1980: Zimbabwe had just achieved independence under the new rule of Robert Mugabe. Most of the world breathed a sigh of relief – it seemed a relatively peaceful transition to democracy. But showing signs of the paranoia and dictatorship which would lead to today’s crisis, Mugabe deployed the 5th Brigade, an independent, Shona offshoot of the army, into the opposition Ndebele region of Matabeleland. Tasked with routing out dissident guerillas, the brigade targeted Ndebele civilians, killing, torturing and raping with impunity. Mugabe called the deployment “Gukurahundi”: the rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains.
Even when an uneasy truce brokered by opposition leader Joshua Nkomo merging his party into Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government, the massacres were never reconciled, Mugabe’s sole admission being that it was “a moment of madness”.
Today the scars still run deep. What has been silent for years has slowly begun to make itself heard. But with Zimbabwe in crisis, it is more important than ever that the past is confronted, lest the cycle of violence renews itself, repeating the mistakes all to common to the African continent.
The Tunnel aims to address this need, to provide a platform for discussion, confrontation and hopeful understanding.