Why do African leaders stick with Mugabe?

Photos by Trevor Grundy

262.JPG Jerry Jackson, Zimbabwean journalist and broadcaster

253 JPG Nokuthulu Moyo, Chairperson Leg

al Resources Foundation

255 JPG Mike Auret, former Director, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace

250 JPG Eileen Sawyer, former Director Legal Resources Foundation

‘MugAbe has taken back the land … he has avenged colonization’
‘We are not going to be involved in any regime change in Zimbabwe – Mbeki’
A prediction that African leaders will do nothing to dislodge Robert Mugabe from power has been made by Mike Auret, Director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) at the start of the Fifth Brigade’s campaign against so-called “dissidents” in January 1983.
“The Africans are not going to intervene,” he said at the re-launch of the CCJP/ Legal Resources Foundation report on the massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands which cost at least 20,000 lives between 1980 and1988.
“The African Union and the SADC are not going to do anything because, in point of fact, Mugabe has taken the land from the colonizers and in the eyes of African history he will be a hero. What is happening now is a blink in history. It’s a very sad and slow blink for the people who are suffering it – but Mugabe has taken back the land … he has avenged colonization and that’s why President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is walking backwards quickly.”
At the same time Mike Auret – one of the most outspoken human rights activists when Ian Smith ran Rhodesia in the 1960s/1970s – said that he was outraged that Mugabe and a team of foreign policy advisers had been invited to attend an EU/Africa summit meeting in Lisbon in December.
“There should be a howl of rage if they are invited. Europe should be outraged,” he declared with passion at Chatham House in London, home of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA).
He apologized to a large audience made up of diplomats, journalists, students and human rights activists for not being “more hopeful.”
His belief that Mbeki is “walking backwards ” on the Zimbabwean issue was expressed the day before the South African leader told MPs in Cape Town – “We are not going to be involved in any regime change in Zimbabwe. We are not going to do it. We think it is fundamentally wrong.”
Mbeki also said it was wrong to use sanctions to pressure Mugabe and he dismissed comparisons between the situation in Zimbabwe and apartheid -era South Africa.
In her introduction to the new edition of the original report, Elinor Sisulu (daughter-in-law of Walter Sisulu) said the silence that greeted massacres carried out by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade was in “stark contrast to the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, news of which reverberated around the world.”
Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo added in his foreword – “Over 20,000 people were killed by Five Brigade. The motive for these killings was to crush the people of Matabeleland so that they would conform to the Zanu (PF) government and give up their tribal identity and their attachment to ZAPU.”
Chaired by the RIIA’s head of African Programme, Alex Vines, a panel of experts from Zimbabwe included Mike Auret, Noel Kututwa, Chair Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Eileen Sawyer, former Director Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Nokuthula Moyo, current Chair LRF.
During a moving recall of the joy and patriotism Zimbabwe’s independence invoked among millions of people in April 1980, Mike Auret said the first years of freedom had been marked by “good, imaginative policies.”
But he regretted underestimating Mugabe’s determination to bring about a one party state.
“I made a very grave error of judgment about Mugabe. I didn’t take in – we didn’t internalize, as it were – the fact that he was a committed Marxist and the fact that his belief was there was a need for one party and one party only. He had invited that other party (ZAPU) to join him and they had refused. There was only one way to get rid of the opposition party and that’s what he did with the Fifth Brigade.”
He said that when he first heard about the massacres he could hardly believe what he was hearing from the lips of Bishop Karlen and the Bulawayo director of the CCJP, Joel Silonda.
After representations to the Zimbabwean government, first by NGOs and then by Catholic bishops, the then Prime Minister Mugabe reluctantly agreed to investigate what he called “over enthusiasm “by the Fifth Brigade.
Two reports into the Fifth Brigade atrocities have never seen the light of day. The Dumbutshena Commission was instituted to investigate the “disturbances” following clashes between the former liberation armies of ZIPRA and ZANLA in Entumbane in the early 1980s.
The Chihambakwe Committee was set up to investigate “alleged atrocities” of civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands. The Zimbabwean government tossed both reports into the dustbin and slammed the lid down hard.
Nokuthulu Moyo said Mugabe had tried to pass off the tragedy of Gukuruhundi as a moment of madness. “It was not a moment of madness for the people of Matabeleland and the Midlands,” she said. “Thousands of people were killed and the least you would expect is a proper acknowledgment to be made.”
Added Eileen Sawyer: “Those events in Matabeleland have caused a festering sore – and it’s not going to go away until such time as they are properly addressed.” – Gukuruhundi in Zimbabwe – A report on the disturbances in Matabeleland and The Midlands 1980 -1988. Introduction by Elinor Sisulu, Foreword by Archbishop Pius Ncube is published in the UK by Hurst Publishers Ltd, 41 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3PL at £10. 00, 440 pages

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