Abstract

Abstract:

This paper explores an episode of state led extreme mass violence in Zimbabwe, commonly referred to as Gukurahundi, with a specific focus on the second phase of the campaign in Matabeleland South in early 1984. During this phase, the state targeted both the political structure of the main political opposition party of ZAPU, as well as the minority Ndebele ethnic group from which ZAPU drew much of its grassroots level political support. Between February and April 1984, the Government of Zimbabwe used food as a political and military weapon of coercion, torture, punishment, and death against the Ndebele people of Matabeleland South. Analysis of (a) transcripts of interviews with survivors and witnesses, and (b) official government communications, between the US Department of State and the American embassy in Harare during 1984, obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, sheds a critical new lens on the policy of starvation and punishment. The original sources compiled in this study provide evidence of: (1) the suffering of the innocent Ndebele victims of state crime, (2) the knowledge that was available to the Western diplomatic community, (3) the response of the US government to the atrocities, and (4) the response of the Government of Zimbabwe to the atrocities. This study concludes that the deprivation of food supplies, which formed a significant element of this state campaign, deliberately brought between 350,000 and 400,000 people to the extreme edge of starvation in contravention of international law. Corroborating reports from credible sources evidences that these Zimbabwean state crimes resulted in the death of men, women, and children from starvation and dehydration as well as through injuries and illness exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition induced by the government's strict curfew and forced starvation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2291-1847
Print ISSN
2291-1855
Pages
pp. 26-47
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-06
Open Access
No
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