History Monday: Gukurahundi – Organized Violence Part 1

Hi, this is from a 1997 Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace


A.Definitions of organized violence

B.Forms of organized violence.

1.)Physical torture


3.)Sensory over stimulation

4.)Psychological torture – general

5.)Psychological torture – witnessing of violence

6.)Psychological torture – Disappearances

C.Consequences of organized violence

1.)Physical consequences

2.)Psychological consequences

D.Consequences of organized violence for society.

E.Relevance to Matabeleland – conclusion

It is difficult to estimate the costs of the epidemic violence of the 1980s. Costs must be measured in physical injuries, psychological disorders, economic damage and social pathology. Some of these costs, such as the medical consequences of physical injury, can be estimated, at the least by inference and comparison.

Psychological disorder can be also be estimated, as there is already a reasonably extensive literature on the effects of organized violence. The following chapter of this report (Legal Damages), makes some attempt to indicate the economic costs of the 1980s disturbances. There are, however, very few indications that social pathology can be easily measured.

As indicated in the previous chapters, the scale of violence was very large, and involved large numbers of people. The experiences reported by these people can be categorized, and it is the aim of this chapter to put the effects of the reported violence into a more human perspective.

Firstly, for each type of torture, we will begin with a definition and some examples, as these are necessary, both for a clear understanding of the forensic approach involved, and for an interpretation of the reports from Matabeleland. Then we will look at a specific testimony from the 1980s disturbances illustrating the given category of torture.

Once we have gone through the six main categories of torture in this way, we will make some general observations about the physical and psychological consequences of organized violence, and of the likely situation now in Matabeleland for survivors. We will not attempt to quantify any of the categories for the 1980s, as this would be inappropriate in the absence of direct clinical measurement.

We will, however, comment upon the likely prevalence of disorders, since direct comparison with other local and regional samples is possible. We will conclude with some suggestions for remediation of the ill-effects. Readers must bear in mind that the case testimonies which will be outlined in this chapter are merely illustrative, not conclusive evidence for any proposition.


  1. Nehanda Radio (2013) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: Types of Physical Torture (Part 14)’

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