History Monday: Gukurahundi – Forms of Organized Violence Part 1

Hi, this is from  a 1997 Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and a continuation from last History Monday


It has become conventional in the study of organized violence to view violence as a kind of stress, albeit a very extreme form of stress. Where man-made stress is concerned, war, torture, riots, and psychological terror are sometimes considered to occupy a very similar position on the stress dimension. Despite their similarity, it is worth specifying the various forms, for, although the intent behind the violence may be the same – to deliberately harm human beings – the effects found are by no means uniform.

Organized violence can be very simply classified into six main kinds:

1. Physical torture. 2. Deprivation. 3. Sensory overstimulation. 4 Psychological torture – general 5. Psychological torture – Witnessing of death or torture. 6. Psychological torture – “Disappearing” of people.

These are by no means exclusive categories: it is usually not possible to separate clearly physical and psychological torture, except in the rare cases of psychological torture occurring in the absence of physical torture. It is fair to say that physical torture is always accompanied by verbal threats. In addition, people can suffer several types of physical torture simultaneously.

A person might have been tortured, both physically and psychologically, have seen this happen to others, and have had a member of her family forcibly abducted and never seen again. Certainly, most interviewees providing data for this report suffered multiple types of abuse, as will be clearly illustrated by the cases used below.

A seventh category, wounds due to war, might also have been included, for these will clearly be found among people from Matabeleland and other victims of war, but this category is so obvious in its origin and its effects that it requires little discussion. Unfortunately, bullet wounds, or limbs missing due to land mine explosions are all too often the only pathology examined by a society.

Here we would point out that the First National Disability Survey, carried out in the early 1980’s, is a good example of this point: injuries due to war are reported exclusively as physical injuries. We will thus concentrate on the original six areas.



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

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