"Gukurahundi" was a crime against humanity. Now at last one brave film-maker is putting it on record
Zenzele Ndebele is a 29-year-old Zimbabwean journalist and film producer, and he is a man to admire. His latest video, which is becoming available in Zimbabwe at this time, documents the appalling massacres in Matabeleland, when, in the mid-Eighties, upwards of 20,000 people of the Ndebele community are believed to have lost their lives.
The killers were Mugabe's infamous North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade. The term "Gukurahundi" is a Shona expression meaning "The first rain that washes away the chaff of the last harvest before the spring rains." But today to the Ndebele people the word evokes a mixture of dark emotions - terror, anger, even shame.
So terrifying, so brutal was the experience, it has for years remained undiscussed, unexamined. But now Zenzele Ndebele has courageously put together a video documentary, titled "Gukurahundi: A Moment Of Madness." At last the truth is being told - and that truth is terrible.
Archive footage shows a youthful Mugabe promising to "crush completely" the innocent people he called dissidents. Then some of the so-called "dissidents" who survived reveal the ordeals they were put through.
One man describes scores of youths being pushed down a mine shaft. Any who resisted were shot. The mine-shaft became filled to the brim with bodies, and a second one had to be found for the killings to continue.
Another interviewee describes how, as a young boy, he was ordered to set fire to a house in which soldiers had locked 30 of his family. But when the soldiers left a rain-storm occurred, and the people were saved.
Zenzele Ndebele told me that the climate of fear which Mugabe has now spread through the country made finding witnesses prepared to talk on camera very difficult. "Of those who agreed to talk, several changed their minds afterwards. They would call and ask me to leave them out."
As a result the video is only 25 minutes long, cut down from its intended length of 45 minutes. Yet I can tell you that it is 25 minutes of rivetting footage that people in our country, in Africa, in the world, should see.
I asked Zenzele if, as copies of his video become clandestinely available through Zimbabwe, he is fearful of action that Mugabe's thugs may take against him.
"I'm prepared for anything," he said. "After all, if they beat me up, it wil only serve to emphasise the truth of our history."