«[COVER PICTURE] An overview of youth militia training and activities in Zimbabwe, October 2000 – August 2003 THE SOLIDARITY PEACE TRUST 5 ...»
The training was six months. We were taught how to do some exercises which was the component of physical fitness. Then there were road runs, which were still part of physical fitness. And then in addition there was what they termed “orientation”. We were taught about the Zimbabwean history from the time of Lobengula up to the 2002. We were told that during the times of Lobengula, whites came in to the country and robbed him of riches. Then later on, whites went on to even seize land and when the seized this land, they made a land for wild game and they started these safari operations.
Whenever the hunters come in, all the royalties do not go to the Zimbabwean government or to the Zimbabweans at large. All the royalties are sent out of the country. Zimbabweans as a population are not gaining anything. So we were taught that it is an advantage for the blacks or the Zimbabweans to seize land from the whites and to start using it for farming, particularly irrigation as well as crop farming, because all the produce will go the Grain Marketing Board, so that in times of hunger, the Grain Marketing Board is going to plough that back to the people, which does not happen with the safari lodges.
They were really reinforcing that whites are coming in to rob us. Also, if we don’t join this 3rd Chimurenga revolution, we are really betraying this country, or selling out. So there is really a need for us to come together as Zimbabweans and really fight this cause to the end. But I am not quite sure what this 3rd Chimurenga looked like and what they had in the backs of their minds.
What we were taught really was more of destruction. If you compare what we were taught and what used to happen before we were taught that, you realise that really life was normal, but once we were taught these skills and they started being implemented, things became abnormal, and even today you can see that a lot of things have been destroyed in the process. So what we were taught was more on destruction than on reconstruction. Among us it was not even possible to raise a question about what we were taught. If you felt that what you were being taught was destructive, it was better for you to escape, because you would come out alive, than to question what was taking place. If ever one was going to dare question, that person was going to be taken for dead.
In the camp they don’t mention anything constructive about any other party save for ZANU-PF and they just tell us categorically that MDC is wrong. It’s a dirty party, and there is hardly any other mention of it, save for that. It’s a condemned party full stop.
Once you get out of the camps, you will be having a negative view of all normal life - you will be violent, such that if you arrive at a store, you wouldn’t like to see people just buying and all that. You would like to get in and just seize property and close that shop on the spot. So that spirit was instilled 69 during the training and I find that was not good. You know, when you come out of the camp, you have a feeling of vengeance, because the treatment that we were getting there was very bad. We were tortured. Anytime you were seen wearing a joyful face, they would really be on you and push you around and torture you, until you are very unhappy. And when you leave this place, there is this feeling that you would like to revenge, only to find that you revenge on whoever is near you and is powerless.
You know, when you move as a group, we felt that we were a feared lot and this was evident in our reactions. Even if we beat up people, we knew they would call the police, but when the police came, they encouraged us to change our statement and put it as if we were provoked, that people were being insulting, calling us ‘green bombers’ - then that would be the statement that was brought forward, and the police would encourage us to just beat up those people. We got a lot of power. Our source of power was this encouragement we were getting, particularly from the police and others. We were getting this power and it was instilled in us that whenever we go out, we are free to do whatever we want and nobody was going to question that.
At times the youth are put into groups of 10 to 20 and then they are taken out to a camp somewhere.
They are there to do community service, which involved going to do some minor work within some government centres, for example food distribution from the Grain Marketing Board centres. The food distribution was not really done in a clean way, in the sense that the militia would seize some of those items, like bags of maize, and just say the government is going to pay on their behalf. We were taking this maize both for consumption as well as to sell in order to get money, because we were told that there was no one who was going to receive payment in the camps because food was provided for, soap was provided for, and almost everything…clothing, then what’s the need?
The group you were in dictated how people should behave. If it was composed of the majority who were into destroying, you find that it was very difficult for the minority not to join in because they would be viewed as sell-outs. So that’s how we found the whole group being destructive by the end of the day. The situation was really forcing me to behave as they did, but it was difficult on my part because I didn’t have this intention. As a result that’s why I had to escape.
When we were out there, our instructors were mainly the ones raping the girls. They would ask some new recruits to wash for them and clean their houses. In the process they ended up sleeping with them.
This happened to a lot of girls and most of them had to be expelled as they fell pregnant before the end of the six months training. There were some who were found sleeping with the instructors and as a result the instructor would be expelled as well as the girl. So whilst I know personally of three who became pregnant, these others were found sleeping with the instructors and they were expelled in the process, I don’t know how many of them were pregnant. The instructors were not allowing the boys to sleep with the girls. It was quite strict and at night they would go around monitoring, making sure that the militia youths do not have access to the females. The dormitories for females were surrounded with a fence, whilst the dormitories for men were not really enclosed.
Later on, after being involved in these violent activities, that’s when you would regret and feel that you had done something wrong. This remained an internal feeling but I had difficulties to share it with others and I didn’t and I wouldn’t have dared to. Most of them really felt at home with the violence and they never cared. I was deployed in my home area, and this is where I spent my two months of active service. I felt that I was in my home area and I couldn’t do all those things that we were doing to my own people.
At times I actually beat people I knew, and this did not go down well with me. 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.
And the people who operated lodges, the safari lodges, they were seen as a conduit for MDC and whites. So it was felt that they need to be attacked so that they are stopped.
We were after something that would really intoxicate oneself like alcohol, as well as things like mbanje, dagga [terms for marijuana]. You would really smoke those things before you spring the attacks. If we sell some items from the lootings, then we would get some money to buy this. The majority of the youth would smoke as well as drink. Anyone who did not, had a difficult time and was in danger of becoming a victim himself.
Once you are in the community, you get some people who are friendly and who become your informers. They will you that so and so and so and so were talking badly about you or at such and such a place, they were generally talking badly about the militia youth and then you will be just forced to go and attack. You find that you wouldn’t know a lot of people. And as a result when you get this information, you just go to the area and start attacking people. But at times you would do so even sober. You would just get into the habit.
When I escaped, I was ill. Then we were taken to S Clinic. It’s near D Centre. That’s where I ran away.
When we escaped, I was not alone. There were some boys who stay in M. So we ran away together.
These others returned to the camp, although 4 of us did not.
I think the government is preparing for war. I think the youth training - it’s just a path to war. The youth are the armed wing for ZANU-PF. They are preparing a war against the MDC. The MDC party is labelled the party led by whites. So whenever MDC people are targeted it’s as good as thus targeting the whites.
When I think of the youth militia now I feel anxious, really, I feel very angry. Even when I am looking at them, I don’t feel well. I don’t see anything that I can envy from the National Youth Service. I don’t see anything good in it at all.
International references Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark: Zimbabwe 2002. The Presidential Election: 44 days to go, Johannesburg 24 January 2002.
Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark: Zimbabwe: Post Presidential Election – March to May 2002. “We’ll make them run”, Copenhagen, 21 May 2002.
Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark: Vote ZANU-PF or starve: Zimbabwe August to October 2002; Johannesburg, 20 November 2002.
Solidarity Peace Trust, Johannesburg: Peaceful Protest and Police Torture in the City of Bulawayo, 24 February to 26 March 2003:Bulawayo, 8 April 2003.
Amnesty International: AI has continued to produce regular statements and Urgent Actions, expressing their deep concern about the continued abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe, and the repression of human rights activists and civil society.
AI, January 2002: Memorandum to SADC on the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. AI press release, 12 March 2002: Zimbabwe: Hundreds detained in politically-motivated crackdown. AI press release, 18 March 2002: Zimbabwe: Citizens’ rights not politics, must set the agenda. Amnesty International press release, 5 April 2002, Zimbabwe: Assault and sexual violence by militia.
AI, Zimbabwe: Political violence intensifies ahead of September local elections, 8 August 2002. AI, Zimbabwe: Government authorities intensify their campaign to silence dissent, 2 September 2002. AI, Zimbabwe: Orchestrated campaign targeting opposition intensifies in the run up to local elections, 11 September 2002. AI, Zimbabwe: Violence mars rural district council elections, 1 October 2002. AI, Zimbabwe: Appeal to President Mbeki on African Day of Human and Peoples’ Rights, 21 October
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17 October 2002, Harare and Brussels Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, New York: Independent lawyers and judges targeted in Zimbabwe, statement 22 August 2002.
Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (an independent international organisation based in Denmark, with 17 years’ experience in treatment of torture survivors): In February 2001, they released a report on election violence linked to a by-election in Zimbabwe in January 2001.
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Survivors (IRCT) (an independent, international health professionals’ organisation, which promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and works for the prevention of torture worldwide): They have produced their findings in two reports, in May 2000 and in June 2001.
Dr Keith Martin, M.D., MP: Food as a weapon. OP-ED submission to House of Commons, Canada, 31 October 2002
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum: Violence monitoring (a Harare-based forum of Zimbabwean NGOs that have systematically monitored political violence and have produced reports on HR abuses in the country): Who was responsible? Alleged perpetrators and their crimes during the 2000 Parliamentary Election period, July 2001.
Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe: monthly summaries of press monitoring.
Food Security Network (FOSENET): Community assessment of the food situation in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Electoral Supervisory Network (ZESN): Report on Local Authority Election 28-29 September 2002, Harare, October 2002 Also Legal Resources Foundation website, www.lrf.co.zw, for reports on defiance of court rulings and attacks on legal officials in 2002.
CCJP and LRF: Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace; a report on the disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands 1980-1988, Harare, 1997.