We, the deeply concerned, patriots of Zimbabwe living here in the United States, are here because we have a problem, a problem of State-sponsored terror and atrocities ordered and sanctioned by someone we know was an enforcer for former President Robert Mugabe’s atrocities of the 1980s, known today as Gukurahundi.
Guest column: Pearl Matibe
In Zimbabwe, in the early 2000s, I experienced State-sponsored violence during the farm invasions — my family lived on a 1 100-acre farm; that’s about 445 hectares.
While I’m not going to dredge up the past today, I’ll tell you that one day on a hot Thursday afternoon, during the farm invasions, I was on our farm in Chegutu and one of my employees rushed in to me panicking, Mama, kune vanhu kugedhi—ndovavhurira here? [Translated from Shona: “Ma’am, there are people by the gate – should I open for them?”] A convoy of government vehicles had arrived. I knew that this was no ordinary visit. The violence had been relentless for months.
I was able to film four of the vehicles used, including a Land Rover Defender registration number 759-526W, a vehicle donated by the British government for use by the rural district council. By the end of that afternoon, our farm was seized; it was now government property. They had set fire to the maize, which was being shelled and bagged, ready for market and the baled tobacco too; the fruit of our labour.
I had to cover my face and back away from the raging blaze. Less than seven days later — on a Sunday night — my farmhouse was set on fire in the hope that I would be burnt inside. On a Zimbabwe’s
Independence Day Celebration one April, baton-wielding Zanu PF youths drove a convoy of vehicles onto our farm at night to instil fear in anyone not “supposedly celebrating the struggle” from colonial rule. I remained in the house, while two of my personal security guards went out to them. Before leaving, they helped me to barricade the farmhouse entrances with furniture and I hid under the bed for a couple of hours in a gun cabinet built into the concrete floor under my bed.
As deeply concerned patriots of Zimbabwe’s diaspora based here in the United States, we know that the problem with Zimbabwe’s State-sponsored violence and atrocities this January of 2019, are no different to Gukurahundi. The world failed to hold the perpetrators to account for Gukurahundi, for the mugabeism-farm invasion violence of the 2000s, for the State-sponsored violence of 2008, for the August 1, 2018 killings, and today, presidents such as
South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa look the other way in this January 2019 State-sponsored atrocities.
But, while some may be wondering how this could possibly be happening now, I see many distressing similarities to the Gukurahundi atrocities. Because of early indications of a systemic pursuit of going after the opposition, I dispute the claim that the ruling Zanu PF government of 1983 was going after dissidents. The truth is they hoped to decimate the opposition political party, Zapu, and its followers.
From my personal encounters with Zanu PF, I see denial. With Gukurahundi, former president Robert Mugabe denied (early on) as it was unfolding, that it was even taking place. During the farm invasions, again early on, former Information secretary George Charamba denied even being aware of my family’s farm being seized by war veterans when he was asked by a Washington Post journalist.
He said he claimed the farm invasions were ”an exaggeration and manipulation” by farmers. That was in August of 2011. With the current January 2019 protests, while in Russia, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said there were some protests happening, but they were “almost fizzling” out, yet the stayaway terror is continuing.
The Gukurahundi atrocities were committed in the name of freedom for the nation and national security, yet the truth is they were intended to quash the opposing Zapu political party and its followers.
In the same way, the farm invasions were supposedly to correct a colonial imbalance. How did taking away a farm from my family amount to correcting a colonial imbalance; the truth is, it was a guise to reward, enrich and entrench a few Zanu PF elites and their loyalists.
As a Zimbabwe diaspora woman, I condemn the rape and sexual assault violations now being committed by the Zimbabwe Defense Forces as they commit brutalities in neighborhoods across the country.
It is hurting our families, friends, communities, and our country’s image.In Zimbabwe, there is someone to blame for causing us this pain. Mugabe’s enforcer, now President and First Secretary of Zanu PF, Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa refused to give the Zimbabwe diaspora the right to vote. Today, he’s refusing to permit Zimbabweans still living in the country the right to live out their aspirations. Zimbabweans are living in perilous times.
Diaspora women and all Zimbabwean citizens want their loved ones out of harm’s way, enjoying peace of mind, living their aspirations and dreams, and most importantly, leaving legacies for their children’s children. Any active shooter. Any unarmed victim hoping to survive the bullet of an AK-47 assault rifle has little chance of escape.
The way I see it, you’d have three choices; run, hide or fight. Zimbabweans didn’t fight, but tried to hide and others ran. The unfortunate family member that couldn’t get out of the line of fire on Zimbabwe’s streets took a bullet.” Not enough is being done because we’re seeing Gukurahundi all over again, but more atrocious.
Still, not enough is being done, but I’m willing to speak fair and square on these issues. It is the country of my birth. Zimbabweans love their country, and they love it more than they love Mnangagwa.
The reign of terror, gunning people down and beatings have to stop. Everyone has a human right to live a life free from fear and to be represented by a person of their choice to serve in public office.
Since the highly distressing digital images of the fast deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crises in Zimbabwe, little to no information is being communicated to the outside world and due to the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led government’s security sector carrying out acts of impunity, the diaspora have decided to act decisively. Zimbabwe is unpredictable. That has to change.
The Zanu PF led government has been oppressive for the last 38-years; abducting, torturing, and oppressing the people of Zimbabwe for decades. Gukurahundi, farm invasion violence,1 August 1 killings through to the January 2019 atrocities are all commonplace in Zimbabwe. Enough is enough.”
It has been less than a month after the August 1 Kgalema Monhlante Commission of Inquiry found that Zimbabwe’s “use of live ammunition directed at people, especially when they were fleeing, was clearly unjustified and disproportionate,” yet more unarmed civilians died in this January 2019 atrocities from unjustified and disproportionate use of force.
As diaspora women, we have been reclaiming our country’s powerful, potential unapologetically and helping women back home. I wish to underscore that Ramaphosa has betrayed former President Nelson Mandela’s legacy and by saying nothing of the gross human violations in Zimbabwe, he not only aids their cover-up, but he is also looking on while Zimbabwe goes to ruin.
He must immediately condemn it in its entirety. Besides Zimbabweans came to South Africa’s aid during apartheid. Now, when he sees the injustices in Zimbabwe, he looks away. I’ll partially quote Albert Einstein and say this: “Zimbabwe is a more dangerous place because of those who do evil and, more so because of those who look on and do nothing.”
On Monday 21 January in the US, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. His monument is here in Washington, DC Zimbabweans have a dream. The diaspora women have a dream too. I dream of a time when each person in Zimbabwe will be able to live his or her ideals, and aspirations.
I would like to thank everyone that campaigned and pressured to stop Mnangagwa from going to Davos, Switzerland. If we work together, we will achieve more positive results.
The right to the diaspora vote must be protected for future elections
The current actions of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and their Commander in-Chief, Mnangagwa, must be considered as mass shootings.
Ramaphosa must act swiftly and without delay, and include the worldwide diaspora and diaspora women on the visitors’ roll.
Trump (perhaps through his adviser Ivana Trump and US Congress) must engage the Zimbabwe diaspora and the diaspora women at every step of the decision-making process.
Mnangagwa must institute, swift, sincere dialogue with opposing ideologies and all stakeholders, including the worldwide diaspora and worldwide diaspora women. We prefer that he steps down because the diaspora were disenfranchised at the July 30 ,2018 poll.
I’m calling on Mnangagwa to take a hard look at the benefits of what the people of Zimbabwe stand to gain and to quickly move the country to a strong middle class. He needs Zimbabwe’s diaspora women at the dialogue table.
As the sitting Head of State, Mnangagwa should be promoting urgent, genuine dialogue than be seen to be standing in the way of it in taking the country forward.