Zimbabwe 1983-1987: Gukuruhundi and the little known rape of tens of thousands of women

Posted: 4 August, 2023 | Category: Current News Category: Features & Analysis Category: Uncategorized

Robert Mugabe with ‘liberation’ leaders during the Rhodesian War. But when his guns stopped blazing against Europeans  who built Rhodesia, they opened up again on people whose only home was Zimbabwe.


The South African freedom fighter and anti-apartheid activist Paul Trewhela writes –

”Please read the very important paper in the attachment below. It is about the ethnicist genocide and mass rape carried out in Zimbabwe between 1983 and 1984 against Ndebele women by Shona male government soldiers under direct political orders of the tribalist regime of former president Robert Mugabe and the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

”The paper is written by Dr Hazel Cameron and was published last month after many years of very intensive research by Dr Cameron, particularly among Zimbabweans now living in South Africa.

”President Mnangagwa was a colleague with South Africa’s ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, in attending the war summit directed by Russia’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, with African heads of state in St Petersburg last weekend.

”There has been scandalous acceptance and effective support for the genocidal regime in Zimbabwe by the governments of Russia, Britain and South Africa.  This state policy of genocidal rape needs to be made an international political issue, above all in South Africa.

”The ANC government is complicit, despite the atrocity of the Zimbabwean government being in complete conflict with the founding spirit of the ANC.”


A link to the report is published at the bottom of this page.

Dr Cameron’s  report is essential reading for anyone involved in the struggle for human rights in Africa  and  protection of millions of women who are so often victims of mass rape. Yet many of the men who authorised the actions of vile beasts like Perrance Shiri walk free, men like him jousting on their clapped out horses for the highest posts in the land on  election day, August 23 this year.

Below are some extracts from this must-to-read report by a prominent academic about crimes that have been downplayed (even ignored) for decades.



A handshake that signalled the end of a bloodbath – Mugabe and Nkomo sign a Unity Accord on December 22, 1987 at State House, Harare (Picture: Trevor Grundy)

At the heart of Operation Gukurahundi was a strategy of state ordered terror targeting the minority Ndebele, perpetrated by a 4,000 strong all-Shona Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army (ZNA),2 and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). Operation Gukurahundi, effected by the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army and the Central Intelligence Organization, were overseen by the Joint High Command (JHC), headed by the incumbent President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Although the peak of the violence occurred between 1983 and 1984, Operation Gukurahundi did not come to an end until December 1987 with the signing of the national unity accord between former President Mugabe and Dr Joshua Nkomo leader of the political opposition party ZAPU, and the merging of the two parties, namely ZAPU and ZANU to form ZANU–PF.

Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe: A report on the disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands 1980-1988. Introduction by Elinor Sisulu and foreword by Archbishop Pius Ncube. It was first published by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe in 1997, then by Jacana Media (Pvt) Limited in 2007 and Hurst  & Company, London

The implementation of rape from 1983 to 1984 was a premeditated and methodical system of devastation and destruction in Zimbabwe. Those with oversight of the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army and the Central Intelligence Organization, including the Joint High Command, headed by the current President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, employed systematic and far-reaching rape and sexual violence as a weapon of genocidal violence against a specific group, namely the Ndebele, in both intent and effect, thereby fulfilling every condition of the Genocide Convention principles of genocide (United Nations 1948)

Peace . . . justice  . . . reparation. As far away now as they were forty years ago

Liability for genocide extends to those who “planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution” of one or more genocidal acts (Akayesu 1998, article 6(1)). There has yet to be an official investigation into the mass state-sponsored atrocities of Operation Gukurahundi, meeting appropriate due process standards. Some of the key planners and organizers, those who acted in positions of authority orchestrating the genocidal campaign of mass rape and other sexual violence, continue to hold senior positions in the ZANU–PF government of Zimbabwe. This includes the current President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had authority over both the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwean National Army and the Central Intelligence Organization, in his role as head of the state’s Joint High Command, and Minister of Internal Security. He has not yet been indicted to appear before a competent international or national court of law with the jurisdiction to try such cases, and as such there continues to be no legal judgment recognizing the rapes and other forms of sexual violence of Operation Gukurahundi to be genocide.


A genuine Mugabe supporter (above). But thousands of women in Matabeleland were ordered to dress like Zanu (PF) supporters and sing ‘liberation’ songs in Shona , a language they did not understand, before being raped. (Picture: Trevor Grundy)

The crimes of genocide committed by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany, the Hutu government of Rwanda in 1994 and the Bosnian Serb forces in the Former Yugoslavia, all of which have been commented upon in this article, were investigated, prosecuted and passed judgement on in international courts in a global effort to end impunity through international justice. In Zimbabwe, 40 years after the launch of Operation Gukurahundi, there has yet to be an investigation and prosecution, and the most senior leader and organizer of the genocide, the incumbent President of Zimbabwe, enjoys not only impunity for his crimes but, most recently, an invitation to the 6 May 2023 coronation of King Charles III of the United Kingdom

Mass killer Perrance Shiri (Robert Mugabe’ cousin). His  real name was Bigboy Samson Chikerema.

Estimates vary as to the total number of non-combatant civilians who were deliberately massacred during the entire period of Operation Gukurahundi. One conservative estimate is “no fewer than 10,000 and no more than 20,000” (Eppel 2011). However, Dan Stannard, who was the Director Internal of the CIO during the period being examined in this study, believes that the number of Ndebele killed may be closer to between 30,000 and 50,000 (Onslow 2008). As a senior member of Zimbabwe’s CIO that worked jointly with the military in Matabeleland, one may anticipate that he would have had access to relatively accurate field intelligence regarding the approximate number of fatalities.

Those who were not there want the world to forget what happened but those who survived know and remember the horror of seven years of slaughter which Robert Mugabe famously described as  ‘a moment of madness.’  Some moment. Some madness.

To date, there has been no rigorous criminological study of the patterns of state crimes that were perpetrated under the umbrella of Operation Gukurahundi between 1983 and 1987. The state’s use of rape and other forms of sexual violence has also remained hidden from scrutiny and, until now, has not been the subject of any programme of analytical research.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, alive now and doing a lot of the kicking when Gukuruhund was let off the lead in the Midland and Matabeleland between 1983 and Mugabe’s installation as President of Zimbabwe in December 1987.

It is widely recognized by genocide scholars, and beyond, that dehumanization is an essential element in genocidal confrontations (Haslam 2019). In every case of genocide, a human group that was about to be decimated was explicitly denied its humanity and likened to rats, cockroaches and other vermin (Haslam 2019: 120). It is therefore of significant relevance that in public speeches of 1983, the current incumbent President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, referred to the Ndebele as “cockroaches,” and the Fifth Brigade as the “‘DDT’ brought into the area to eradicate them” (Cameron 2017: 12). In his public speeches, Emmerson Mnangagwa was explicit that the joint operations of the CIO, and the Fifth Brigade of the ZNA targeting the civilian unarmed population of Matabeleland was part of a deliberate state policy and meticulously planned (Coltart 2016: 143).


Now read on –

Cameron.indd (scienceopen.com



Editor Trevor Grundy thanks Dr Hazel Cameron (pictured) for giving him permission to publish this timely, well- written, impeccably researched and deeply disturbing report.  Dr Cameron is Director of Pearl International Insights, a leading academic consultancy and research institute  which is based in Dundee, Scotland.