Page 3, 12th July 1985

12th July 1985
Page 3
Page 3, 12th July 1985 — Zimbabwe a nation divide

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Locations: Matabeleland, Harare


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Zimbabwe a nation divide

In the wake of last week's elections, Jack O'Sullivan explores the implications for national unity.

LAST WEEK'S election in Zimbabwe was a success. lt happened. ft was peaceful. No serious fraud, intimidation or malpractice has to date been reported during the huge logistical exercise involved in bringing almost 3 million voters to the polls.

Democracy and liberalism have apparently been strengthened. But it has left Zimbabwe, five years since its independence from Britain, cruelly divided. The period of "reconciliation" has, at least electorally, failed to produce a block, drawn from every section of the community, in favour of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (Zapu).

The result appeared to belie the Prime Minister's contention soon after the voters' verdict was announced, that: "We are one family, one country, with one nation, one government, and so we must have one party". Zanu had won a landslide in much of the country, increasing their representation from 57 to 63 of the 80 seats available to the black majority. But Matabeleland had offered an unequivocal vote of no confidence in his Government, returning MPs of the opposition Zimbabwean African People's Union (Zapu) in all fifteen seats. Meanwhile the majority of the 32,500 registered white voters delivered a deeply-felt snub to Mr Mugabe by giving 15 out of 20 of their seats to the party of' the Prime Minister's old enemy, Ian Smith.

Mr Smiths epitomises to black Zimbabweans everything they fought in the fourteen year war against White minority rule, which left up to 30,000 dead, most of them black. Mr Mugabe has not spoken to him in four years. The results have drawn fierce rhetoric from Government ministers, identifying Zapu aid the whites who voted for Smith, as the destroyers of unity. His attacks on this "undesirable element" are reported to have undermined morale in the 100,000 strong white community.

The white vote is difficult to explain in the light of the fine lifestyle which Europeans continue to enjoy in Zimbabwe. Not only do they still have their swimming pools in a country, where food has been in great shortage at times over the past three years, but they are also free from the strains of fighting for their privilege. Sonic commentators have claimed that the surprise result was because of a small, turnout by white voters, the more liberal ones staying away from the polls. This, combined with Ian Smith's charisma and clarity of policy, compared with the flexible posture of • the alternative, white "independents" could explain Smith's success.

The victory of Zapu in Matabeleland, making it very difficult for the Government to amend the multi-racial, multi-party Constitution agreed with Britain, at independance, was much more predictable. It was a re-run of last year's municipal council elections, when Zapu swept the province. 11 is widely regarded as the result of the alienation of the Ndebele-speaking people by the actions of the notorious Fifth Brigade, the Zanu Youth and the police force.

Most recently, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace produced clear evidence, in the weeks before the election, of links between a secret security unit responsible to Mr Mugabe and a spate of abduction of opposition party supporters in Ndebele-speaking parts of the midlands, during the first four months of this year.

Eleven kidnapped men were discovered in May by the Commission in a Government prison, having been held for over a month, without charge, allegedly by members of the Central Intelligence Organisation. The Government had previously denied any part in the disappearances. The chairman of the cornmision, Michael Auret, said that the 11 were beaten while in custody and only released on May 24, several weeks after their discovery. Mr Auret's report was largely ignored by the Governmentcontrolled press. He is still looking for 13 others abducted in March from the same area and believed to be held by the CTO.

Zimbabwe appears to be caught in a vicious circle. The Ndebele-speaking people have been the objects of the attention of the security forces because their support for Zapu is taken as support for "dissidents"' anti-government guerrillas. Intimidation has driven them yet deeper into the camp of Zapu and its leader, the "father of Zimbabwe", Joshua Nkomo.

The Church hierarchy is staying very quiet. A letter in a Zimbabwe Sunday paper during the campaign summed up the situation. It asked who represented Catholics in Zimbabwe — Archbishop Chakaipa of Harare or Michael Auret. With all the "you are either with us or against us" rhetoric flying about, leaders 6re holding their cards carefully to their chests. But Church leaders are very worried. One senior Catholic churchman confirmed privately, recently that torture, beatings, and killings of political opponents of the Mugabe Government are regular occurrences at the CIO-run Stops Camp, in Bulawayo, the main city of Matabeleland. He said that investigators were not being misled by the stories offered by victims.

An example in the previously unreported case of an elderly development worker, picked up by the CIO in October, following attendance at a meeting in Joshua Nkomo's Harare home.

Having been brought to Stops Camp, the

man was handcuffed and leg irons were attached with his hands chained behind his legs. He was stripped completely naked and forced to lie stomach down. A canvas bag was brought with a rope at the top. The bag was placed over his head and the rope tied. Electric shocks were applied to his feet and he became unconscious. He came to with his interrogators "tramping on" his stomach to get the water out and insisting he tell them about the recent Zapu Party Congress and the Nkomo meeting. After 22 days and several other torture sessions he was released without charge, threatened

longer attend Zapu meetings or sees Nkomo.

The need that the quoted Catholic church leader felt to maintain anonymity is indicative of the explosive nature of this type of information. Like most politically liberal institutions operating in Zimbabwe, the Church does not wish to offer South Africa any propaganda. Revelations such as these are a delight to those seeking to confirm the common prejudice that African nations cannot govern themselves.

The future for Zimbabwe seems very unclear. The whites are not a political threat to Mr Mugabe, Their actions may be ,'offensive' , but if pampered economically and reassured rhetorically they will stay for for as long as the Government is short of skilled labour. But elections result shows that the people of Matabeleland have neither been wooed nor coerced into a one party state which Mr Mugabe so desires. At this stage it is too early to say whether, behind the bombast after bombast "uurns" are being planned.

On a brighter note, one thing is sure, the Zimbabwean subsistence farmer is thriving this year after release from three years of drought. As Jonathan Swift wrote in Gullivers Travels: "Whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together."

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