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A story of armed mayhem

29 Apr 2012 at 10:39hrs | Views
In the recently published novel, The Guns of Matabeleland, the author, Skid Masuku displays incredible imagination.

This is an action packed scintillating tale of armed mayhem, ruthless betrayal and incredible humour, 'as never told before since the advent of armed confrontation', according to the author.

The fiction story, set in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, is based on an otherwise sad tale of the 1980s, but the author entertains the reader with an abundance of action that may not allow a break in reading. This is enhanced by similarly abundant humour in somewhat incongruous circumstances.

Soon after a ceasefire and transfer of power from colonial rule, the war torn state of Zimbabwe plunges into some more armed insurrection, mainly caused by mistrust between the two military wings of the Zapu and Zanu liberation movements.

Soon after independence from British colonial rule in 1980 politicians of the Patriotic Front liberation movement squabble over the power that has been vacated by the British-Rhodesian government. State security agents engage in a witch-hunt after a series of subversive activities suspected to be carried out by former Rhodesian agents and the South African secret service.

  Suspicions are later extended to former members of the Zapu party's Zipra guerilla army. This spreads fear in the ranks of the former Zipra soldiers and some of them desert the army, taking their weapons with them and starting an uprising against the Zanu government.

The two components of the Patriotic Front are bolstered by thousands of armed and war-hardened guerilla fighters, who have fought the powerful Rhodesian army in a bloody bush war for over a decade.

The behaviour of some of the squabbling politicians spills over to the military forces of both components of the liberation movement, causing mistrust, anger and fear. This leads to armed confrontation between ex-Zipra and Zanla soldiers in army camps, and more desertions. That culminates in the Entumbane clashes that left hundreds of people dead. The government accuses the opposition Zapu party of fomenting the violence and launches a brutal campaign to destroy its support base. That involves the deployment of the Gukurahundi militia, which leads to chilling bloodshed and wanton destruction of property, in which thousands of civilians perish. The ending has an intriguing twist in the tail, which gives insight that the state agents involved in the campaign were not serving the interests of Zimbabwe after all.

The novel is also available in ebook format on

Skid Masuku is a former Zapu cadre who spent most of his youth fighting the Rhodesian colonial government. He grew up in the Mpopoma suburb of Bulawayo and attended school at Mzilikazi High School. After that he trained as a teacher at the United College of Education. After that he left for Zambia where he underwent military training.

He says he and many other young men at the time were actually trained in battle. "Live ammunition was used in the training, which was Zipra's standard procedure; and we were exposed to battle even before we learned how to shoot, when the Rhodesian forces attacked our camps, and we had to fight."

He was later deployed in the Zambezi valley where he faced the Rhodesian army in uncountable battles.

Later he was taken to the Soviet Union where he studied political science and journalism. After independence he worked for Zimpapers as a reporter in Harare and Bulawayo. He is now a correspondent for several international publications and concentrating in novel writing.

He dedicates this novel to all former Zipra and Zanla combatants who sacrificed their lives to end colonial rule in Zimbabwe. He also gives credit to all those who deserted the army and were branded as 'dissidents'; for though they fought the government they did not allow themselves to be used by the South African apartheid government in its destabilisation campaign, which would have brought much more suffering and destruction that would have taken longer to end.  

Though he was trained and participated in untold violence in the 1970s, Masuku says he abhors the use of force in whatever circumstances, and urges today's politicians to settle their differences peacefully.

"Zimbabweans must have learned a lesson from the events of the 1980s insurgency in Matabeleland and the Midlands, that violence is not the way to deal with political differences. Even if someone is regarded as a sell-out he must not be killed, win him over in dialogue," he adds.

Source - Novel review by Corine Saunders
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