Mike Auret: Campaigner who challenged human rights abusers in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe

Posted: 12 April, 2020 | Category: Uncategorized

Mike Auret: Campaigner who challenged human rights abusers in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe

By Trevor Grundy


Mike Auret, the  Chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference during the Rhodesian War and  and in 2009 the author of a book that revealed most of Robert Mugabe’s criminal handling of the “ dissent” problem in  Matabeleland and the Midland between 1983 -1987 has died at his home in Ireland .

He was 83.

Bulawayo lawyer and former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP David Coltart, who worked with Auret in the Catholic Commission which documented wartime abuse in Rhodesia and  the genocide that took place in Zimbabwe in the 1980s,  said after hearing of his long-standing colleague’s death –“Mike’s work  in  promoting human rights in both Rhodesia and Zimbabwe was unparalleled. If ever there was a true Zimbabwean hero, it was Mike.”

Human rights lawyers Siphosami  Malunga said that Mike Auret was his hero.

“He relentlessly fought but failed to stop the genocide of 20,000 innocent civilians in Matabeleland.”

Mike Auret Jr. paid a moving tribute to his father describing him as a light that shone so brightly with the humility and gentleness of the saints he so faithfully followed.”

He said that his father might have become a Roman Catholic priest had he not met his mother to who Mike Auret was married for over 60 years,

The son of Mike and Diana Auret said:”While our hearts are torn asunder as we face the devastation of his leaving, we celebrate a life lived with great compassion, activism, meaning, wisdom and above all with such great love. Dad was never just ours. We shared him with the Zimbabwe he so loved and fought all his life for and ultimately with all those whose lives he touched and raised up through the power of his love.”

The son of white settlers in Rhodesia, Mike Auret served ten years in the Federal Army and twelve years farming before becoming such a prominent figure in the Roman Catholic Church.

Robert Mugabe with the Roman Catholic Archbishop

of Harare, Patrick Chakaipa.  The two were close friends.

Chakaipa told Mike Auret that a report condemning Mugabe’s

murders in Matabeleland would not be

published.”Never! This will never be published,” he said.

(Picture: Trevor Grundy)


Like almost everyone else who lived in Zimbabwe in 1980, he was overwhelmed by Mugabe’s speech of reconciliation and believed a new dawn had broken over the land he loved.

But as one of the most high profile Roman Catholic human rights activists in Zimbabwe, he soon came face to face with the unwelcome truth that only a cigarette paper divided the military measures used by Ian Smith in war and Robert Mugabe in peace.

Before that bombshell awakening, Auret met Mugabe many times.

In his 2009 book From Liberator to Dictator (davidphilip, 2009) he made no attempt to hide he was captivated by the Jesuit/Marist Brothers educated Mugabe.

At a meeting on Zimbabwe at Chatham House, London in September 2007 Mike Auret said:”I made a very grave error of judgment about Mugabe. I didn’t take in the fact that he was a committed Marxist and the fact that his belief there was a need for one party and one party only. He had invited that other party ZAPU to join him and they refused. There was only one way to get rid of the opposition party and that’s what he did with the Fifth Brigade.”

Auret said that when he first heard about the massacres in Matabeleland he could hardly believe what he was hearing from the lips of Bishop Karlen and the Bulawayo director of the CCJP, Joel  Silonda.

After representations to the Zimbabwean Government, first by NGOs and then by Catholic bishops, Mugabe reluctantly agreed to investigate what he called “over enthusiasm“by the Fifth Brigade.

For Zimbabweans reading this, the rest is known.

Mercifully, there was no Hollywood happy ending in Auret’s important to read book.

He said that for years to come, Zimbabweans would remain at the hands of the wreckers and killers who went along with Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa just one of them.

Auret wrote prophetically -”There is little moral conscience among them and perhaps they have another chapter to write before they succumb to the pressure of their neighbours and the world.”