Today I am continuing with the series on Gukurahundi. The issue of dissidents is one of the sticking issuing in the resolution of the Gukurahundi issue. After watching many interviews of Gukurahundi victims, I have noted that many victims of Gukurahundi will not mention their encounter with Dissidents.

I guess many victims feel that if they mention that they saw dissidents then it will automatically mean the deployment of 5th Brigade was justified.

However, dissidents were real. They operated in Matabelend North and Matabeleland South, and their number was approximately 600.

Dissident Groups

From my research, there were three groups of dissidents. They fought against Mugave’s soldiers and they fought even more among themselves.

The first group was made up of deserters from the newly integrated ZNA. They were mainly ZIPRA ex-combatants. These operated from Zambia and Botswana where there were refugee camps. This is why the dissident operations stretched between Victoria falls and Plumtree. They would regularly launch raids into Zimbabwe to make a statement. This group had an ideological foundation. They felt that ZIPRA had been treated unfairly and the new government had to be pushed from Matabeleland.

The second group was sponsored by South Africa. It was called Super ZAPU. This group was well funded and was hated by the group of genuine dissidents. Whenever they met, these groups would clash. However, as the 5th brigade operation intensified, this group vanished. This group was funded by the Apartheid Government and part of its purpose was to destroy the ANC in Matabeleland.

A third group was a band of bandits made up of activist youths whose family members had been killed by 5th Brigade soldiers. This group was motivated by revenge and committed various criminal activities and revenge attacks on white farmers and missionaries. They were based in the community and therefore were the most affected by Gukurahundi. They mostly provided information to the other two groups about operations of soldiers in their areas, including location of army camps.


Most genuine dissidents were desserters and therefore were not funded. However, they were supported by local communities with food, and information. They also had access to secret ZAPU arms caches,

Community Support

Local communities were initially in support of the dissidents but later turned against them when the 5th Brigade operations intensified.

Famous Dissidents

The most famous dissidents were Gayigusu who operated from Matabeleland South. Gayigusu was involved in the murder of 16 Missionaries at Adams farm, who included a 3 weeks old baby.

Others include Fidel Castro, Thambolenyoka, Desheka and Ndevuziqamulinkomisi.

Gayigusu was one day reported to soldiers when he was roasting meat in a hut. Soldiers surrounded the hut but he somehow managed to shoot his way out. This resulted in the local community thinking that Gayigusu was deliberately allowed to escape and could have been working for Mugabe’s government as part of Black Ops.

Popular Incidents

In mid-1982, bandits abducted six foreign tourists in Matabeleland, triggering a massive manhunt by government forces. On 23 July 1982, a group of tourists — two Britons, two Americans and two Australians — were kidnapped by bandits on the Victoria Falls road, 70 kilometres north of Bulawayo. The abductors left a note demanding the release of two senior members of Nkomo’s former army, Zipra, who had been arrested earlier in the year during the so-called arms caches crisis. The remains of the tourists were found in 1985. This incident was used as an excuse to deploy 5th Brigade in Matabeleland. Mugabe accused the local population of supporting the dissidents and providing them with food.


In 1988, an amnesty was announced where dissidents and later 5th Brigade soldiers were allowed to come out of the bush and go back to their homes. This was after the 1987 unity accord. About 200 Dissidents handed themselves over and were put into cooperatives. Some, such as Gayigusu, became ZANU PF officials.


The true story about dissidents is not completely known. This will be one of the key stories to be told during the Gukurahundi commissions. Current information at hand needs to be collected when the actual players are still alive. It is important for the process to start as soon as possible.