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Gary Younge
After 24 years, Lovemore is still fighting for freedom

By the time he was ready for combat the struggle was over. He returned to a black president, Robert Mugabe, a new country, Zimbabwe, and a new kind of oppression.

Mr Mugabe had branded Zapu members, most of whom, like the young Moyo, were from the Ndebele ethnic group, as dissidents. He sent the North Korean-trained fifth brigade to massacre the Ndebele in their thousands.

Mr Moyo, now 36, is a candidate for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the Matobo district in the forthcoming elections. He says his political motivation is the same now as it was when he packed his bags at 12.

"I left my home to fight for land and freedom. And 20 years after liberation we are waiting for both," he says.

"I did not risk my life so that one man or one party could stay in power, but so that we could choose our rulers. And we are still waiting for the land.

"Mugabe has rediscovered the issue for his own political purposes. But for the past two decades he has done nothing about it apart from give it to his friends and cronies.

"So I will just have to continue fighting. And just like before I realise I may even lose my life."

Like Mr Moyo, Matebeleland is no stranger to conflict. It is in its past - in the late 19th century Cecil Rhodes's troops destroyed Kraal and burned down the main city, Bulawayo, in a desperate search for mineral deposits.

It is in its present - Bulawayo is now overrun with white farmers who have fled the countryside since the murder of Martin Olds on Tuesday. They fear a "hit squad" of squatters is making its way to the region this weekend to continue the campaign of occupations and political intimidation.

And it is in its language. Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, means "the killing place"; Ndebele denotes "those who carry long shields"; and Mr Mugabe's last reign of terror here in the 80s is known as mkuruhundu - "the spring rain that washes away the chaff of the last season".

"There is a distinctly differ ent feeling in this region, even among members of Zanu [Mr Mugabe's ruling party]," says Shari Eppel, who spent six years investigating the 1983-88 massacres.

"People here know what it is like to come from a region that has been deliberately neglected by this government. And the mkuruhundu means many people know those who were executed or tortured by this government."

That is why the land occupations were late to catch on in Matabeleland. The first serious attempt by squatters to seize a white farm in the region was repelled by black farm labourers. It took the arrival of Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, the war veterans' leader, to personally take charge of an invasion for the campaign to work. It also explains why squatters are being bussed in to Matebeleland from areas where support for the government is stronger.

"Because of what happened here in the 80s there isn't a lot of heartfelt support for Mugabe," says David Colthart, secretary for legal affairs in the Movement for Democratic Change.

Two weeks ago there was a huge MDC rally in Nyamandlovhu. That is why they targeted the area earlier this week. In this region Zanu are very worried so they have stepped up the campaign before the elections."

Ms Eppel believes Mr Mugabe is adopting exactly the same tactics as he did during the mkuruhundu .

"Of course it is not on the same scale," she says. "But he is conflating ethnic tension with political tension. Before he said, 'If you are Zapu you are a dissident.'

"Since Zapu were mostly Ndebele that effectively meant anyone who spoke Ndebele was a target. Now he is saying, 'Whites are enemies of the state.' "

Most Ndebele believe that the only thing that will stop Mr Mugabe this time is international pressure. "Now that he's made an example of whites I think he will find it politically embarrassing internationally to continue that," says Ms Eppel.

"He'll probably start cracking black skulls in the rural areas soon, just like he did before, and the foreign media will lose interest."

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