what British Government knew about Mugabes worst crimes
- Mugabe: The Price of Silence (BBC ONE, 10.15pm, Sunday 10 March)
reveals that nearly 20 years ago Britain knew about crimes against
humanity committed by Robert Mugabe but failed to act decisively
to try and stop them.
1983 and 1984 a campaign by Mugabes government to crush political
opposition in Matabeleland led to the slaughter of thousands of
civilians with thousands more beaten and tortured.
a continuing and significant interest in Zimbabwe after independence
in 1980, Britain did not confront Mr Mugabe for these crimes, and
continued to do business with his most ruthless associate, Perence
Shiri, the military commander behind the atrocities.
diplomats and politicians who knew civilians in Matabeleland were
being massacred tell Panorama why they did not do more to try to
prevent the slaughter.
High Commissioner at the time, Sir Martin Ewans, says that his instructions
from London at the time were to "steer clear of it" when
speaking to Robert Mugabe.
tells Panorama: "I think this Matabeleland is a side issue,
the real issues were much bigger... We were extremely interested
that Zimbabwe should be a success story, and we were doing our best
to help Mugabe and his people bring that about."
Zimbabwean senior church leader Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube
tells the programme: "It is gross irresponsibility... to call
it a side issue. How would he have felt if his own family had been
murdered?... Its surprising now to say from the ivory tower
no it will make no difference. But try and feel with
those people who are feeling the pinch, it makes then a difference.
At least you can say I tried, even if you fail, I tried my best."
Martin, Deputy High Commissioner in 1984, who witnessed beatings
of unarmed civilians, tells Panorama: "
the big picture
involved keeping the show on the road for most of the country, recognising
that this series of atrocities were taken in limited areas of Matabeleland
but not severing relations and watching the whole thing go down
the tubes faster."
Howe, Britains Foreign Secretary in 1983 and 1984, says that
the Zimbabwean government was made aware of the British concern
over reports of atrocities in Matabeleland, but says: "There
is a limit to what this country can do to impose its will, and to
some extent a greater limit in an ex colony with an extremely sensitive
government, quite likely to react with increased hostilities when
they tend to make you impose our will."
the programme, the leading British diplomat Lord Renwick - former
ambassador to South Africa and the USA - admits the international
response was feable, and calls for those responsible for crimes
against humanity in Zimbabwe - including President Robert Mugabe
- to be brought before an international war crimes tribunal.
BBC ONEs Panorama he says: "When this sort of thing happens
in Bosnia or Kosovo the world gets its act together and acts, and
Milosevic ends up facing a crimes tribunal in the Hague. Now if
we really want to do something about these situations in Africa,
we cant... fail to try to do something similar if we really
want to make a difference in Africa."
- Mugabe: The Price of Silence also reveals that the military commander
behind the worst atrocities of Robert Mugabes rule in Zimbabwe
was invited to study at the MoDs most prestigious college.
invitation came barely a year after Perence Shiri led the force
that committed the most serious crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
commanded the 5th Brigade which carried out a reign of terror in
Matabeleland during 1983 and 1984. The slaughter claimed as many
as 20,000 civilian lives and thousands more were tortured.
this, in 1986, Shiri took up a place at the Royal College of Defence
Studies in London, an institution that describes itself as "the
senior Defence academic institution in the United Kingdom. The most
prestigious institution of its kind in the world".
MDC MP and human rights activist Mike Auret, who compiled a report
into the Matabeleland massacres in 1997, tells Panorama: "Perence
Shiri above all knew precisely what was happening, he gave the orders
and he, if nobody else, he deserves a world court. The crimes committed
by the 5th Brigade under his command were gross crimes against humanity."
Sir Edward Jones, who commanded the British Military Advisory and
Training team from 1983 to 1985, tells Panorama: "
he was the man who was going to be important in Zimbabwe and I think
it was important that we should influence him positively in so far
as we could."
went on to command the Zimbabwe Airforce and he organised the farm
invasions by war veterans during the past five years in Zimbabwe.
Two years ago Britain sold crucial spare parts for the Hawk jets
of Shiris airforce, a decision taken by Tony Blair against
the advice of his Foreign Secretary.
the campaign of terror in Matabeleland in 1983 and 1984 he was known
as "Black Jesus". Panorama speaks to eyewitnesses who
saw Shiri select women in Silobela village in 1983 to be taken away
to be raped and who saw Shiri beat an old man unconscious.