History Monday: Gukurahundi – Super ZAPU Part 2

Hi, this is from Nehanda Radio and a continuation from last History Monday

Other dissident groups

The ex ZIPRA dissidents could be characterized as being motivated, in 1980, by political disgruntlement, and by 1982, mostly by the desire to escape persecution. Super ZAPU were those who sought to destabilize the country at South Africa’s behest.

There were also dissidents who were not ex ZIPRA, although they might have had similar motives. Those fleeing persecution included not only ex ZIPRA soldiers, but other 5 Brigade target groups such as ex-refugees and ZAPU youth. Most of these became refugees in Botswana, but some joined groups of dissidents.

A few others who became dissidents were motivated by revenge, especially in the wake of the “Gukurahundi”, or 5 Brigade massacres. Some were criminals capitalizing on the situation, to rob and plunder. These dissidents were not necessarily ex ZIPRA members, and it is possible that some of these did not surrender at the Amnesty.

There was a final group of what has been referred to as “pseudo dissidents”, including the gang led by Gayigusu in Matabeleland South, which was responsible for the murder of 16 missionaries in November 1987. This gang was allegedly the personal “hit squad” of politically powerful ZANU PF officials in this part of the country. They were summoned by local squatters engaged in a land dispute with the missionaries who were trying to evict them. Sixteen men, women and children were axed to death.

It is difficult to estimate numbers of those who were perhaps more correctly criminals than dissidents, particularly as it seemed to suit Government statistics to attribute every armed robbery in Matabeleland during the 1980s to dissidents, while such events were attributed to criminals when they occurred elsewhere in the country. (See comments on The Chronicle in section on Data Sources).

However, after the Amnesty in March 1988, the official position became reversed at times: the Government no longer wished to view certain crimes which had at the time been called “dissident”, as the work of dissidents. The trial of a man who allegedly murdered two German tourists in 1987 is an example of this policy reversal. While the crime was referred to as the work of dissidents at the time, and the accused considered himself to be a dissident, and therefore exempt from sentencing under the terms of the Amnesty, the State urged that he be viewed and sentenced as an ordinary criminal.

He was in fact found guilty of criminal rather than dissident activity and sentenced to death accordingly.This was a heinous crime, but there was no evidence of theft. The ambush was clearly an act of terror, and others who committed similar crimes went free, such as Gayigusu who headed a gang responsible for murdering 16 missionaries in Nov 1987.

This case serves merely to illustrate the way in which officialdom would use or abandon the label “dissident”, depending what suited their purposes at the time.


1. Nehanda Radio (2012) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: Super ZAPU dissidents (Part 6)’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s