Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980-1988
By The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and The Legal
Columbia University Press, 2008, 448 pp.
This detailed and dispassionate account of a particularly bloody military repression of opposition to the early Robert Mugabe-led ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) government in Zimbabwe shortly after independence provides inconvertible evidence that the current abuses of power did not emerge over time but have always constituted the main response of ZANU to contestation of its rule. In the years following independence, ZANU sought to weaken and eventually destroy the other main independence force, ZAPU (the Zimbabwe African People's Union), led by Joshua Nkomo. The emergence of antigovernment violence by a guerrilla band of ex-ZAPU fighters in Matabeleland, ZAPU's stronghold, provided Mugabe with an excuse to engage in massively disproportionate retaliation against civilians and ZAPU sympathizers that may well have resulted in over 20,000 deaths (and only ended when Nkomo agreed to fold his party into ZANU). The government responded to contemporaneous accounts of the violence with scorn and denials, in a pattern often repeated since then. The courageous Zimbabwean authors of this report should be congratulated for producing an essential document of this little-known history of Zimbabwe.