The baby was already dead, but the crowd weren't to know that. They gasped in horror as the soldier held it aloft and declared: "This is what will happen to your babies if you hide dissidents." Then he dropped the tiny corpse in the dust. That was Brigadier Phiri, known as Black Jesus, notorious head of the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe Army, whose mission was to "cleanse" Matabeleland of dissidents.
There were no dangerous dissidents left, as his soldiers well knew, since the civil war had ended some years before. The myth provided them with an excuse to beat and torture villagers for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of the so-called insurgents. But, in reality, it was to intimidate and subdue the Ndebele tribe for supporting Joshua Nkomo, who had been Robert Mugabe's opponent at the general election before independence in 1980, four years previously. In 1987, after up to 400,000 of his people had been murdered in the pogrom that became known as the Gukurahundi ("the wind that blows away the chaff after harvest"), Nkomo gave in and merged his party with Mugabe's Zanu-PF.