Mass beatings and rallies invariably ended in mass detentions in 1984. Those detained included all ex ZIPRA, all ZAPU officials, and other men and women selected on a seemingly random basis. Those detained could include the elderly, and also schoolchildren. Trucks seemed to patrol, picking up anyone they met and taking them to detention camps.

It was usual for detainees to be taken first to the nearest 5 Brigade base, for 1 or more days, before being transferred to Bhalagwe. Interviewees report being held in small 5 Brigade camps, until there were enough of them to fill an army vehicle to Bhalagwe. A truck-load seems to have been around 100 people. In southern Matobo, the main `holding camp’ was at Sun Yet Sen, where both the CIO and the 5 Brigade were based.This camp reportedly held up to 800 detainees at one time, and people were sometimes held here for a week or longer. There were smaller bases in the west and north.

Detainees in southern Matobo were commonly beaten before their detention, tortured at Sun Yet Sen, and then transferred to Bhalagwe for further torture and detention. In addition to detentions after rallies or mass beatings, 5 Brigade also went through some areas on foot, hauling out villagers from the homesteads they passed, and then herding them ahead on foot, while beating them. Some interviewees report covering extensive distances in this way, as 5 Brigade made a sweep through many villages in an area, gathering a growing number of detainees as they went.


  1. Nehanda Radio (2012) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: The 5 Brigade and CIO (Part 12)’