First Responder: Rethinking Chimurenga and Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe

Throughout the course of our study, it is sometimes hard to understand what populism actually means. Nonetheless, the ability to disseminate some of the aspects and analyze the different cases is so important for being able to analyze all new news.

This week, our studies bring us to Zimbabwe, under the rule of Mugabe. Mugabe’s rule of Zimbabwe paralleled the regimes of fascist Italy as is mentioned in the Scarnecchia article. The two main reasons for this is the creation of the friend-enemy distinction and the addition of violent populist principles into existing institutional frameworks.

The first looks at the friend-enemy distinction. Mugabe was able to enable violent action by framing it with an anti-colonial narrative. While colonialism in Africa is a part of history that significantly damaged the development of the country, Mugabe’s specific narrative used it to cover his own violent actions on his people.

Like many other populist regimes, Mugabe was able to take nationalist historiography and make it prominent once more. Part of the success with his reign was the institutionalization of these historic principles. In Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s article, he states that the two principles of chimurenga and gukurahundi, 

“situate the birth of the nation within a series of nationalist revolutions dating to the original resistance….and entails violent and physical elimination of enemies and opponents”.

This feeds into the fascist cycle, as mentioned by Scarnecchia:

  1. Militias
  2. Abuse of legislative and judicial power
  3. Party membership
  4. Political survival over strategic economic planning
  5. Government inflation that favours the elite

What this continuously demonstrates is that violence begets violence, no matter in what populist context.


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