THE following is a letter written by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo to President Robert Mugabe on June 7 1983 condemning the way the then prime minister had treated him after “discovering” arms that saw the government unleashing the K
orean-trained Fifth Brigade on the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces and leaving 20 000 people dead.
2 Stevenage Road
East Ham E6 2WL
London E6 2WL
7th June, 1983
INFORMATIVE LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER MUGABE
I write to you as a citizen of Zimbabwe and one of the leaders of our country, to you not just as one of the leaders of Zimbabwe but, above all, as Prime Minister of the government of Zimbabwe as provided for by the constitution that you and me as well as other leaders signed in December 1979.
I write because I feel that our country is in danger of complete disintegration, to the detriment of all its citizens now living and of generations to come.
Not least, I write to you because I am convinced that you believe I am the main contributory factor to this dangerous situation.
You have stated publicly on several occasions that I have plotted, and continue to plot, to overthrow you and your government, that I have conspired, and continue to conspire, with South Africa to do that, that I have organised and continue to organise dissident groups for the purpose of destabilising the country and finally to overthrow you.
You now say I have run to Britain, ostensibly because I thought my life was or is in danger, but that I have done so for the purpose of recruiting mercenaries and/or assassins to wrest power from you.
I also know that you and your party believe that because Zapu lost in the last election we feel wounded, and therefore plan to wrest power from you by any means, fair or foul.
You say we did all I have stated above despite the fact that we agreed to take part in your government when you, as Prime Minister, invited us to.
This whole series of accusations against me and Zapu, which are false and without any foundation whatsoever, started on the 6th February, 1982 when caches of arms were discovered at Escort Farm and later at Hampton Farm, both of which were owned by Nitram, a private company I assisted former Zipra combatants to form for occupation and use by those of them who were not incorporated into the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
The discovery of arms on the 6th February was followed by a number of categoric and definitive statements, by yourself, to the effect that arms were discovered in Nkomo- and Zapu-owned properties and that the cache of arms were part of a plot to overthrow you and your government; and that all those properties were being used for subversive purposes. You said in Marondera on the 14th February, 1982: “Zapu had bought more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises throughout the country. We have now established they were not genuine business enterprises, but places of hiding military weapons to start another war at an appropriate time.” You added: “Dr Nkomo was trying to overthrow my government. Zapu and its leader, Dr Joshua Nkomo, were like a cobra in a house. The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head.”
You will remember that you met me and three of my colleagues at your official residence on the 5th February to discuss a number of issues, and at the end of that meeting I mentioned to you that I had received a telephone message from Bulawayo to the effect that two Nitram Farms, Ascot and Woody Glen Farm, had been invaded by the police the previous night and you said you had also got information and you would inform me later what it was all about.
That evening I travelled with two of your ministers on a plane to Bulawayo, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Sydney Sekeramai. Little did I know that you had sent these two men to Bulawayo to display to the press arms allegedly unearthed in one of those farms, namely Ascot Farm.
I would have expected that as minister under you, you would, after finding arms in Nitram-owned properties, to have summoned me to your office to find out from me as to whether I knew anything about the arms.
I would have expected, further, that you would have instructed me to have joined Mnangagwa and Sekeramai in an attempt to uncover information about those arms. I am sure you realise how important it was for me to have physically seen the location, the quantity and nature of the arms that were discovered, especially at a time when I was still minister. While I do not dispute that arms were found on these farms, how else would I have been expected to believe the quantity, and nature of the arms unearthed and displayed to the press were authentic?
As it is now, I cannot be made to believe that the quantities, quality and nature of arms presented to the press were in fact all unearthed just in those two farms. It is quite clear for the discovery to make an impact on the people of Zimbabwe and the world in general, it was necessary for those who assisted you to ferry arms from elsewhere so as to make this accusation of a plot to overthrow the government to appear real.
To quote a statement made at a press briefing at Brady Barracks on the 8th February 1982: “Arms and ammunitions so far recovered in the joint police and army search operation in Matebeleland are sufficient to equip a force of 5 000 men.” Note, in “Matebeleland” and not in Ascot and Hampton Farms. However, this is neither here nor there.
By Monday the 15th February 1982, the two properties owned by Nitram, the only properties on which arms were found, together with properties owned by Zapu and those owned by companies whose members were Zapu, including properties owned by me and my family, were confiscated under the notorious Unlawful Organisations Act, which was enacted by settler regimes to suppress liberation organisations.
I would like to emphasise that no other property, even those others owned by Nitram, which were all confiscated, had any arms found on them.
Having reminded you that arms were discovered in only two Nitram-owned farms, Ascot Farm near Bulawayo and Hampton Farm near Gweru, let me further remind you that in the course of your marathon speeches round the country, telling the story of having found caches of arms meant to perpetrate a plot to overthrow you and your government, you said among other things: “If all arms cached by Zipra were found in or near assembly camps only, my government and I would not have minded.
“But that,” you continued, “a large quantity of arms was found in Zapu-owned properties, it is clear they were intended for use against my government.” You said this because you knew that Zanla had cached a lot of arms in and near their former assembly camps, and there was the question of a trainload of arms that had disappeared between the (Mozambican) border and Mutare.
It appears to me you have conveniently forgotten that Ntumbane in Bulawayo, was in fact an assembly point for both Zipra and Zanla, that after the first Ntumbane disturbances every type of weapon not allowed there, was found in that assembly point. The same happened after the second disturbances there; heavy weapons were found in both Zipra and Zanla camps in Ntumbane. Why then did you find it surprising to have found arms at Ascot Farm which is hardly seven miles from Ntumbane assembly point?
The same applies to Hampton Farm which is not far from Connemara Barracks where there were disturbances at the same time as there were disturbances in Ntumbane the second time. As a matter of fact, Comrade Munangagwa on 26th February said: “Four caches of arms including 600 G3 rifles stolen during the mutiny in Connemara more than a year ago were discovered on a farm near Gweru.”
Over and above what I have stated regarding arms caches I quote a statement by PF Zapu Central Committee held in Bulawayo on the 15 February, 1982: “The Central Committee is dismayed at the deliberate attempt to build a case on an issue whose background the Prime Minister very well knows emanates from a war situation. The Central Committee denies the allegation that Zapu had any prior knowledge of the arms caches anywhere.
“The administration of the army and all military issues, including former combatants’ assembly camps, were placed under the responsibility of the Joint Military Command, thus removing Zapu and Zanu of responsibility over military affairs. We wish to categorically deny the allegation of a plot to overthrow the government. On the contrary, PF Zapu did everything, and still does for the consolidation and success of our independence.” (Herald.)
On Thursday, February 17, you announced at a press conference that I and three of my colleagues, JM Chinamano, JW Msika and JG Ntuta, were dismissed from your government. You made your announcement at a press conference and we learnt of our dismissal from your government by press, television and radio.
was completely flabbergasted and astounded by your accusations, your actions and the manner in which they were made. What stunned and bemused me even more is that I was convinced that you knew in your heart of hearts that all accusations were false.
I was also convinced that you could not have been unaware of the repercussions of your statements and actions on former Zanla and Zipra combatants in the national army and in the police, and the feelings of divisiveness and hostility they would arouse.
You must know that it was soon after your initial statements and actions that there was talk of polarisation of Zanla and Zipra former combatants within the national army. Mutual suspicion and mistrust was maximised, and clashes between the two groups became commonplace.
Meanwhile, former Zipra commanders were summoned by the army command, at your instruction, for questioning and investigation. This was done, it is said, by the military police and/or the CIO. Later, ordinary former Zipra men, irrespective of rank, were also taken for investigation.
Information has it that during these investigations there was a lot of beatings and torture of all types that a number of these young people were killed and others maimed.
These actions were followed by desertions and defections from the national army not only by former Zipra combatants, but also by former Zanla.
It was then that we learnt from your public speeches, and those of your ministers, that a number of armed robbers and bandits in the country was growing, especially in the western province of Matebeleland.
Later your public statements and those of your ministers began to stress that these armed bandits were in fact politically inspired dissidents.
Information has it also that some 300 or so Zipra combatants and a few Zanla who were arrested after the troubles in a battalion camp near Karoi were detained secretly somewhere near Harare and are taken in small batches to be court-martialled and executed, with no right of appeal and without informing their next of kin. It is further known that the last of these executions that has come to light took place on February 14, 1983.
It was when in your parliamentary speech you openly and blatantly accused me personally and Zapu as a party of organising, maintaining and directing such armed dissident activities that I met you, and after thorough discussion, that I thought you accepted our position that we were not in any manner connected with these elements.
I found it necessary to meet you because despite the fact that I had continuously and persistently denounced and condemned the activities of these dissidents and had demanded that you appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee, without success, to investigate who these dissidents are and who succours them, instead you found it necessary to accuse us in parliament the way you did.
During December, overtures on unity between Zapu and Zanu were made to me by your emissaries in the persons of President Canaan Banana and Minister Enos Nkala. After two meetings with them I thought we had made progress and suggested to them that the next meeting should be with yourself.
* To be continued next week.