The death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il this week received mixed reactions in Zimbabwe with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF mourning his passing but not much sympathy expressed by the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Welshman Ncube and ZAPU, both parties based in Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region.
North Korea is highly unpopular in Matabeleland because the Pyongyang government of Kim il-Sung trained the infamous Fifth Brigade which many people hold responsible for most massacres committed in the Gukurahundi conflict or purge of the 1980s when the two main liberation movements - one led by Mr. Mugabe - had a falling out.
News reports quoted ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa as saying that Kim Jong-il, who died Saturday, was “a lovely” man and a joy to work with. Mutasa said the North Koreans trained the Zimbabwean army, built the Heroes Acre shrine in Harare and that ZANU-PF was not ashamed of being associated with Kim.
But ZAPU spokesman Methuseli Moyo told reporter Violet Gonda that although it is most often in bad taste to celebrate someone’s death, in this case there was little choice.
“We have no option but to welcome his passing on," Moyo said. "The North Koreans were responsible for training the Fifth Brigade which killed a lot of people in Matebeland and Midlands (province), and also some of the remnants of the Fifth Brigade are still around in Zimbabwe doing violence on civilians," he said.
“We believe this is particularly a bad year for dictators and may be, hopefully, soon and very soon others will also follow,” Moyo declared.
Nhlanla Dube, spokesman for the MDC formation led by Industry Minister Ncube, said it is sad when someone dies before making any reparation or public apology for crimes against humanity.
“The death of Kim Jong-il is sad for us because we would have hoped that as he was advancing in age he was going have an opportunity to make peace with the people of Matabeleland and the people of Midlands, whom he helped decimate in the early 1980s when he assisted (President) Robert Mugabe,” Dube said.
But ZANU-PF activist Goodson Nguni said the North Koreans did not kill any Zimbabweans and that Kim Jong-il deserved a kindly thought.
“When somebody dies we as Christians commiserate with the family. We as Christians don’t like it when anybody dies, and also we never saw any North Koreans being accused of having killed anybody (in Zimbabwe). But what we do know is that the British killed more than 50,000 black people in the name of white supremacy and here we have ZAPU and the (Ncube) MDC getting on well with the British and the Americans."