The Wall Street Journal has an editorial essentially saying that if guns were available to Zimbabwe’s opposition, there would be less of a problem for the people to worry about government persecution and intimidation.

Reality check, please.

The majority of people in Zimbabwe belong to the Mashona tribe.

Traditionally, the Mashona are passive and friendly. They have endured by cooperation and their culture frowns upon showing anger, which could destroy the delicate social infrastructure of village life.

Now, after a hundred years of education, the Mashona have changed, but still there is the cultural trend to endure hardships, not rebel against them. Indeed, I would suggest that those who would be willing to rebel often have already joined Mugabe’s forces as policemen, military, or in his dangerous “green bomber” youth militia. The military includes not only veterans of the revolution, but many worked as “peacekeepers” in central Africa, so have had experience in controlling civilians and minor rebellions.

Yes, there would be opposition members willing to fight back, but often these people have left for elsewhere, funneling their anger and energy into their jobs so they can send money back to their families, and into demonstrations that have been occuring in the UK, South Africa and other countries protesting Mugabe.

There were once suburbs with entrepreneurs and others who actively opposed Mugabe: many of them had their homes destroyed in “operation cleanup” under the guise of destroying slums and getting rid of black market profiteers. Without homes, many of these people were dispersed to their home villages, and I suspect many of them joined the floods of refugees to South Africa and other countries.

By dispersing his “enemies” it means that an isolated gun owner would have little chance against army, police, or paramilitary gangs.

Finally, many of those left behind, especially in the villages, are more worried about making ends meet then in revolution. The tradition of waiting out problems inherent in the Mashona culture will prevail. Westerners unaware of history and culture will not understand this, but endurance for hundreds of years was a survival technique that worked.
If things get bad enough, there could be a rebellion: as the Mashon proverb says, “even a small snake has a tooth”: eventually there will be something that puts the anger over the top.That is why the churches are so worried that a replay of Rwanda will occur: because when the anger explodes,  it may result in atrocities, massacres, and civil war.

There are other tribes beside the Mashona in Zimbabwe. One large minority tribe is the Ndebele, an aggressive offshoot of the Zulu warriors (as in Chaka Zulu). How does an outsider tell them apart? Well, if the name has an “L” they are probably Ndebele…if the name has an “R” they are Mashona. They are based in Bulawayo, where much of the opposition protests have occured.

But after taking over the government, Mugabe, with the help of North Korea, essentially went through that area and killed a lot of his opposition in a minor genocide that the world ignored.

So arming the remaining few opposition supporters who are well educated, have no experience shooting guns, have no military experience, and whose culture emphasizes passivity to rebel against a government with a trained military is nonsense. There is no hunting culture, so there is no familiarity with guns, and those most likely to fight back have fled the country.

The WSJ article is correct in one point: Mugabe’s military and paramilitary would probably melt away if faced with a real threat that others would fight back. Some are bullies, not willing to fight a real opponent, and many others, especially professional military and police, don’t support Mugabe but only are trying to hold a job.

But there is a way to “arm” the opposition: You recruit and train youth from the Zimbabwe diaspora to form a liberation army, and then support them to invade and take over the country.

That’s how Mugabe got into power in the first place.

But who would do the training and arming? South Africa, whose president Mbeki has essentially vetoed all peaceful pressure to get Mugabe to resign?


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes on human rights problems in Zimbabwe at Makaipa blog.

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