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Former magistrate key witness in Mugabe's Matabeleland butchers



Staff reporter
Former Matabeleland provincial magistrate Johnson Mkandla has seen all the anarchy unfolds under President Mugabe’s watch – he was detained three times without charge, the only reason for his persecution was his association with the late Sydney Malunga, Naison Ndlovu and other PF-Zapu leaders.

In his detention cell, in Bulawayo’s Stops Camp, he saw civilians being slaughtered in an abattoir-style. He saw dead civilians wrapped in blankets and thrown into the back of police trucks before being ferried into unknown destinations.

 These victims of Mugabe’s brutality remain unaccounted for and calls for accountability are now getting louder each day as Mugabe’s life begins to show signs of finally coming to an end following decades of murder and plunder, he said.

 Mkandla says, at some point in the 1980s, he had come to regard Stops Camp as a death camp where he often saw civilians being tortured to death and their bodies thrown away without being handed back to relatives for decent burial.

 “The next thing there would be a story that so and so is missing or so and so committed suicide in a police cell. If that person was badly tortured with visible facial scars, they will prefer to hide away his body and then profess ignorance of what happened,” said Mkandla who remains visibly haunted by his harsh brush with President Mugabe’s brutal regime.

 One Saturday night in the early 1980s, Mkandla found himself surrounded by heavily armed security officers in his New Magwegwe home. He was being accused of aiding and abetting dissidents in Plumtree where he had gone to preside over a court case in the border town. On his way back, CIOs alleged, he had given a lift to dissidents.

 “It was about 12 midnight and I heard someone in a loud-speaker with lights beaming into my bedroom ordering me, my wife and children to come out of my house naked. We were also ordered us to raise up our hands and walk into a nearby public road and lie down there,” said Mkandla.

 “Then after that, they unleashed dogs into my house, but the dogs came up with nothing. They started searching my house from 12 midnight up to 6 am but still came up with nothing. As though that was not enough, they took me to detention at Stops Camp,” he said.

 “Imagine I was a magistrate then and my neighbours respected me a lot but now I am seen coming out of my house with my wife in underwears. It is something that I will never forget throughout my life on earth. I want to see those people who did that to me punished. I want to face those people and ask why?  My friendship with Sydney Malunga and other Ndebele leaders stems from my history in PF-Zapu. I had been regional PF-Zapu chairman during the liberation struggle and after independence,” he said.

 “When I was a student the University of Rhodesia I also worked part-time at the PF-Zapu offices in Harare. I had come to be close to PF-Zapu leaders and they all knew me very well, hence even after independence we continued having a good association as we shared the same political ideology which had nothing to do with dissident activity,” he said.

Mnkandla laments the idea that political violence before 2000 in Zimbabwe seem to have been kept under the carpet yet more people died in the 1980s and now wants Zimbabweans to come together and address it.

“What the MDC seem to have experienced since inception is something that we experienced as soon as Mugabe took office in 1980.

“For example, while I was detained at Stops Camp in Bulawayo, I heard someone being tortured until his last breadth. I heard civilians’ screaming for help until their voices faded away as they finally die. I lost count of such situations. I would peep through my small cell window to see plain clothes officers carrying dead civilians into the back of trucks. Then they would simple drive away and after some few hours they would be back and I would start hearing someone next to my cell screaming for help until he goes the same way as well,” said Mkandla.

Mkandla, now based in the United Kingdom after being threatened with a treason change upon his return in Zimbabwe for campaigning for Western sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies, says he remains upset on what happened to him and what he saw while at Stops Camp detention.

“I have first had information on how people in Matabeleland were slaughtered by Mugabe’s security agents. I want to tell the truth about all this, although I was detained three times as a magistrate, there was never a point I was tortured myself. The whole detention thing was meant screw me up as a human being,” he said.

Mkandla added that: “The main reason why I was not killed or tortured is that the BBC had reported my plight on numerous occasions, hence I was now known internationally so it was not in the interest of Mugabe’s image to kill me. They would just harass me, question me and I would simple tell them that I was just innocent”.

“We lost people in Matabeleland and those people died a painful death. I want if the killers are not being haunted by that.