Being a mining town, typical of the 1960 and 70’s then Rhodesia, attracted immigrants from across the region – but, most specifically, the shortlived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953 to 1963) which had resulted in a massive influx of those from Malawi and Zambia.
In addition, Redcliff is situated in the heart of the country – the Midlands province – meaning that, all major tribes in Zimbabwe are to be found in their large numbers.
As such, in our growing up, we were very close friends with Ndebeles, Karangas, Zezurus, Manyikas, Nambyas, Kalangas, Korekores, Tongas, Whites, as well as Nyanjas/Chewas, and Bembas, mostly from across our northern borders.
We knew no tribe, race, or nationality – but, only that we were simply friends, neighbors, and schoolmates.
As a matter of fact, my wife Tinta was born in, and emigrated from, Zambia – whose family we grew up together, and even having played with her elder brother.
That was a most beautiful and wonderful period in our history as Zimbabwe.
However, this euphoria was not to last very long – since, along came the ZANU PF regime in 1980, and immediately went to work, unleashing its barbaric and heinous Gukurahundi genocide – the most harrowing massacre ever perpetrated upon innocent unarmed civilians by a sitting government in the country’s history – which was predominantly targeted towards those of Ndebele ethnicity.
From 1983 onwards, we suddenly realized that we were actually different – as the ruling ZANU PF, through its party youth brigades, toyi-toyied around our neighborhood at night, loudly bellowing 1970’s liberation struggle songs, as they went to homes of known Ndebele-speakers, whereby, they savagely and sadistically beat up the adults to a pulp (leaving them for dead), as their helpless crying children looked on, after which, their houses were burnt to the ground.
Since we were merely little children – I explicitly recall, in 1984 (at the age of 11 years) being thoroughly confused, as I did not understand why being a Ndebele speaker made one a bad person, worthy of such horrendous and unspeakable brutality and hatred.
Although, my political awareness was still primitive at that stage – I, nonetheless, knew that this was terribly wrong and evil.
In fact, I was so terrified that – as much as my loathing of ZANU PF had officially been instilled in me, for all time – when in 1985, we were asked by our Grade 5 teacher, Mrs Goulder, which political party we believed would win that year’s general elections, I grudgingly and reluctantly answered, “ZANU”!
Not as a result of some calculated informed prediction, but purely out of my petrifying dread at the potential backlash against Shona speakers for their unpardonable wickedness, by Ndebeles, should ZAPU be victorious.
Why would I not be gripped by terror – as some of these vile acts occured right in front of my young eyes!
Such was the hatred sown by the ZANU PF regime, not only in my own hometown – but, largely in the Matebeleland and other parts of the Midlands provinces – where far much more horrific and satanic brutality occured, with over 20,000 innocent unarmed men, women, and children being butchered in cold blood, by the Zimbabwe government’s 5th Brigade (trained by an equally diabolical North Korea).
Further huge numbers were subjected to mass sexual abuses, torture, had their limbs chopped off, and pregnant women having their unborn babies gouged out of their bellies with gun bayonets.
Therefore, it comes as an unbelievable shock listening to the ZANU PF presidency, through one of its deputies (Kembo Mohadi), disingenuously blaming opposition parties for supposedly “stirring people’s emotions against the government”, and ” inciting hatred against the government” over these unresolved 1980’s mass killings – which he made at a rally in Tsholotsho, Matebeleland North province yesterday, March 5, 2022.
Wow, a whole vice president of a ruling party having the audacity to utter such despicable words!
Even some of us who did not witness the very worst of this criminal and callous genocide – but, having been exposed to the vicious beating up, by slogan-chanting party thugs, of my friends’ parents, and watching their homes being cruelly razed to the ground – the memories are still very fresh, as I continue to be haunted by these harrowing scenes…38 years later.
Who caused that?
Who truly “stirred the people”, and “incited them” to hate the ZANU PF regime?
Was it not ZANU PF itself?
My immeasurable disdain for this party was never “stirred up”, or “incited” by the opposition, or Western media, or NGOs, or any other “regime change agent” – but, purely by what I personally witnessed ZANU PF doing, with my own eyes.
As a matter of fact, there is nothing the opposition can ever do to further worsen and deepen this loathing – as there is nothing more impactful than personal experience.
To add insult to injury, the perpetrators of these same horrendous acts have never exhibited any genuine seriousness in addressing their evil deeds – as they have arrogantly and dismally failed to sincerely acknowledge their role, have never apologized, refused to show any willingness to be held accountable, and still playing games with the issue of restitution agreeable with their victims.
ZANU PF officials need to get this through their heads – they made the bed, so they should lie on it!
You reap what you sow!
If they did not want anyone to “stir up”, or “incite” hatred against them – then, the normal thing was to have never committed the genocide in the first place.
Those are lessons of life that all of us were taught by our parents from a very young age – before you do anything, first consider the possible repercussions.
I guess, ZANU PF never received that lesson!
The tragedy to this story is that – ZANU PF is still committing cold-blooded brutality against innocent people today, and further “stirring up”, and “inciting” hatred upon itself within a new generation of Zimbabweans…who will most likely tell similar stories as my own…38 years from now!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured