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«[COVER PICTURE] An overview of youth militia training and activities in Zimbabwe, October 2000 – August 2003 THE SOLIDARITY PEACE TRUST 5 ...»

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National youth service training -

“ shaping youths in a truly Zimbabwean manner”


An overview of youth militia training and activities in Zimbabwe,

October 2000 – August 2003


5 September, 2003

Produced by:

The Solidarity Peace Trust,

Zimbabwe and South Africa

Endorsed nationally by:

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference Ecumenical Support Services Harare Ecumenical Working Group Christians Together for Justice and Peace

Endorsed internationally by:

Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark The Solidarity Peace Trust has a Board consisting of church leaders of Southern Africa and is dedicated to promoting the rights of victims of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

The Trust was founded in 2003. The Chairperson is Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, and the Vice Chairperson is Anglican Bishop Rubin Phillip of Kwazulu Natal.

email: selvanc@venturenet,co.za or leopard@metroweb.co.za phone: + 27 (0) 83 556 1726 2 “Those who seek unity must not be our enemies. No, we say no to them, they must first repent…. They must first be together with us, speak the same language with us, act like us, walk alike and dream alike.” President Robert Mugabe [Heroes’ Day, 11 August 2003: referring to the MDC and the possibility of dialogue between MDC and ZANU-PF] 1 “…the mistake that the ruling party made was to allow colleges and universities to be turned into anti-Government mentality factories.” Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni [ZANU-PF Information and Publicity Secretary for Bulawayo]2 “[National service is] shaping youths in a truly Zimbabwean manner” Vice President Joseph Msika [July 2002, speech at graduation of 1,063 militia in Mt Darwin]3 1 The Herald, Harare, 12 August 2003.

2 The Chronicle, Bulawayo, 26 April 2001 3 The Herald, Harare, 26 July 2002 3

Comments from youth militia themselves about their activities:4

“It was about vandalism… We were used to do the things the State does not want to do themselves. Then they can just say it was just the youths, not us”.

“We are Zanu-PF’s “B” team. The army is the “A” team and we do the things the government does not want the “A” team to do.

“I had to beat them because they were selling their carvings by the roadside. They were attracting whites by doing this. As a result, they need to be beaten up so that they stop that. It was said that such people that have links with whites are MDC supporters. So they needed a beating so they could be stopped once and for all.”

–  –  –

Behind the mask of a programme bearing the innocuous title “national youth service training” lurks a pernicious evil that threatens not only to destroy the nation’s youth but also to subvert many of the core Christian values upon which the nation was built. It is the great merit of this report that it tears off this mask and exposes to full view the inner workings of this scheme. With the publication of this report no longer will there be any possible justification for the old excuse “I didn’t know”, whether coming from a Zimbabwean or the international community.

The national youth service training programme masquerades as a youth training scheme that imparts useful skills and patriotic values. As this well-documented report makes clear, nothing could be farther from the truth. The reality is a paramilitary training programme for Zimbabwe’s youth with the clear aim of inculcating blatantly antidemocratic, racist and xenophobic attitudes. The youth militias so created are used as instruments of the ruling party, to maintain their hold on power by whatever means necessary, including torture, rape, murder and arson. Having been thoroughly brain-washed, the youth militias are deployed to carry out whatever instructions they receive from their political commissars, on the understanding that they will never be called to account by this regime for any of their deeds. The report details the use of the militias by those who control them to carry forward the ZANU-PF political agenda in everything from manipulating election results to controlling the food distribution process to the party’s advantage.

While the militias are trained and incited to commit grievous violent crimes against their fellow citizens, it is also a fact that many of them have become victims of human rights’ abuses themselves in the course of training. The most conspicuous example of this abuse is the rape, and multiple rape, of young girls by the boys undergoing training with them, and by their military instructors. The resulting pregnancies and infections with sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV, not only devastate the lives of the youth concerned but are creating a terrible legacy for the nation.

Those responsible for instigating this vile system have introduced into the body politic, a cancer, which now spreads through the nation unchecked and leaves destruction in its wake. The nation’s youth are being deliberately corrupted and brutalized, and then deployed to wreak havoc among the people, for no other purpose but to carry forward ZANU- PF’s political agenda. The moral, spiritual and physical well-being of a whole generation of Zimbabweans is being sacrificed for the short-term political advantage of those in power, with incalculable long-term effects upon the very fabric of the nation. How, we ask, will it ever be possible to reintegrate these young people into the communities that they have terrorized?

In our view this is an outrage against which every single peace-loving Zimbabwean, together with the whole international community, should rise up in angry protest. Every youth whose future is thus threatened, every parent, every grand-parent, every brother and sister – indeed every responsible citizen with a care for the well-being of the nation – should stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, and say “No!” to this evil scheme.


As Church leaders, to those who are responsible, we reiterate the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

‘“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord’ (Jeremiah 23/1) And we remind those who deliberately corrupt the nation’s youth of our Lord’s most severe warning: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18/6) In the final analysis there is no impunity for those who break God’s law, and especially terrible is the judgment of those who deliberately lead others into sin.

The appalling danger posed by the youth militia training must be faced with the utmost urgency. It requires a united response across the nation. Our particular constituency is the Church, and therefore our call for an urgent and united response is first directed to the Church, which nominally accounts for some 70 per cent of the population. But the call is wider and should embrace all men and women of good will who desire peace and harmony for the nation.

We appeal to all Zimbabweans to join us in addressing the following urgent demands to those who

exercise power in our nation today:

1. The immediate cessation of the national youth service training programme

2. The closing of all training camps across the country

3. The surrender to lawful authority of all weapons now in the hands of the youth militias

4. The thorough investigation of all crimes committed by the youth militia and prosecution of those responsible for murder, rape, torture and arson, with priority being given to bringing to justice those responsible for inciting and encouraging these brutal crimes

5. The setting up of a truly national forum of civic and church leaders to determine a comprehensive programme for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former members of the youth militias into society.

We appeal to our colleagues in the SADC region to speak out and condemn the Zimbabwean Government for promoting the militarization of youth in Zimbabwe. We appeal to Commonwealth countries to maintain and intensify the isolation of the Zimbabwean government and to make disbandment of the youth militia one of the conditions that must be met before our nation can be readmitted into the international community.

–  –  –

5 Ministry of Information, Harare, 2001: “Inside the Third Chimurenga” by Robert G Mugabe.

6 From The Chronicle, Bulawayo, 7 December 2001.

–  –  –

In the last two years, Zimbabwe has seen a new national youth service training programme moving rapidly from a supposedly voluntary, small scale training that allegedly aimed at skills enhancement, patriotism and moral education, to what is now intended to be a compulsory, large scale, paramilitary training.

The need for national service has to date never been formally debated in Parliament and there is no legislation controlling its implementation. Yet the youth militia training is now referred to by government as compulsory. Furthermore, the government is already implementing a policy that denies school leavers access to tertiary training facilities and civil service posts, including teaching and nursing, without proof of having completed the national service training.

This report reviews information on youth militia policies and activities from their conception in 2000, to their deployment in December 2001, and up to the present. Sources include both state controlled and independent media reports, training material from the camps, interviews with those tortured by the militia, and interviews with militia themselves. Further sources include human rights reports by Amnesty International, London, Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark, and Zimbabwean human rights organisations.

Early government policy documents focussed on the need to provide the nation’s youth, referred to as those aged between 10 and 30 years of age, with a sense of national pride and history, as well as skills suitable for employment. However, contrary to early claims that the youth militia training would not be politically partisan, there is overwhelming evidence that the youth militia camps are aimed at forcing on all school leavers a ZANU-PF view of Zimbabwean history and the present. All training materials in the camps have, from inception, consisted exclusively of ZANU-PF campaign materials and political speeches. This material is crudely racist and vilifies the major opposition party in the country, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Furthermore, in contradiction of claims that the training would not aim at imparting military skills, military drills including weapons training are shown to have been major elements of youth training since the first youth intakes during 2001. The government itself has finally in July 2003, acknowledged its hitherto denied policy of weapons training for all trainees in the compulsory service, with the national army announcing itself as a concerned party in the training. The Minister of Defence has announced that youth service should be compulsory, should involve weapons training, and that all youth should form a reserve force to defend their nation, falling under military command.

Government rhetoric states that the youth militia must defend the nation against imperialists and neocolonialists. Combined with government rhetoric that we have enemies within, including the neocolonialist and imperialist opposition party, the MDC, it would appear that the youth militia are intended to “defend” the nation against a legal and widely supported political opposition. Certainly, those believed to be MDC supporters, have been the most common targets of youth militia attacks.

The youth militia have, since January 2002, become one of the most commonly reported violators of human rights, with accusations against them including murder, torture, rape and destruction of property. They have been blatantly used by ZANU-PF as a campaign tool, being given impunity and 7 All claims in this summary are supported in the report following and are therefore not footnoted here.

10 implicit powers to mount roadblocks, disrupt MDC rallies, and intimidate voters. This role of the youth militia has been documented in relation to the Presidential Election, the Rural District Council Elections, parliamentary by-elections, and most recently in the Urban Council Elections.

Other activities documented in this report, include the role played at times by youth militia in politicisation of government food distribution through the control of Grain Marketing Board (GMB) sales. Youth militia have also been implicated in denial of access to health care on politically partisan grounds, and in destruction of independent newspapers. Accounts of youth militia being implicated in theft, vandalism and usurping the powers of law enforcing agencies are multiple.

The militia have an ambivalent relationship with law enforcing agencies including the army and police.

On the whole, the youth militia have impunity, often working under the direction of war veterans and alongside government agencies in their illegal activities. They are seldom arrested or prevented from breaking the law. However, there are a few cases on record of the youth militia attacking police or army, and being attacked or arrested in return. The courts have also at times condemned their activities and passed judgement against them.

Apart from having committed crimes against their fellow Zimbabweans, including family and neighbours, the youth militia have themselves become victims of human rights abuses in the course of their training. In terms of international law, to train anyone militarily under the age of 18 years, is to create a child soldier. Government policy has on several occasions indicated the catchment for militia training as being those between 10 and 30 years old. While an overall record of the numbers and ages of youth trained is not publicly available, ad hoc information confirms that children as young as 11 years of age have been through the militia training.

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