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Breaking The Silence, Building True Peace. A report on the disturbances in Matabeleland
and the Midlands, 1980 - 1988. A Summary.

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) & Legal Resources Foundation (LRF)
April 1999

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This report is a short version of a much longer book, which was published and released for sale in Zimbabwe in 1997. This first book was researched and written by the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace. (CCJP ) 2000 copies of this longer book have been published, and most have been sold.

A copy was sent to His Excellency the President, and other Cabinet Ministers in Zimbabwe have also read the report. There has been no official comment about the report from the President or Government.

Why was the first book written?
People who live in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands know only too well what happened to them during the 1980s. Their lives were affected in serious ways by both government troops and also by dissidents and youth brigades at this time.

However, most people from other parts of Zimbabwe still have no idea what it was like for those who were suffering. They have no idea how people still suffer as a result of the violence that took place. People who were affected also do not have ways of talking to people in other parts of the country about what happened. Ordinary people all over Zimbabwe need to know what happened during those years in their own country.

Why has this summary been written?
The first book was very long, and had to include many details in order to make sure that the claims of the book were well supported. This made the book expensive to produce and expensive to sell.

The writing of a short version was therefore seen as a good idea. It includes only the most important parts of the first book. It has been produced more cheaply so that it can be available in communities that want to know what the report says. This shorter version has also been translated into Ndebele and Shona. In this way, people in affected regions can read how their history has been told, and people in unaffected regions can learn about it for the first time.

How is the book structured?
Part One
of the report tells the history of the 1980s in Zimbabwe, written as a general story. Many types of information were used to put this history together, including human rights reports, histories by others, Government sources, and The Chronicle newspaper. This section tells what government ministers and dissidents and army troops were saying and doing at the time, and shows how events happened in Zimbabwe during these years.

Part Two includes two case studies, which are covered in more detail. These are Tsholotsho and Matobo, one district from each province of Matabeleland. These short histories tell what actually happened day by day and week by week, exactly as ordinary people who live in these districts told it to us.

We know that the stories told here are only a handful of the stories still to be told, but it is a beginning. Because of limited finance, it was not possible to include every district in one book, or to speak to every person in Tsholotsho and Matobo. But it was hoped that by including two areas in some detail, other people reading the report could start to get an idea of what life was like for those affected by the violence.

Part Three of the report looks at some of the problems people still face because of the disturbances. It tries to begin assessing what the real material and emotional cost has been to the region. It also looks at the problem of mass graves and shallow graves in some detail, and has some recommendations about these.

Part Four of the report has some important recommendations about how damage to the region can be repaired, and how steps can be taken to ensure this never happens again. The recommendations are summarised at the end of this document.

Zimbabwe is currently enjoying a period of stability which did not exist twelve years ago. There are now no emergency powers in force, and people have more freedom of movement and speech than ever before. Before Independence, ninety years of colonial rule caused great injustices and suffering. In particular, the 1970s War of Liberation cost the lives of possibly 30 000 people. There were other costs to this war. Thousands lost property, livestock and suffered permanent injuries. Thousands more gave up their opportunity to get an education, or were forced to live for years in protected villages. For all these people, the suffering continues in many ways.

The events of the 1970s have been well documented. CCJP is among the many organisations that stood up for human rights during these years, and who have published books and videos making sure that there is a permanent record of these things. The Man in the Middle (1975), and The Civil War in Rhodesia (1976) are two such publications, among others. The LRF was not established until 1984.

While much has been written about the liberation struggle, there has been little written about what happened in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. This report acknowledges the historical context within which events of the 1980s took place and does not seek to blame anyone. This report now seeks to break the silence surrounding what happened in Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Over one thousand people came forward to tell their stories in recent years. The report seeks to give these people a chance to be heard. It is hoped that truth will lead to reconciliation. To help this happen, there are practical recommendations at the end of the report on how to help the people affected.

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