History Monday: Gukurahundi – The Victims Part 4

Hi, this is from Nehanda Radio and a 1997 CCJP report. It is a continuation from last History Monday


Possible numbers of detainees are also very difficult to assess at this stage. Some attempt was made in the case study on Matobo to estimate a figure for those detained at Bhalagwe.

Based on an average stay of two weeks, and an average holding capacity of 2000, it was assumed that any number of civilians between 8000 and double this figure could have passed through Bhalagwe. As some reports put the holding capacity at considerably higher than 2000 at its peak, this assumption does not seem unreasonable, but it is an assumption nonetheless.

Apart from Bhalagwe, both documents on file and lists of named victims in Chikurubi in 1985 suggest certainly hundreds and likely thousands of detainees over the period from 1982 to 1987.

The detention centers at St Paul’s in Lupane and in Tsholotsho operated from mid 1982, and certainly hundreds were detained in 1982 alone. Africa Confidential refers to 700 detained at Tsholotsho in 1982, and St Paul’s detention center was also large. There are also reference to 1000 detained in Bulawayo in March 1983.

In 1985 and 1986 there were further detentions, both before and after the general elections. Elected ZAPU officials were picked up in rural areas, and hundreds were detained in urban centers too. LCFHR refers to 1300 detained in Bulawayo in early 1985 and 400+ detained in Bulawayo in August 1985.

There are official documents signed by police confirming large numbers of detainees. For example, CCJP wrote to Nkayi Police station inquiring about the whereabouts of a certain man who had been detained. The police wrote back saying they had detained 80 people that day in Nkayi, and most had been subsequently released. They had no record of this particular man.

Again, there is no easy formula for arriving at a figure for detainees. It seems reasonable to assume at least 10 000 were detained, some for a few days and some for far longer, between 1982 and 1987. This is an assumption based on what is known now of the general unfolding of events, and the holding capacities of various detention centers.


1. Nehanda Radio (2012) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: Number of Victims (Part 13)’

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