Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Zimbabwe: Visit of North Korea's soccer team rekindles memories of massacres by Mugabe's thugs

Zimbabwe's plan to host a North Korean soccer side for the June 2010 FIFA World Cup in neighbouring South Africa is rekindling memories of the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s, amid a current climate of political intolerance.

Soon after independence from Britain in 1980, President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF launched Operation Gukhurundi - a Shona phrase for "the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains" - on the pretext of tackling insurgents and counter-revolutionaries sponsored by apartheid South Africa.

He unleashed the Zimbabwean army's North Korean-trained 5th Brigade in the provinces of Matabeleland North and South, and Midlands in southwestern Zimbabwe, strongholds of the rival ZAPU party, led by Joshua Nkomo. More than 20,000 people were killed in Operation Gukhurundi.

Now, the planned visit by the soccer side is leading to a resurfacing of emotions and vows of protests against the "unwanted visitors".

Political temperatures have also been ratcheted up recently by disagreement within the unity government - a fragile coalition between Mugabe's ZANU-PF, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and an MDC splinter party led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambura - over a new constitution.

ZANU-PF favours the adoption of a constitution drafted ahead of the violent March 2008 elections - known as the Kariba Draft - which concentrates power on an incumbent president, while the MDC favours a people-driven constitution, and argues that such a provision was made in the September 2008 Global Political Agreement, which paved the way for the unity government formed in February 2009.

Outreach teams have been trained to gather and compile information from Zimbabweans about what they expect in a new constitution, and will be deployed once funding is available.

Tariro Makumbe, a member of the MDC youth wing in the ZANU-PF rural stronghold of Muzarabani, in Mashonaland Central Province, in the north, fled to the capital, Harare, after her home was razed. She had objected to a ZANU-PF aligned chief's decree that not everybody would be permitted to contribute their views when the constitutional outreach team visited the area.

Censoring the constitution

"We were told that only selected ZANU-PF officials, youth and war veterans would be allowed to speak - anybody who spoke without authority would be beaten up after the constitutional outreach teams had left," she told IRIN.

Those selected to speak at the consultative meetings would favour the Kariba Draft, which includes the position that the fast-track land reform process launched in 2000 is irreversible, and that Zimbabwe will never again be a colony.

In recent weeks ZANU-PF and its youth wing has apparently launched Operation Hapana Anotaura (Nobody Speaks) to allow only the views of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party to be expressed to the constitution evaluation teams during meetings in rural areas.

"We have it on good authority that ZANU-PF has launched Operation Hapana Anotaura to stop grassroots people from freely airing their views during the constitutional outreach programme to be done by the Parliamentary Select Committee," the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ), an NGO working with traumatised communities, said in a statement.

"CCDZ is working in deeply polarised communities where Zimbabweans live in fear, and violence and intimidation is a living reality that haunts them on a daily basis," the statement said.

Elias Mudzuri, energy minister in the unity government and organising secretary of Tsvangirai's MDC, said he encountered increasing levels of political intolerance while travelling recently to the opening of a clinic in the Mashonaland Central Province.

"ZANU-PF youth militia set up roadblocks and threatened villagers from attending the function. We should not be allowing such acts of brutality to be taking place in modern Zimbabwe. I shudder to imagine what villagers in the remote parts of the country, who support the MDC, have to go through at the hands of marauding ZANU-PF militia who take the law into their hands at will."

Secretary-general of the MDC's youth wing, Solomon Madzore, told IRIN his organization was planning to visit rural areas to "conscientise" people, so that they should actively and openly participate in the constitution-making process.

"We want to remove the element of fear by talking to our parents and the general populace in the countryside," he said. "There is nothing illegal about the constitution-making process, which is a product of the inclusive [unity] government."

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN

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