30 March 2016

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Speaks On Loss of Contact With North Korea, Says Willing to Re-Establish Ties

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe says his government has "lost connection" with North Korea, a country which trained units of the Zimbabwe National Army, including the notorious Fifth Brigade.

Mugabe made the comments Tuesday in Tokyo where Japanese Premier, Shinzo Abe, gave the Zimbabwean strongman $5 million for infrastructural developments.

Japan and North Korea are not the best of friends due to many outstanding issues of a security nature which have endured for decades.

Asked on relations with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, Mugabe said: "We have lost connection with North Korea. If North Korea would want to re-establish connections, I suppose we reciprocate.

"We do not hate any country or distaste any people. We make friends with those who want to be friends with us but it doesn't mean that we should follow all their ways. Friendship is friendship on terms that are reciprocal."

Kim Jong-un took over from his father, Kim Jong II. Jong II, who died in 2011, was one of Mugabe allies. He took over from his father, Kim II Sung, in 1994. Mugabe's admiration for Kim II Sung followed his visit to the Asian country soon after independence in 1980.

According to his closest allies, Mugabe was so impressed by the totalitarian nature of the North Korean state that he came back from that trip a "changed man".

Not long after the visit, North Korean military advisors led by Major General Sin Hyon Dok arrived in Zimbabwe to train 3500 ex-ZANLA troops, including two un-integrated ZANLA battalions, at Tongogara Assembly Point.

The Fifth Brigade was to be dispatched to Matebeleland and Midlands provinces under the pretext of flashing out 'dissidents'. Instead, 20 000 civilians were wantonly murdered and many others disappeared in the campaign called Gukurahundi.

Confronted with reports of atrocities then, Mugabe and his ministers routinely dismissed the reports saying the Fifth Brigade was defending the country against "bandits".

Then intelligence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, likened the Fifth Brigade to "DDT" (pesticide) on a mission to destroy "cockroaches and bugs".

In a 1993 Panorama programme, defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, told BBC's Jeremy Paxman that a decision had been made to send the Fifth Brigade because they were "loyal to government."

He flatly denied that the soldiers were killing civilians. "Innocent civilians are not being murdered by the army. In any conflict situation people die... ," said Sekeramayi.

Even after Gukurahundi had been declared genocide by Genocide Watch Harare still saw qualms with being associated with North Korea until the death of Jong II.

"He was our great friend and we are not ashamed of being associated with him," said then Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, at the death of Jong II.

The late VP Joshua Nkomo's statue, erected in central Bulawayo, was reportedly constructed by North Korean sculptors from the Mansudae Art Studio.

It took activists from Matebeleland to stop the North Korean 2010 World Cup football team to abandon plans to play preparatory matches in Bulawayo. The activists had threatened to demonstrate against the North Koreans for the training of the Fifth Brigade by advisors from that country.

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