Zimbabwe and the Politics of Impunity
on human rights in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Disputed seats © Misheck Masamvu 2008
Peter Godwin
The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe

Little, Brown and Co., March 2011. 384 pp.

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe
Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands

Columbia University Press, June 2008. 448 pp.

James Kilgore
We Are All Zimbabweans Now: A Novel

Ohio University Press, Sep. 2011. 272 pp.

Peter Orner and Annie Holmes, eds.
Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives

McSweeney’s, Dec. 2010. 304 pp.

Interviewed rather gently in October 1984 by Zimbabwe’s Moto magazine about the “allegations” of his army’s massacres of the Ndebele-speaking inhabitants of Matabeleland in the southwest of a liberated Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe claimed, “We have the army there to try and defend these helpless citizens.”

In fact, what at first glance appeared to be an internecine conflict among demobilized former liberation fighters had turned into an all-out assault on Mugabe’s political opposition and its civilian Ndebele ethnic base. Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU (Zimbabawe African People’s Union), founded in 1961, and Mugabe’s ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), which broke away from ZAPU in 1963, had both fought a successful guerilla war against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government. Mugabe’s ZANU won the first post-independence elections in 1980, only to find its political dominance challenged in Matabeleland by Nkomo’s Ndebele-based ZAPU. Intense political repression of Nkomo’s supporters followed, in a process known as the Gukurahundi, which claimed the lives of an estimated 20,000 civilians until the Unity Accord of 1987 merged the two parties into the current ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front).

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A Manifesto for the Mired Masses.

They say it’s History and Politics

and needs must, all Machiavellian and textbook,

those self-serving leaders of doctored elections

poised with their carving knives or sipping tea at conference tables,

a rich Zimbabwe laid naked to be plundered and broken:

the Zulu, the British, the Shona, the Government, the West.

It will always be wrong and unjust

and you can’t paint it over as race-war or tribe-war

or some new century capitalist conflict

and relegate the lives of millions to the back pages of books.

You CANNOT absolve certain atrocities solely because of timing

or shuffle awkwardly in your own homes

because deviations from party lines are taboo;

or stand ignorant in classrooms

and know more about Auschwitz than Gukurahundi,

or switch channels on the TV because that suffering isn’t your own.

And you CANNOT let your political mind take over,

you cannot assume the arrogance of the detached

and think that the mangling of a country is justified

by History, THEIR history translated to Afro-contexts:

they had Napoleon and we had Emperor Bokassa,

a rash of revolutions back there boys, so we’ll have a cycle of coups;

and you can’t defend leaders who’ve destroyed your homeland

and claim we write our own History along their patterns.

Do not be angry at conscience, 

rise above the condescending tones of foreign media and

the patronizing words of people who bitch about welfare payments and pensions.

Do not become resigned to it,


Not when people are DYING.

Not when old wounds are cut up and new injuries inflicted.

Not when millions of futures are ravaged

and everyone offering a hand is a fucking vulture,

not when after each revolution another Colonel lies in wait.

This is not chess,

these are people who had lives and who lost them,

people who continue to lose:

parents, siblings, sons and daughters

who must be avenged by becoming good again

by being better and rebuilding everything that They destroyed.