In the early 1980s, Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe’s notorious Fifth Brigade troops, trained by North Korean advisers, cracked down on the Ndebele ethnic group in response to a supposed rebellion.
After almost 40 years in charge of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was forced to step down as president in November and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa became the new leader.
Since Mugabe’s ousting, thousands of people from the Ndebele ethnic group have come forward to ask for justice over a series of massacres that occurred in the 1980s, a period during which he was serving as prime minister.
Mugabe, the leader of ZANU, was elected prime minister of the newly created state of Zimbabwe in 1980 following a bitter war against the white-minority regime.
ZANU, which was predominantly supported by the country’s Shona, people won the 1980 election, trouncing the opposition ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo, which was backed by Zimbabwe’s Ndebele people.
During Mugabe’s rule, ZAPU supporters, plus many other villagers, women and children, were rounded up, tortured and killed in the massacres, called “Gukurahundi,” loosely meaning “the early rain which washes away the chaff.”
An estimated 20,000 people died in the massacre.
Now, though, the end of Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule has revived calls for justice and renewed accusations that President Mnangagwa played a key role in the bloodshed as he was serving as minister of state security.
Mnangagwa denies any culpability and has again declined to apologise since coming to power.