 as Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace).

Elinor Sisulu, the daughter-in-law of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, wrote the introduction for the 2007 edition. She rightly compares the “enormous and heinous crimes against the people of Zimbabwe” perpetrated by the government of Robert Mugabe in 1983-85 with the genocidal massacre of Tutsis carried out by the Interahamwe in Rwanda in 1994 and the massacres carried out by Hitler’s Nazis (p.xvii).

I wonder if Mr Mngxitama can explain how a Nazi-type massacre just north of Limpopo province permits a description of the man who ordered it as a “hero of African liberation”, and as “the greatest black statesman alive today in Africa” (this written while Nelson Mandela was living).

In the same way, it is strange to find a statement ”Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) call on the people of Zimbabwe to vote for ZANU-PF” at the bottom of an article by Munyaridzi Gwisai headed: “Mugabe landslide: Rural poor vote against neo-liberal austerity” on the website of the Black Consciousness organisation, September National Imbizo, when ZANU-PF as the party of government in Zimbabwe bears responsibility for this massacre.

There is a strange absence of moral and political integrity here.

Supposing we take a death toll of 20, 000 people murdered by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade in Gukurahundi (rather than the figure of “at least 30,000 people” cited in the preface to the 1997 edition of Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe, p.xix), this was an enormous number of people killed in a small region in less than two years. The number of people killed by the Mugabe government in this massacre is probably more than the total of all the political killings committed in South Africa in the 34 years from the beginning of 1960 (before the massacre at Sharpeville) to the first democratic general election in April 1994.

And this was carried out by a government whose leader was cheered at the memorial tribute for Nelson Mandela, and described by Mr Mngxitama as a “hero of African liberation.”

Strange liberation, which liberated so many souls so untimely from their earthly selves.

Strange hero statesman, who gives the order to kill so many of his citizens ….

Strange apostle of “freedom”, the one who praises such a statesman, whether we consider freedom as economic, or political, or spiritual, or otherwise.

The fact is, the political tradition of liberation from minority rule in South Africa runs opposite to the tradition in Zimbabwe, not along the same path.

What Gukurahundi showed is that the title of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) is a fraud. The party is not national at all. It is a tribalist party, which carried out a mass tribalist massacre of people from another tribe.

This can never be forgotten.

It is a shame and disgrace to the historic tradition of black liberation in South Africa that this blatant, blood-soaked truth is not shouted from the rooftops by all political parties, and especially by the African National Congress.

From the time it was formed as the Native National Congress in 1912, the ANC earned its title of “national” – unlike ZANU, and ZAPU – by its deeds.

It was formed very consciously and deliberately on the principle of anti-tribalism. The founders of the ANC were clear that tribal politics could only lead black people of the newly-created Union of South Africa to defeat and misery. Despite all kinds of stresses and strains – especially in exile – that principle was upheld successfully throughout the whole of the past century. Whether as the ANC, or as the Pan Africanist Congress, or as the Black Consciousness Movement, no major current in the struggle for liberation from apartheid ever fractured into separate tribalist parties, as happened in Zimbabwe – the great failure of political principle in Zimbabwe, which had its terrible result in Gukurahundi.

This is a warning to South Africa.

There is no more urgent warning from the life and death Nelson Mandela, who maintained the principle of anti-tribalism throughout his life, and extended it to anti-racism.

It is a disgrace that a tribalist mass murderer was cheered, at the tribute to the man who epitomised the founding principles of the ANC.

Shame on those who cheer Robert Mugabe, and shame on any South African who calls such a man the “hero of African liberation.”

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35 comments on “Shame on those South Africans who cheer Mugabe
  1. Chatambudza12 says:

    Those who cheered him did not know what they were doing. They should learn from the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe. Truly if all is well in Zimbabwe why then are the Zimbabweans flocking to south Africa. At there is democracy in south Africa – being able to boo their president. In. Zimbabwe you suffer silently and do not dare even say anything negative about Mugabe. I implore you south Africans not to abuse the freedom of expression you are enjoying. Learn from us who are suffering in diaspora. The number of people murdered by the Mugabe regime is numberless. He even murdered his own people who dared to criticize him. For your own information Mugabe is in the top 4 of the current world dictators. He is as evil as the devil himself – actually they are twin brothers with the devil!

  2. Peter tosh says:

    Read btw the lines people, those were zpf who were bused to do that and some were Julius Malema’s thugs to humiliate Zuma.Zpf and Malema wanted world leaders to think that Mugabe is a hero. And that’s the main reason why Mugabe attended.

  3. John Thomas says:

    It is a fact that Mugabe is admired by many people around the world. Difficult to understand, but it is a fact.

  4. Nimrod Mupanesengende says:

    Go to hell, Paul. Like it or not, Mugabe is a true African Hero. The purported gukurahundi sheet regurgitated time after time with no proof whatsoever will never overshadow Mugabe’s greatness. Mugabe represents resistance to the real nemesis of Africa, the real murderers in Africa, who murdered hundreds of millions of Africans from slavery to colonisation – the white imperialist-colonisers, oppressors and murderers. Unlike most European leaders who direct the murder of millions per year, Mugabe never murdered anyone. For this reason, yes, Paul, there will be many more cheeres for Mugabe in South Africa. The chilling message the world should get is that South Africans want, yes, they want Mugabe policies implemented in South Africa and they will and there is nothing the Pauls of this world can do about it. Mugabe is far better than Mandela – that is the meaning of those cheers for Mugabe by South Africans. Mugabe is better than Kennedy, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson put together. There-go vomit those that do not like our hero Mugabe.

    • Mthwakazi says:

      Nimrod, you are also a Gukurahundi. This is why you will die for your fellow Gukurahundi Mugabe!!

    • Chamunorwa says:

      Nimrod, I know that you are paid to sing your master’s voice. We are not fools we have eyes to see and ears to hear like you so you can fool all the people some time, but, you cannot fool all the people all the time. Time alone, time will tell. You think you are living in heaven but you are living in hell.

  5. hokoyo says:

    Hate him or love him. He has empowered the black people. Nelson the ‘great’ left blacks pending empowerment. We as Zimbo’s are not yet there, but we are on our way there. To be great people on our dear earth.

    Watch this space…

    • Mthwakazi says:

      Hokoyo, he empowered his cronies, otherwise why are we still having land invasions to this day? You will never come close to Chiyangwa and Chpombo’s wealth, even if you praise the gukurahundi. These are his true cronies – check Mpofu – and you little pikinini praise singer? NOTHING!!

  6. Rukweza says:

    It’s zimbabwe and you hear people celebrating black on black oppression,calling mzansi not list in south africa you can criticise the head of state,head of departments are arrested if they do wrong,but not in zimbabwe.

  7. Democracy wisher says:

    Well written article,Malema is as stupid as ever he also has Mugabe’s mentality thats y he say Mugabe is a true African hero.Malema is racist juc as Mugarbage,Mugabe is more than a devil himself,considering mass killings of Gukurahundi genocide its ain’t the only massacre he did,pple are disappearing being killed,consider the 2008 violence were we were victims pple were killed,houses being burnt,young girls and women being raped,so were is the heroism of such a dictator????
    My tears flows if I start to think of what Zimbabweans are going through in the hands of Mugabe yet outsiders like Malema has the guts to utter such words.To hell with anyone calling Mugabe the true African leader/Hero.

  8. Gandanga says:

    Paul Trewhela this is rubbish you have just edited. Let me tell you the facts. Never say shame on those South Africans who cheered Mugabe on Mandela’ memorial. One thing you must know is that these people are black africans not this useless white minority which is enjoying South African resources at the expense of the blacks.

    I have been in South Africa and about 99 percent of blacks live in squatter camps with no proper water,eletricity and toilets whilst the white or colured people occupy luxurious houses and cars. Do the blacks have anything to be happy about?

    Never talk about the Gukurahundi as l have been following the history of Mandela. Mandela was a culprit most black people were killed by boers whilst Mandela was calling for a reconciliation. This F W De clerk was a rubbish by killing black people. Now the people who just commented above they say those South Africans who cheered Mugabe a are fools wow it angers me to be dealing with these kind of western puppets. I bet you Julius Malema will be the next South african president mark my words!

    • William Doctor says:

      @ Gandanga

      Why can’t we talk about the Matabele massacres? Why should these things be forgotten? Mugabe must be held accountable – and if not Mugabe [if he dies in office] – then his comrades who committed these atrocities must be held accountable.

    • Kevin Watson says:

      Gandanga, it is a pity you are ignorant of South African history. FW De Klerk was South African President for about 6 years from 1988 to 1994. Whilst Mandela was a Liberation Leader, there were in all 6 Prime Ministers and Presidenta of South Africa. The total number of black people killed by the apartheid government was fewer that were killed in the 5th Brigade campaign in Matabeleland. Why are there an estimated 3m black Zimbabweans living in South Africa? It is because Mugabe and his coterie of criminal thieves have looted the Zimbabwean economy until it collapsed. Why do 99% of black Zimbabweans live in high density suburbs with conditions that are as bad as a South African squatter camps, or actually live in aSouth African squatter camp. You are nothing but a racist idiot who is also zenophobic.

    • Mthwakazi says:

      The squatter camps are full of Zimbabweans who have run away from Mugabe – what does that tell you?

  9. And famous man once told me ” the world is full of fools “…malema must join the deaf interpreter at the psychiatric unit. The assessment by Peter tosh is spot on

  10. Gandanga is merely an embittered foolish racist who will never make it in this world. Neither will the well known fraudsters boorish clown malema the rubbish nonsence idiot buffoon

  11. Ha says:

    The ANC has failed its black people that’s why they boer at Zuma and also that is the same reason Numsa have rejected the ANC as it is not african.

    Only Malema can save South Africa from black oppression even if it means Mugabe sponsoring Malema from the diamond sales its totally acceptable. Viva Malema.

  12. Rukweza says:

    Some of those leaving in squatter camps are zimbabwean who escaped poverty in zimbabwe,what do you say of blacks in zim who earn $40 000 yet in the same camp majority have gone for 6 months without pay

  13. takunda says:

    hello Zimbabweans, we are all sons of the soil and land of ours belong to all people of all tribes and races.We have done bad things to each other in way or the other and some the of worst moments of madness in our country incude the Gukurahundi Massacre directed and championed by the current government.What it all needs is having a peace and reconciliation, national healing and we forge ahead.However, the challenge I always see in Zimbabwe is that when people starting speaking about the past, they look at events in isolation or those that they think favour them most….if Zimbabwe has to move forward in future lets all be honest to each other here, lets openly take about and move forward, Ndebeles will always hate shonas for the Gukurahundi massarcre saying shonas killed us, while the same time shonas will never trust Ndebele people becuase Lobenugla raided,killed shona people and took their cattle,so the whole issues of tribal warfare started way before and there have been tensions ever since….not much peace and working together, so its unfortunate when people discuss about tribalism they conveniently talk about Gukurahundi and forget about how all these things started, there has always been tension between Shonas and Ndebeles and this dates back to the time of our forefathers…. and during the liberation its clear that the parties were againd divided along tribal lines and this erupted in the Gukukurahundi Massacre, the worst episode in our national history.However, as we speak about these issues lets not foerget that just before this episode we also witnessed massacres committed by whites against both shona and ndebele during the liberation strugle…who does not remember the Zambian and Mozambican massacres of Zimbabweans that were seeking to bring independence to our own country, who does not know the numerous deaths of black families that lost their lives in Zimbabwe due to Ian smith’s iron fist rule on black people….so Zimbabweans especially if we are discussing the past lets be frank to each other and open all closets not this selective approach…this will not take us far, we need everyone to come out Shonas, Ndebeles and Whites and talk openly and about what happened in the past, lets not paddock sad moments for the sake of our arguments and continue perpetrating tribalism.Its sickening to hear some of ill researched things that are posted on this internet, maybe its coz most people in Zimbabweans are not well travelled, i hear lot of stories that Buluwayo marginalised and being killed by Shonas, then u ask yourself,,,,have people in Bulawayo been to Masvingo, have they been to Mutare, have they been to Chinhoyi, have they been to Chegutu, have they been Chivhu,…all these places are occupied by Shona people but in terms of development are way below what is obtaining in Bulawayo…all the challenges that residents in Bulawayo face,,,,,people in these areas face them ten more times than their counterparts in Bulawayo.There are no industries to talk about all these areas that i mentioned so real if you do a sober analysis u will see the problem in Zimbabwe is not Shona and Ndebele but wrong leadership that does not promote development to all parts of the country…but then what u hear from certain quarters is Shonas are marginalising Ndebeles…is this true or just emotional… Zimbabweans lets rise above these tribal lines and discuss issues as they are coz to be frank the moment that people their identity being ridiculed and humiliated, the natural tendency is to stand and protect it…so lets refrain from tribes but talk about issues…its Mugabe who did this and this

    • Mthwakazi says:

      We will never buy into this idea of comparing Gukurahundi with primitive African tribal warfares – never. This is just a silly excuse for genocide. Tribal warfares were not unique to Zimbabwe, those Shonas who keep singing about them are simply victims of political opportunists and its shows just how ignorant they are. Every African was one way or another a victim right across the continent!

      • Alfred says:

        In the best firsthand account so far of the joint military campaign in 1967 by Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) together with ZIPRA in the Wankie and Sipolilo areas of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia, under the white minority regime of Ian Smith), the two authors – both isiZulu-speaking members of MK, Thula Bophela and Daluxolo Luthuli – register their shock at when they and their comrades discovered this huge difference of principle between MK and ZIPRA.

        “The ZIPRA men puzzled the MK soldiers,” they write in their joint autobiographical history, Umkhonto we Sizwe: Fighting for a Divided People (Galago, Alberton, 2005). “They spent much of their time boasting about what they intended to do to ZANLA if they ever met up in the bush. They swore they would wipe them out….It seemed they considered ZANLA the real enemy and not the Rhodesians.”

        • Alfred says:

          Mthwakazi, hating the shona has always been in your DNA. Poor political decisions were made by Zapu in the early 1980s; the arms cache issue, the massacre of shona’s in Entumbane 1 and 2 and rural Matebeleland, particulary teachers and nurses. The plunder and rape. Why do you think places like tsholotsho are still backward? You only need to read accounts in the then chronicle, white people giving food and lodging to Shona in the Northern Suburbs.(boys Khaya). A look at the Gukurahundi issue will help in the healing process if all sides of the story were told, in a fair and open debate. No one condons mass murder or is above reproach in this matter, even Umdala wethu. The important thing is that the political leadership then realized that the path of conflict will not get the country anywhere, hence the unity accord. It has it weaknesses of course but it was the starting point for a long journey of national healing and reconciliation. We are not there yet!

  14. Rwendo says:

    John Thomas is right when he says Mugabe has many admirers outside Zimbabwe. Some years ago, I once effused to a Tanzanian what a hero Nyerere was in Zimbabwe and Africa. At the time I could not understand when he said cautiously; “Yes, for you he is a hero but for us Tanzanians, he made us poor.”

  15. Rwendo says:

    Which is not to compare Mugabe and Nyerere, who did not use hate speech, persecute opponents, promote looting nor have opponents die in mysterious car accidents. More that sometimes people look at things with a very blinkered view; or at times with a big chip on their shoulders.

  16. zimbabwean says:

    I agree with the fact that Mugabe and his croonies looted our beloved Zimbabwe to its knees. What l do not agree on is another race that acts as holier than holy. White settlers came to Africa and colonized Africa and looted the whole continent. Most, if not all the whites in Africa today are still enjoying the stolen and looted wealth. They hanged our leaders like Sekuru Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda. In South Africa the whites tried to start a civil war in 1993 by distributing guns to Zulus (Inkatha) and Xhosas so as to try and avoid elections that were coming in 1994. In DRC, they funded rebels to create confusion so that they could steal Diamonds. As much as we as Africans try to be reconciliatory, whites will never genuinely acknowledge an African as a human being. They only acknowledge if you being a garden boy or a servant to them. In South Africa, whites architected apartheid and what we see today in South Africa is the aftermath of the apartheid. Only until Whites start treating Africans as human beings, reconciliation will never work.

  17. Mthwakazi says:

    South Africa has 6 million whites. Black South Africans see any one who fights whites as a hero, because of the large presents of whites in their country and the still lingering apartheid economic effects and discrimination.

    So, its really an issue of selfishness. They are not affected by Mugabe’s rule directly, its the Zimbabweans who are and they dont care. In short, South Africans are totally confused by Mugabe as they seem unable to reconcile the hero status they bestow on him and the millions of Zimbabweans who have run away from Mugabe’s rule and are now settled in South Africa who are taking jobs from them.

    Just try it – ask a South African to come live under Mugabe in exchange for Zimbabweans living under President Zuma – they will refuse, and the question is why?

  18. Chamunorwa says:

    John Thomas, are you not “Mukoma J”, I wonder if you are not but be warned that’s a lie of the highest order.

  19. MKAST says:


  20. chilimanzi says:

    If Mugabe was a hero he would be liked by more than two thirds of the voting populace in zimbabwe he would not hire nikuv to win elections ,he would not having a swipe at Tsvangirai every time he is at a funeral ,he would have not sent the 5th brigade to deal with those who did not vote for him, those who cheered him are more like blind puppies [sorry to say this but thus a fact] because Mugabe is a thug.

  21. Must says:

    Gukurahundi the Gukurahundi. Ndebeles killed a lot of shona the people at entumbane durinv that people. Give us a break. There was a war and one tribe wa defeated. Why do peple go for war? To Sing church songs? Get over it

  22. Rukweza says:

    No one was given land in zimbabwe,instead people are lodgers who can be booted out if they say wrong things about ruling party,land that can’t be used as security thats not empowerment thats slavery squatting

  23. I read some confusion from the writer about Zapu Zanu and the ANC. AT CEASE FIRE ZAPU HAD BUILT AN ARMY. Its cadres had conventionally fought alongside in Fapla in Angola and yet the writer claims that they renaged. Its just many lies some people write about Zimbabwe.

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