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PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week received a delegation from the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (North Korea), nailing his political association colours to the mast.

He looked very comfortable in the company of the group from the far-flung outpost of tyranny. 

The visit cemented Mugabe’s relations with North Koreans and paraded their political affinity, while it was also a throwback to the dark era of the 1980s.

Mugabe thanked the North Koreans at a state banquet held for them on Monday night, saying they had provided support in areas of construction, defence, security, energy, mining, health and arts and culture.

He claimed the visit was a “clear demonstration of support and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe” in the context of the inclusive government.  

Mugabe congratulated North Koreans for their widely condemned satellite launch last month. The launch was slammed by influential sections of the international community, especially the US, Japan and EU states, as provocative and a threat to international peace and security.

Venturing deeper into the subject and displaying his admiration for the North Koreans, Mugabe thanked the country’s founder, the late “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung. “The Great Leader will thus live forever in our memories of the revolutionary struggle we waged to earn our freedom,” Mugabe said. “Not only did he provide us with training facilities for our cadres, but he extended us substantial material assistance by way of weaponry. We thank him today as we did yesterday.”

Mugabe forged a close relationship with the “Great Leader” in the late 1970s at the height of the liberation struggle. His 21st February Movement is modelled along Kim Il Sung’s Juche ideological lines of following the “party and the dear leader”. 

Because Joshua Nkomo’s Zipra forces received support from the orthodox Moscow-led Soviet bloc, Mugabe had to find his own sponsors for Zanla in Bejing and Pyongyang. This explains Harare’s frosty relations with Moscow up to this day.

The alliance between Zanla and Pyongyang was a rare breakthrough for Kim Il Sung to pursue his own foreign policy adventures. So when Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 it immediately became North Korea’s most ambitious foreign policy objective.

Hundreds of North Korean military advisers were deployed to Zimbabwe, not only to train but also equip the professional army and Mugabe’s shock-troops, the notorious 5th Brigade, with T-54 tanks, trucks, armoured cars, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and a plethora of small arms and ammunition.

For a few years Kim Il Sung even dreamt of emulating Fidel Castro and, from his Zimbabwean base, had over 3 000 troops helping the Angolan, Mozambican and Ethiopian governments.

Mugabe’s association with North Koreans is very controversial. While they backed the liberation war effort, the same North Koreans trained the 5th Brigade which killed at least 20 000 Zimbabweans in the southwestern region from 1982-87 during the Gukurahundi campaign.

For most balanced and objective Zimbabweans, the North Koreans are therefore not welcome. Their presence is seen as not only an insult to the families and relatives of those killed by the 5th Brigade, but also an affront to our collective conscience and humanity as a nation.

How do serious leaders receive with open arms agents of a regime which was behind grisly massacres of their own fellow citizens?

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