Their words condemn them

The language of violence, intolerance and despotism in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
May 15, 2007

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This report consolidates the kinds of statements made over the years by the government and the most senior officers of the government. The statements and comments are all taken form the public domain, so there is no sense in which they are fabricated, an accusation frequently laid at the doors of the government's critics. These are the words of the government, its leaders and followers, without editing and largely without comment.

The report, which makes no attempt to be completely comprehensive, covers mostly the kinds of statements and comments since 2000, but also covers mostly the time periods, such as the emergency in the 1980s, that are relevant. As will be seen, their words do condemn them, and the violence, intolerance and despotism seen so graphically in Zimbabwe since 2000 are wholly reflected in the statements.


  • Introduction
  • Gukuruhundi
  • Population size
  • Threats against opposition and protestors and incitement to attack opposition supporters
  • Food riots 1998
  • Murambatsvina
  • Court orders and the rule of law
  • Whites, white farmers, Jews and homosexuals
  • Archbishop Pius Ncube
  • Threats against teachers
  • Media and journalists
  • Condoning torture
  • Political discrimination in food distribution
  • Non-governmental organisations
  • Human rights


The utterances of political leaders can be very revealing. Their commitment to democracy and human rights is most tested when there is a serious challenge to their continued hold on power or when they attract heavy criticism. At such times, the leaders either display political tolerance or they lash out at their critics and opponents. Leaders with repressive tendencies will turn to repression; leaders who respect democracy will not.

Over the years, and particularly in the past seven years, leaders of the ruling party in Zimbabwe (ZANU PF) have made many statements, often at times when the ruling party has been under attack or has faced serious challenge. It has used its control over the broadcast media to disseminate a constant stream of hate speech.

A selection of these statements is provided below. An analysis of these statements discloses the following characteristics of the ruling party:

  • It is deeply antagonistic to all opposition and dissent.
  • It is prepared to incite violence and vengeful action against its political opponents and critics.
  • It uses virulent language to condemn its opponents and critics, not infrequently stooping to racial and ethnic abuse, and the vituperation is aimed at intimidating and silencing these persons.
  • It persistently attempts to suppress the independent media.

These statements constitute various types of hate speech. They were made at times when gross human rights violations were being perpetrated. Many of the statements incited these violations or sought to justify or condone them.

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