'Green Bomber in general informal name referring to recruits of the National Youth Service. Also refers to people that have done such training and are actively deployed. The name is derived from the green fatigue worn by the recruits. They are also referred to as the Border Gezi people, a name derived from the name of one of the National Youth Traning service centres (itself named after the late leader of Zanu-PF who was at the forefront of setting up the initiative in 2000 when he was Minister for Gender, Youth, and Employment.)

The Green Bombers have generally been used by the Zanu-PF party as on-the-ground campaign people. Green bombers were reported to have terrorized people, especially in rural areas.

The term Green Bomber is also generally used to refer to Green Bottlefly.

Green Bottlefly

Background

The creation of the Zimbabwean “National Youth Service” training programme is credited to Border Gezi, who was appointed Minister of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation after the 2000 Parliamentary elections. He proposed the introduction of youth training within months of his appointment to the ministry. A document entitled National Youth Policy of Zimbabwe, was released by Gezi in early October 2000. [1]

It was perceived that on the face of it, the proposal was a straightforward one, with the training allegedly intended to instil a “sense of responsible citizenship among the youth” and to prepare them for “the world and for work in their country”.

The youth service was also thought to “contribute towards the eradication of poverty” and “promote healthy lifestyles and personal well being of the youths, with particular emphasis on prevention of HIV/Aids”. The proposal lamented “the impact of international media, the introduction of foreign cultures and the increasing urbanisation” which has “led to a diminished sense of national pride” in the nation’s youth.


Purpose

The Green Bomber or National Youth Service claims to instil in young Zimbabweans a sense of national identity and patriotism. While it proposed to unite people above party lines, it also promoted wariness of "foreign influence and intervention" in national politics.

Objectives of the Green Bomber initiative

  • Integrate youth issues into all government policies
  • Provide opportunities for youth employment and participation in development
  • Develop vocational skills
  • Reduce teenage pregnancies
  • Reduce spread of HIV/Aids
  • Reduce alcohol and substance abuse
  • Promote gender equality and equity
  • Promote environmental education

The proposal claimed to be the product of “intensive consultations and discussions with stakeholders and opinion leaders from Government, non-governmental organisations, traditional leaders, youth, religious and women’s groups at national and district levels”

Further proposals

In a full-page article published in the State-controlled Chronicle newspaper on 26 April 2001, Border Gezi expounded once more the benefits of “national service” for youth. The following information was given by him about the intended training:

  • Those to be included were “unemployed youths, orphans, single mothers and street kids”.
  • Trainees would be aged between 10 and 30 years.
  • The programme was to be voluntary in its pilot form and then to become compulsory.
  • The intention was described as to instil a “sense of nationalism and patriotism”, to make youths

proud of “their culture, their history and their country”.

  • The training would include “skills training”, also training in “survival skills” and “military

training”.[2]

The youth training programme and the National Budget, November 2001

The national youth service was in the National budget referred to as a priority. The training had not taken off as quickly as anticipated during 2001 because of budgetary constraints, but money had been taken from other budget lines to get the programme initiated. According to the National Budget, as presented in parliament, the militia training programme took 120 days and trained 1000 youths at a time per centre. The intention for 2002 was to expand the programme to ten provinces. It was alleged that it was clear from the budget speech, that ambitions for the training were likely to outstrip the budget during 2002. Only 24 million Z$ was given to expanding the number of camps, and another 400 million was given to provisions for the camps such as water, fuel and equipment. This amount did not include salaries and allowances

The youth training programme and the National Budget, November 2002

The Ministry of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation’s allocation for 2003 of 1,6 billion Z$ was meant to increase the number of training centres and to renovate existing ones.

Mt Darwin training centre

Training in Mount Darwin was a “training of trainers” programme. The intake dispersed quickly across the country, in a cascade system, and set up further training camps in rural locations in provinces countrywide. Already in April, it had been indicated that training centres across the country would in due course include:

  • 21 barracks in Mashonaland Central
  • Mhangura Mine in Mashonaland West
  • Dadaya Barracks in the Midlands
  • Guyu in Matabeleland South
  • Kamativi Mine in Matabeleland North
  • Inyati Mine in the Midlands


During the last few months of 2001, youth militia training intensified throughout the nation and was by January 2002 widespread in all provinces. By the end of 2002, it is estimated that around 9,000 boys and girls had passed through formal militia training in the five main camps, with an unclear further number, possibly 10-20,000, trained in less formal, often very primitive camps at the district level. Before election 2002, the militia had been deployed to 146 camps around the country, in close proximity to, or in some cases even sharing, venues for voting.

The “training of trainers” exercise continued to take place at the Mount Darwin centre, which was formally renamed the “Border Gezi Training Centre” in November 2001. Youths were brought in from all over the country to be trained, and then joined war veterans and army personnel at district and province level to undertake training of other youths. This latter training appears to have been erratic in terms of “quality” and access to resources. Some accounts by defected youth militia at provincial and district level indicate gross cruelty towards recruits during the training, and a lack of resources which even meant the camps had no food; some recruits in training at village level, were given an hour in the evening to go to their homes and get an evening meal after which they had to return to the training camp to sleep.

Contradictions on their purpose

Early government policy documents focused on the need to provide the nation’s youth, referred to as those aged between 10 and 30 years of age, with a sense of national pride and history, as well as skills suitable for employment. it was alleged that contrary to early claims that the youth militia training would not be politically partisan, there was overwhelming evidence that the youth militia camps were aimed at forcing on all school leavers a ZANU-PF view of Zimbabwean history and the present. Another allegation was that all training materials in the camps from inception consisted exclusively of ZANU-PF campaign materials and political speeches.

Alleged reign of terror

It was alleged that the green bombers are Zanu-PF's foot soldiers responsible for a lot of atrocities especially in the rural areas during elections in Zimbabwe. They gained notoriety during the 2002 elections. Within weeks of their graduation in November 2001, human rights organisations and the independent media began to report acts of violence and brutality by the youth militia. Over the ensuing three months until the Presidential election on 9 to 11 March 2002, the youth militia, who quickly became known as “the ZANU-PF militia”, the “Border Gezis”, the “Green Bombers” and the “Taliban” were alleged to be among the greatest perpetrators of human rights violations recorded by local human rights groups


These violations allegedly included murder, torture, arson, mounting of illegal roadblocks to punish those with no ZANU-PF party cards, disruption of MDC rallies, and displacement of opposition supporters from the constituencies in which they were registered to vote. Their instruments of torture were said to be ordinary objects available to anyone, such as sticks, batons, axes, barbed wire, iron bars, chains, sjamboks, knives and screwdrivers

Seven murders of MDC members in ten days allegedly attributed to youth militia

In a memorandum to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in advance of their meeting of 13 to 15 January 2002, Amnesty International produced a substantial report listing major incidences of violence known at that stage to have involved the youth militia. It includes a list of 7 MDC members brutally killed between 20 December 2001 and 1 January 2002.[3]


In all cases, the murders involved gangs of militia, often accompanied or led by war veterans. The murdered and their causes of death are listed by Amnesty International as follows:

  • Milton Chambati, aged 45: stabbed to death and head partially severed, 20 December 2001. No police arrest or investigation.
  • Titus Nheya, aged 56: stabbed to death in Karoi on 21 December 2001. Chief perpetrator arrested and then released without charge.
  • Rambisai Nyika: killed in Gokwe on 24 December 2001. Apparently no police investigation.
  • Laban Chiweta: died of burns and head injuries after the attack near Bindura on 26 December. Police officers allegedly witnessed the assaults and did not intervene or arrest anyone.
  • Mr Jena, a school teacher, was on New Year’s Eve stabbed to death by a group of 200 youth militia in Shamva district. Houses were burnt and people assaulted by the militia. Police did not intervene and no arrests were made.
  • Trymore Midzi, aged 24: stabbed, died 24 December 2001. His parents’ home was later taken over by militia and war veterans in Bindura.
  • Moffat Chivaura, Trymore Midzi’s uncle, aged in his 50s: kidnapped on 29 December 2001, while the family were visiting Trymore’s grave to conduct rituals. His corpse was found some months later on the farm of a senior ZANU-PF official.


Alleged accounts of torture, theft and arson

Other sources, including Zimbabwean human rights groups and independent media, corroborate the list from Amnesty International. Amnesty International, the Human Rights NGO Forum, Physicians for Human Rights, Denmark, and local media continued to report torture, murder and arson by youth militia among others, throughout the ensuing weeks of the 2002 election. A few examples are listed below.

  • On 30 December 2001, in the Harare area, five buses were allegedly hired by ZANU-PF to bus youth militia into Kuwadzana extension. They were escorted into the area by war veterans. Kuwadzana, like most Harare urban constituencies, is generally considered an MDC supporting

area. For more than two hours the militia assaulted civilians, destroyed windows in 70 houses and looted clothing. The police failed to respond to numerous phone calls for help. Police eventually attended the scene when residents began to counter-attack the militia.[4]

  • On 1 January 2002, youth militia overran a small rural business centre, Chinhoyi. They looted shops, including major retail stores such as OK Bazaars and TM Supermarket, allegedly selling off some of the goods.[5]
  • On 2 January, youth militia went on the rampage in Ruwa, a rural business centre not far from Harare. They assaulted numerous residents including a pregnant woman. One badly assaulted man had to be taken to hospital for treatment. Wedding guests at the local community hall were also assaulted after the youth were refused free beer.[5]
  • On 3 January, the youth militia, now referred to in the press as the “ZANU-PF militia”, attacked the house of a senior MDC official in the Harare suburb of Glen Norah. Derrick Mzira, who had run unsuccessfully against ZANU-PF in a rural constituency in 2000, lost property worth Z$500,000 in the attack. He reported the attack, but police officers refused to respond

Press and human rights reports in the ensuing weeks alleged further brutal attacks on people and property by youth militia in Chitungwiza, Warren Park, Kuwadazana, Highfields, Hatfield, Mabvuko, (all in Harare area), in Bulawayo and in rural centres of Ruwa, Murombedzi, Chimanimani,Mberengwa East, Kwekwe, Silobela, Zaka, Nkayi, and Binga – in short, across the length and breadth of the nation. These attacks frequently targeted senior members of the MDC, including MDC members of parliament, in person or in property. Scores of MDC supporters were hospitalised as a result of these attacks, and various districts became “no-go zones” for anyone who was not a ZANU-PF supporter.

Government response to rising alarm over militias

On 8 January 2002, by which time the youth militia were already implicated in 7 murders, scores of assaults and multiple reports of property destruction and theft, Elliot Manyika, the minister responsible for their training, accused the private press of “trying to demonise the youth training programme”. He said the youth had “been doing various community service duties including cleaning up the streets.” He mentioned the gratitude of residents of Chitungwiza to the youths for their street cleaning initiative. According to the minister, they had maintained a flowerbed near Chikwana shopping complex. He said the government would not stop at anything in order to establish training centres in every province.

The role of the “Green bombers” around elections

It was alleged that the creation of the youth militia months before the Presidential election of March 2002 was more than a coincidence. The youth militia played a crucial role in campaigning for ZANU-PF, not only in the Presidential poll but also in every election since their inauguration. This includes parliamentary by-elections and the Rural District Council elections. The pattern of torture of opposition members already alluded to in the previous section intensified in the run-up to the Presidential election and in the retribution that marked the aftermath. In one province alone, Manicaland, the MDC logged 6,085 assaults on its members with a further 7,728 supporters being displaced from their homes. Attacks were widespread throughout the country.

References

  1. Herald, National service for all youths proposed”. This state-controlled newspaper reviews the proposal at length, , 13 October 2000
  2. Chronicle, National service to instil patriotism among youths”. , , 26 April 2001
  3. Amnesty International, Memorandum to SADC on the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, ,January 2002
  4. The Daily News, Harare terrorised, ,1 January 2002
  5. 5.0 5.1 Zimbabwe Independent, “Violence spreads to Ruwa, Chinhoyi”, , 4 January 2002