By Rabhelani Mguni
During the height of the rain season of early 1983, the leaders of Zimbabwe African National Union -Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) carried out a military campaign they would call 'Gukurahundi a Shona' which loosely translates to ‘the rains that wash away chaff,’ targeting ethnic minorities who had largely voted for the opposition to Mugabe. The language that the leaders used to refer to their actions and minorities would be replicated a decade later during the Rwandan genocide against Tutsis.
Among the horrible language used, the ZANU PF's referred to minorities as "cockroaches that had to be exterminated", and the atrocities that took place were so inhuman that generations that lived during that time still do not want to talk about it. In addition to this, the state continued to choose the preservation of the settler colonial project, with Australia, Britain and Canada leading the charge of quiet diplomacy that ignored and attempted to silence journalists, something Peter Godwin would experience when writing about the Bhalagwe concentration camp. Mugabe had the silent blessing of the empire to do as he pleased as long as it was for the settler colonial statecraft.
Looking back from our vantage point as the formerly colonised and oppressed, today's situation can look like all other instances of massacres in history - a common experience of evil. But it's not. Rather, it's another thread of the bloodied fabric that colonialism is clothed. It is a common line and scene in the theatre of settler colonialism. One man or a group's quest for power is only achieved through the intention to ‘wash away the chaff’, silencing the lower caste that threatens that power with the blessing through the silence of the neighbours and other beneficiaries of that violence.
Many of us couldn't help being triggered, not only by Israel's conduct when accused of unimaginable atrocities, but also the audacity of Germany to take a stand and defend Israel so boldly. Germany displayed how disposable non-white lives are to the settler colonial entity. Watching the court case and reading from the BBC that Germany had referred to the case as ‘political instrumentalization’ of the court and Steffen Hebestreit, the federal government of Germany’s spokesman calling South Africa's accusations ‘baseless’ even though the whole world has been watching the scale of inhumanity. It made me realise why Palestine is not just a political stance for people from the global south. Germany did not only make Palestinian lives expendable for the sake of Israel's defense, but implicitly told former colonies that experienced (and have still not recovered from genocide) that their lives were expendable and disposable if they threatened the peace of the settler colonial state.
All throughout the conflict in Gaza, settler colonies whose statecraft is founded upon the dispossession of the indigenous people in their territories or overseas, came to support indiscriminate killing of civilians with no emotion to be detected. No joy or anger, just blankness. One wonders whether the supporters of violence are human because of the automated manner of their response.
The language of genocide is always the same. People are dehumanised to justify [the colonizer's] dehumanisation, whether it regards basic living conditions and everyday life, or direct torture and violence. When he was searching for the dissidents, Mugabe chose to put civilians under a curfew (that was unofficial all day, and not the evening, as stated in the law), arguing that it defended the bayoneting of pregnant women and food blockades to the region. There is so much happening to Palestinians that I know to be the experience of my family during Gukurahundi.
What Hamas did is unjustifiable, and they are indeed a terrorist organisation that is taking advantage of the crisis in the region. But all this being said, Israel's excessive use of lethal means on civilians to search for violent anti-state groups or militias is not what aggrieved states do, but is something that historically has been the automatic response of settler colonies. European political colonialism is unnecessary to the settler colonial project as evident in post-colonial and apartheid Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. What does not surprise most of us in this part of the world, is the fundamentalist adherence to the code of entitlement to security from, and all that belongs to the marginalised.
The self-righteousness of such statecraft fails to see the roots of discontent in the marginalised communities and the wrongness of their acts. The language of genocide is unlike any political jargon it sounds like a sermon from a Christian nationalist. From Matabeleland to the Congo, Namibia to Palestine, the language and tone of genocide justifies the terrors and extermination by naming the victims as savages, people lacking light.
The actions of Israel’s far-right government and its alliances are indistinguishable from the coalition of right-wing evangelicals in the states and their theological standing. The operation of genocide and its justification sounds like a type of theology, an interpretation of the humanity bible perhaps. In the end, it's wrong. There is no reconciling support and silence to civility. It's despicable. Now the world wonders which morality the world uses.
About the Writer:
Rabhelani Mguni is a writer and essayist. He lives in Bulawayo and spends time in Masvingo for school. The writer is undergraduate Gender Studies student at the Nehanda Center for Gender and Cultural Studies at the Great Zimbabwe University. His reading and writing is informed by his interests in social justice, liberation and social gospel theology, progressive liberalism, pacifism, romance, history and society. Some of his works have appeared in such publications like Lolwe, Novelty Fiction Gazette (Spring 2022 Issue), Kalahari Review, Olongo Africa and Odd Magazine.