Zimbabwe’s 5 Brigade

Last night I attended a presentation by The Honorable David Coltart of Zimbabwe, Shadow Justice Minister and Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South.   Aside from the sad story he told of the disastrous toll the policies of Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe are taking on the lives of Zimbabwe’s people, he mentioned the role that President Kim il Sung of North Korea played in facilitating Comrade Mugabe’s rise to power…

The full story can be found in the report  “Breaking the Silence.”

Starting on Page 45 of the report:

…in October of 1980, an agreement was signed between Prime Minister Mugabe and President Kim Il Sung, in which North Korea offered to train and arm a brigade for the newly independent Zimbabwe.

The First News of this agreement in the Zimbabwe media was almost a year later, in August 1981, when 106 Korean instructors arrived to begin training the brigade. Prime Minister Mugabe then announced that the Korean-trained brigade was to be known as the 5 Brigade.”

This squad was colloquially named ‘Gukurahundi’ which is Shona for “the rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rains,” and it was separate from the normal Zimbabwe National Army. 

The 5 Brigade soldiers made it clear themselves that they should be regarded as above the law.[…] answerable to nobody but Mugabe.

In addition to Korean-made equipment,

5 Brigade had completely different communication procedures: their codes and radios were incompatible with other units. Their uniform was also different, its most distinctive feature by the time they became operational in 1983 being their red berets. […]The use of AK-47s, recognized by their distinctive bayonets and curved magazines,is another distinguishing feature. In addition, the 5 Brigade traveled in a large fleet of vehicles which were Korean in origin, although this fleet did not last long, falling to pieces on the rough Zimbabwean terrain.

The 5 Brigade’s brutal activities are outlined in the report, but essentially they were used to eliminate rival political parties that could threaten Mugabe’s (and ZANU-PFs) control of the state.

UPDATE: from the Marmot’s Hole:

“What is historically known is that six months after independence in October 1980, Mugabe signed an agreement with the brutal communist dictatorship of North Korea, for assistance in training a new army brigade to deal with internal dissidents. 5 Brigade (here and video of the North Koreans and Zimbabwean soldiers), as it came to be known, wore different uniforms, with distinctive red berets; it used different equipment, transport and weaponry. Codes and radios were incompatible with other units. It is likely that the same North Korean instructors that became known to the press some time later, had also been entrusted with the training of the Maltese government’s own Special Mobile Unit.”

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