Secret telegram that triggered Gukurahundi reveales Joshua Nkomo called Robert Mugabe a dog

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by Gift Mawire

British Foreign Office files kept secret for more than 34  years have revealed details of how Zapu /Zipra forces commanders  refused to release kidnapped British tourists ,accused Joshua Nkomo of having said Robert Mugabe is a dog  and facilitated the arrest of their commanders.

In September 1982, British government learnt that Nkomo’s forces were upset that he joined Mugabe and facilitated the arrest of Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku.

The full letter from Zipra forces to Joshua Nkomo who was at the time a minister in Mugabe’s government is believed to have triggered Gukurahundi :

“We are declaring  that we are no more commanders.Why are you supporting Mugabe the puppet and not returning Dabengwa and other commanders who are in jail? Why are you campaigning that the tourists be returned before our other demands are met? We want Dabengwa and Masuku from you now, Joshua because you are the one who caused them to be arrested.(The reason for this you know. You told us at Gwai .You are afraid of being arrested).This means you want to be a friend of puppet Mugabe, the one you were saying was a dog.This s the last warning until Masuku and other commanders are freed.To us ZIPRA forces , Zapu military wing , you are our enemy number 1.We shall prove it by action.(Do you remember saying a man keeps a club?) .We will meet at the unknown capitalism , Zimbabwe. Down with puppet Mugabe.Down with Zanu PF.The war must be prepared for.

We have the tourists too until our demands (B) are met.


Mugabe later  sacked Nkomo, accusing him of preparing to overthrow the government.

North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade deployed to crush rebellion by pro-Nkomo ex-guerrillas in Midlands and Matabeleland provinces. Government forces are accused of killing thousands of civilians over next few years.

The opposition leader Nkomo  then fled Zimbabwe in March after members of the army ransacked his house and killed two people.

Upon his return five months after being denied refugee in Britain  Nkomo’s presence made Mugabe refer scathingly,

”The dissidents are operating in the name of the ‘father of Zimbabwe’; therefore we must call him the ‘father of dissidents,’ ” the Prime Minister said. ”Father of Zimbabwe’ was a term used for Mr. Nkomo by his followers in recognition of his pioneering nationalist activities for three decades.

Mr. Mugabe said Mr. Nkomo’s party had created the dissidence by hiding weapons after the guerrilla war for independence in the 1970’s.

”Now their leader is here,” he went on. ”I understand he has a number of solutions to the problem. Perhaps he can put them forth.” Mr. Mugabe then said Mr. Nkomo could help only by calling on the rebels to put down their arms.

Mr. Nkomo, speaking soon afterward, declared that he and his party condemned the dissidents’ violence. The opposition leader has on several occasions appealed unsuccessfully to the rebels to halt the fighting and also to release six foreign tourists, including two Americans, who were kidnapped in July last year./Additional report NYTimes

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