Demobilisation and Integration:
'Operation Merger' and the Zimbabwe National defence Forces, 1980 - 1987
By Martin Rupiah Lectuer,
Department of History, University of Zimbabwe
Published in African Security Review Vol 4 No 3, 1995
Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, the Southern African region has been faced with the challenges of national development and state institutional reform in a relatively peaceful environment. One of the focal institutions to be reformed in the new political dispensation that followed elections, is the security apparatuses of Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and to a lesser extent, Malawi. Agreements leading to supervised elections in the former three states have bequeathed the new democratic governments with the challenge of amalgamating formerly opposing forces, of demobilisation, and finally, of restructuring and modernising the national forces. Against this background a review of the successful Zimbabwean experience after April 1980, may prove useful.2
ZIMBABWE - BACKGROUND TO MARCH 1980
The Lancaster House Agreement’s biggest sales point and handicap, as it later turned out, was that all parties in the Rhodesian struggle hoped that they would win the election or at least gain enough seats to influence the political direction of the new state.3 When the cease-fire came into effect on 28 December 1979, each political party had an army. As a result, the nation could go to the polls in relative secure conditions at the end of February 1980.
While Ian Smith had already secured the twenty white seats in the new Government, he still retained control, through Lieutenant General Peter Walls, of the Rhodesian Security Forces (RSF). The RSF were supported by a gathering of the Mozambique Resistance Nationale at Odzi, a French Foreign Legion contingent masquerading as 7 Independent Company, and South African forces operating as independent units or integrated as ‘volunteers’ within RSF units.4 The out-going Prime Minister, Abel Muzorewa, had a personal army of 20 000 Security Force Auxiliaries (SFA), nominally under the RSF control. ZANU(PF), led by Robert Mugabe, had over 16 000 guerrillas of its armed wing ZANLA in the Assembly Points (APs), with an "estimated one third of his force instructed not to enter APs but to bury their arms and melt in with the local population".5 His force was supported by 500 regular FRELIMO troops and an unspecified Tanzanian contingent.6 ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo, moved over 5 500 cadres into the APs, together with South African ANC cadres, with a smaller group in the Bulawayo area. A force of between 6 000 to 8 000 ZAPU cadres was still poised across the Zambian border.7 This unstructured combination of military forces clearly had the potential to erupt into civil war. As the Minister of State Security, E. Munangagwa, was to lament in the House afterwards, "the Lancaster House failed to provide for the integration of forces during the transitional period".8
On 3 March 1980, as the election ballots were counted, it became clear that ZANU(PF) was heading for a landslide victory, surpassing even their own predictions.9 Nkomo won twenty seats, with fifteen in Matebeleland, prompting Goodwin to write that, "the election result transformed Nkomo into a provincial chieftain."10 Muzorewa’s political aspirations were decimated when he managed to win only three seats.
In retrospect, military integration owed its success to the resounding victory ZANU(PF) secured at the polls. As soon as the legitimacy of the polls had been announced and the results made known, it was clear that "no military or political coup could work".11 General Walls also confirmed later that even if a coup was attempted, it could not last 48 hours.12 He asserted that, "the war is over and we’ve got a strong leader. There’s no mucking about with a coalition that could trigger off a civil war."13 Both Walls’ comments and the general white perception were further influenced by the Clausewitzian strategy ZANU(PF) had adopted, of buttressing its political victory with visible and effective military deployment outside the designated APs and throughout the country. The message was clearly sent that, if it came to a crunch, the massacres of whites on farms, mines and in most rural towns that occurred during the 1896-7 war would pale in significance.14 The poll victory presented the new Government with a firm political platform on which to address defence and security issues.
However, a major hurdle in the integration exercise stemmed from the Lancaster House Agreement in the "entrenched Bill of Rights in which the socio-economic structures were to remain intact for at least ten years".15 There was, therefore, little room left to raise resources to facilitate the integration process and worse, the departing Smith-regime had left no largesse in the treasury coffers. No foreign aid was immediately forthcoming to address "the most difficult and pressing problem in state building and nation building - the integration of the Army and Air Force - which was also the key to stability, enabling the new government to proceed with reconstruction and resettlement".16
In preparation for the elections, ZANU(PF) took the decision not to enter into an alliance with ZAPU, but to proceed alone at the polls, based on the expectation that it was going to secure 56 seats. This decision was also bolstered by the extensive deployment undertaken by ZANLA to safeguard political victory and in reaction to the coalition attempts between the Rhodesian Army and ZAPU/Muzorewa, as well as the ZIPRA ‘Zero Option’ military plan if it failed to win at the polls, given their available manpower and equipment located in Zambia. This would have entailed a conventional assault into the country from Zambia which the RSF would not have been able to defeat. Policy formulation in the higher echelons of ZANU(PF)/ZANLA already took into account that Mugabe would inherit highly politicised and opposing armed groups, while ZANLA would not have the capacity to deal with a potential escalation in conflict.
This study seeks to analyse, in retrospect, how the process of integrating the three previously warring parties into the present unified army and air national defence forces has been achieved. Problems that had to be faced included, political orientation or attitude; command and control; disarmament; lack of resources; outside assistance; demobilisation and skills training for rehabilitation; and finally, re-organisation and modernisation.
As soon as the election results were made known, the new Prime Minister designate and the Minister of Defence called for reconciliation, while privately appealing to the British Government to allow Lord Soames to continue in his post for at least three months, "to dissuade military coup planners".17 Having failed to secure this, the new Government announced that it was adopting a strategy designed to leave no excuses for South Africa to attack it.18 To this end, ANC members who had joined ZIPRA, were quietly assembled and returned to Zambia.19 No ANC guerrilla bases were to be allowed in the fledgling Zimbabwe, although political support for the movement remained in place. FRELIMO and Tanzanian forces returned home in January 1980. Internally, ZANU(PF) further sought to integrate "the more acceptable elements of the RSF with ZANLA and ZIPRA cadres."20
Underlying the integration exercise was the realisation that, for every armed combatant, irrespective of his political views, the new Government had to meet two basic requirements: first, it had to assure his/her perception of personal security, and secondly, eventually provide employment either in or out of the armed forces. The integration exercise welcomed all those who wished to take up a military career in an organisation initially targeted at a strength of between 30 000 and 35 000. Integration was expected to be complete by the end of the year. The strength of the integrated military represented a compromise between ideal strength and what the national economy could sustain.21
Crime Minister Mugabe also secured the services of Lieutenant General Peter Walls, who was appointed as Commander of the Joint High Command (JHC), and "tasked to integrate the three forces and establish a national army".22 By his own admission, Walls also stayed on to supervise the return of South African war material lent to Rhodesia in the last few months of the war, as well as to reassure those whites who wished to remain in the country and the forces.23 He was therefore, operating under split loyalties. Walls was to be assisted by 58 British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT) personnel that were to increase to 150 by September 1980. Under Walls, the three armies’ Command Structures were treated as equal, to facilitate integration into one legal force.24 The JHC, consisting of the Senior Commanders from the Rhodesian Army, Air Force, ZANLA and ZIPRA, was established and based at Army Headquarters in Harare. Of the assembled guerrillas, 9 500 ZANLA and ZIPRA members were expected to join the army, and the remaining 23 000 to become ‘active reservists’. These were to be deployed elsewhere in the economy. Ministries, state departments, para-statal and local authorities were to be encouraged to draw manpower from this group.25 As such, Harare Municipal police suddenly had a force of 500 and Gatooma Town Council, fifty, who were only equipped with citizen powers of arrest. The army launched another initiative through the JHC called ‘Operation Seed’ (Soldiers Employed in Economic Development)26 that was aimed at creating agricultural opportunities through state enterprises that were closed down during the war. The projects were supervised by senior ZANLA and ZIPRA personnel, and resorted under the various Brigades’ areas of responsibility.
The Tilcor Agricultural project involved 6 500 men, while Silalabuhwa Irrigation Scheme Estate absorbed 4 000 ex-ZIPRA personnel. Middle Sabi received 4 000, while Copper Queen project absorbed 2 000 ZANLA members to prepare the ground for cropping and resettlement. Umfurudzi Estate was also allocated an unspecified number.27 This initiative soon floundered because the projects were not supported or even understood by the politicians who were ostensibly sponsoring the main contingents. Furthermore, the projects were introduced while combatants were still geared for fighting and in need of time to adjust to be ‘farm workers’, however defined. Thirdly, the fluctuating National Army, saddled with daily resignations and new entrants, was perhaps not the best agency to implement such a demanding project. Projects suffered and faltered from a lack of planning, supplies and implements. In most Brigade areas there were no vehicles or telephone and other communication facilities available to enable proper liaison with the project zones.
While Operation Seed proceeded on its tortured route, integration proceeded rapidly. A BMATT contingent was established at the Staff College to train senior officers, with another contingent at Gweru Military Academy to train middle management officers. Training teams for non-commissioned officers and soldiers were set up at Balla-Balla and Llewellin training camps. These three establishments drew candidates from the APs. After six weeks of basic infantry training, segments were combined before deployment to remote areas. By July, Walls announced that "[b]attalions were being formed at the rate of 1 every 2 weeks."28
Parallel to the above, other military staff were also drawn in to fill the huge gaps in the inherited structures of the former Rhodesian Army. In this structure, posts were already budgeted for, and the necessary vehicles, housing, barracks and office accommodation already existed. Quartermasters stores had the necessary uniform holdings and the new army inherited the stocks and standard of dress of the former army. In most of these Units, the few remaining white officers and the African soldiers, through association at work and in the mess, quickly transferred a regular soldiering attitude to the incoming members. This fact was to prove crucial before the end of the year.
THE RHODESIAN ARMY/AIR FORCE EXODUS AND ITS IMPACT ON INTEGRATION
One of the key factors that absorbed some of the pressure emanating from the high concentration of military staff at APs, were the vacating of posts by members of the former Rhodesian forces. Furthermore, because the forces had been based mainly on a conscription system, many whites who stood down, simply returned to their jobs in commerce and industry and on the farms. To understand what was involved, a brief look at the structure of the Rhodesian Army at the end of 1979 would suffice. Table 1 represents the view of the British establishment29, while the London based Anti-Apartheid Movement, using sources that focused on the broader Rhodesian deployment, summarised the force structure as represented in Table 2.
RHODESIAN FORCE LEVELS 1979
Conscripts and Territorial Forces
Security Force Auxilliaries 6 000
TOTAL 23 000
RHODESIAN ARMY STRUCTURE 1979
Whites/Asian/Coloureds African TOTAL
Others (Internal Affairs, Parks, MID)
Security Force Auxilliaries
Territorial Force 1 000
58 000 -
- 1 750
3 500 1 000
TOTAL 66 900 30 900 97 800
On the days after 4 March 1980, the Rhodesian Army was hit by a whirlwind. Negative aspects of the force were laid to rest, a move constituting a necessary gesture to the electorate, some of whom where still imprisoned in protected villages and fortified bases (‘keeps’). Martial Law was revoked on 21 March and for those called up, a reduction of liability came into effect four days later.30
Cutting down on force numbers was further effected by the following actions:
• The 50-60 year olds territorial forces, the majority being British South Africa Police Special Forces were immediately disbanded.
• The 38-49 and 30-38 year olds had their commitments reduced to fifteen and thirty days respectively for the next six months, effectively returning them to their civilian occupations.
• The Tribal Militia, recruited in 1976 to provide protection for certain tribal Chiefs who supported the Government openly, where disbanded by 30 June.
• Combined Operations Headquarters (COMOPs) were dissolved on 10 April and all Joint Operation Centres ordered to be wound up by 30 April. In the same month, the Rhodesia Defence Regiment, Psychological Operations Unit (POU), Rhodesia Intelligence Corps (RIC), Selous Scouts, SFAs and Guard Force were disbanded. Because of the logistics involved, disbanding some of the units was delayed until 30 June.
• ZANLA/ZIPRA cadres wishing to pursue civilian careers were officially authorised to do so.
• Efforts to establish a new army were embarked upon, including the renaming of existing units and the formation of new ones. For instance, as part of the initial moves towards integration, each party delivered to BMATT three equal units to form 21 Infantry Battalion which was scheduled to be ready before Independence day on 18 April.
In concert with the departing white Rhodesians, a rapid exodus of South African troops and their equipment took place. The South Africans extracted the Mozambicans from their Odzi base, "a few days after 4 March using Puma and Hercules transport aircraft".31 Within the Air Force, a large number of posts were vacated, as most helicopter pilots, equipment and personnel who operated jet fighters at Hartley air base were on loan from South Africa.32
While reasons for whites to bear arms disappeared, most felt that they could not serve under former terrorists and prepared to leave, taking with them considerable amounts of weaponry and other items of value, such as Private Regimental Institutional funds available to each unit. At this time, word had filtered back that the SADF would afford preferential treatment to those who were recruited as a unit at whatever level. The pace of resignations was further accelerated by Walls’ announcement on 18 July that he was to take early retirement from the force.
Departing white commanders tried to entice black unit members to accompany them. In most of these units, the old Regimental Sergeant Majors (RSMs) were to play a critical role in influencing undecided African troops to stay. In one such unit, the RSM asserted publicly that he had been following orders and supporting the Government of the day since enlisting in 1956 and would weather the diatribe of retribution and continue to do the same. As a result, nearly ninety per cent of the African members of the unit elected to stay. White officers and men from the sub-units who had already secured agreements with their men, suddenly found them reneging on previous arrangements. After identifying the source, some of them threatened to shoot the RSM as a traitor, necessitating stern intervention from the commanding officer.
That night, and in the subsequent days, white soldiers and their families left in droves by road or in SADF aircraft, forming convoys to Beit Bridge where the SADF was deployed well to the north and controlling the border itself.33
PROBLEMS FACING THE INTEGRATION PROCESS
Before proceeding with the actual integration process, the identities of members in APs had to be ascertained. The lack of available details resulted in the most important post-election call-up of between 250-300 Territorial Force Pay and Documentation staff for a full working week. They were deployed in the various APs to record inmates onto the Army pay role. For an organisation with 14 000 active accounts at the most and relying heavily on conscription, the former Rhodesian Army could not transfer its critical accounting component to the new organisation. This was to complicate the efficient running of nearly 65 000 new accounts severely.34
By mid-July, it became clear that it would be impossible to reach integration target dates. Walls did not appear to be fully committed to the exercise and seemed to have failed to develop a working relationship with his subordinate guerrilla commanders. Decisions of the JHC continually bypassed his office to be resolved through the intervention of the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence. Walls was further suffering from a white back-lash, with toasts of ‘Balls to Walls’ resounding in the capital and elsewhere.
Walls’ position was taken over by the Minister of State Security and a nine man Committee chaired by the Minister of Public Works, that was established to supervise and accelerate the integration process. Former Rhodesian Army Commander, Lieutenant General ‘Sandy’ McLean was appointed as the overall commander of the integrated national army.35 August 1980 saw an intensified focus on intermittent banditry. This led to the establishment of a People’s Militia, drawn from former guerrillas and aimed at protecting party officials.
At this stage guerrillas had spent nearly nine months in the APs and the onset of the rainy season was looming. Problems with farmers and businesses near APs increased the pressure on the integration process. A decision was taken to relocate the guerrillas to more habitable accommodation as an interim measure. Government documents revealed that there were 27 631 guerrillas still in APs.36 Between 15 000 and 17 000 were moved for three months into 1 907 houses that were taken over by the Ministry of Defence through the efforts of the Committee in Chitungwiza, while new barracks where being built. In Bulawayo, 5 515 ex-combatants were taken from APs in the Western region of the country to Entumbane and North Western Commonage. This left AP Foxtrot in Buhera, the biggest rural concentration with 3 368 inhabitants.37
Difficulty with accounting and some of the business practices during the early stages of integration soon emerged, as can be gleaned from Parliamentary debates early in 1981.38 J.J.M. Holdings for example, made a $7 million profit from March to July 1980 from rations supplied to the army at a cost of $11 million. The company had won a tender to supply rations at $3,00 per person per day against the lowest bidder of $1,31. In a bid to correct the anomaly, another contract was entered into with the same directors using a different company name for $1,90, again ignoring cheaper and more efficient tenders.
There were also problems with soldiers claiming double allowances and, as the periods in the APs became extended, getting additional outside people to receive another $100,00 per month, plus rations to which the soldiers were entitled. When the demobilisation exercise started in 1982 in Gwaai River Mine AP, officers proceeded to the area knowing there would be 1 900 ex-combatants. However, this figure increased overnight to 3 000 and continued until there were over 4 500 persons assembled. Assembly was consequently redirected to Njube Church Hall in Bulawayo, where officials felt better protected. Here, a ‘weapons test, involving stripping and assembling’ was used to determine genuine candidates. The result was that "others simply walked away while a few weakly claimed that they had used different weapons in the various camps and only 1 000 passed the test."39
These were only some of the problems experienced with those who tried to take financial advantage of the political arrangements for integration. Fortunately, the Zimbabwean economy grew at a phenomenal twelve per cent during the first two years of Independence, due to the removal of sanctions and good rains with above average harvests. However, costs were still prohibitive, and the financial burden increasing, as the Government attempted to institute parity on the level of payments for whites before Independence.40
As soon as it became clear that more people had opted to remain under arms than required, and that there was no other available employment, a Demobilisation Directorate under the Ministry of Labour and Social Services was established. It had to assist in the placement of ex-combatants in the public and private sector, as well as offering skills training for those wishing to create their own employment opportunities. This also replaced Operation Seed.
By September 1980, the Government had decided that the Army would consist of five brigades. These brigades were extended to absorb on average two thirds of the 65 000 armed people available. By March 1981, 19 500 ZANLA/ZIPRA members had been absorbed into fifteen new battalions that were being formed at the rate of three per month. By this time, all the original APs were closed.41
Conditions for demobilisation included candidates’ willingness to undergo skills training during which they would be entitled to $185,00 per month over two years. Moreover, candidates were encouraged to form co-operatives and pool resources for projects, for which they could receive advances of aggregated pay as venture capital.
By the end of 1982, more than 25 000 soldiers had taken advantage of the demobilisation incentives. Many pitfalls remained that resulted in some persons remaining a burden on the state to this day. The initial phase of demobilisation was completed in June 1983, and the Directorate moved into ‘the second phase’, of providing further technical assistance, contracts and further training to established co-operatives. Documentation reflected that a total of 35 763 personnel had passed through the Department. Of these, 4 700 had taken up various scholarships and were in educational institutions; 2 900 were engaged in commercial programmes; 4 333 in self-reliance projects; 1 579 were self-employed; with 3 041 in formal employment and 19 160 still unemployed.42
Because candidates who have not been successfully demobilised are always a potential danger to the fabric of society, it is pertinent to identify those problems influencing the successful outcome of the demobilisation programme.
Former combatants who ventured on their own often lost thousands of dollars to unscrupulous dealers, as was revealed by cases brought to the attention of the Zimbabwe Industrial Advisory Service and the Institute of Business Development. In one case, demobilised soldiers paid $33 000 for a business that was valued at $15 000. In another, $77 000 was paid in cash for a business worth $12 000 with the seller leaving the country immediately after receiving payment. Soldiers bought businesses in locations that were so poor, that they were forced to abandon them thereafter. Buying insolvent businesses led to legal battles over inherited bad credit. Some contracts had stipulations that were so unreasonable that groups ended up losing everything they had invested. And in some cases members of co-operatives left to pursue other interests with those staying behind unable to meet their commitments.43
A variety of reasons can be cited for the failure of business ventures undertaken by demobilised soldiers. After the initial deposit, little capital remained as cash flow, resulting in serious viability problems. Accounting procedures were deficient or absent, illiteracy rates were high and there was a marked lack of business acumen and expertise. The Government was forced to intervene and to revise the initial programme through its Department of Co-operatives. The department started to implement probationary periods and undertook viability surveys of projects, before any payment in respect of such projects was made. Courses were offered on management and consultancy, with an extra $4 million set aside as an emergency fund to rescue ailing projects. Projects were further co-ordinated by two private consulting companies.44
There were, however, numerous cases of successful co-operative ventures, each characterised by the fact that members already had the necessary expertise. These included the Ujamaa Co-operative in the rural bus sector, formed by former ZANLA transport department members with experience in the industry. Another successful venture was the Mtoko-Makaha mining co-operative, established on the recommendation of the Mining Commission, who had approached ZANU(PF) to identify a deserving group for which they would provide a guaranteed market.
INTEGRATION FALTERS - FACTION FIGHTING
The first serious problem with the integration process occurred towards the end of 1980. It had its origins in the 1963 division of nationalists along ethnic lines, and had already led to intermittent clashes between ZAPU and ZANU(PF) cadres in camps both outside and inside the country, especially in the period preceding the cease-fire of late 1979. These clashes were rooted in tribal party political differences, a division that was mirrored in Zimbabwean society and confirmed by the election results of March 1980.
Internal difficulties were exacerbated by external pressures. As Moorcraft asserted, "from July 1980, Pretoria served up its spiciest and most varied destabilising menu: economic pressures, building up in 1981 and 1982; support for dissidents; selective assassinations; sabotage and propaganda - but generally stopped short of direct military intervention. The position was worsened by fifth column white agents and sympathetic businessmen in Zimbabwe."45
The first faction fight started with an altercation between ZANLA and ZIPRA elements while drinking outside a camp on 30 October 1980. It was followed by another major confrontation at Entumbane between 9 and 11 November 1980. These were diffused by the respective senior commanders who rushed in and separated the perpetrators. However, a more serious development threatened the integration process when ‘Entumbane II’ erupted on 7 February 1981. For one week, three of the nine integrated battalions disintegrated in faction fighting.46 At Ntabayezinduna, Glenville and Conemara, infantry battalions were apparently bent on self-destruction. In a supreme irony, elements of the former army and air force were called in to subdue these elements. On 11 February 1981, another contingent was surrounded by ZIPRA elements, resulting in mortar fire, and fighting for sixteen hours until relief came in the form of an armoured column. The Ministry of Defence closed the city of Bulawayo on 14 February, resulting in economic losses of over a million dollars. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries supported the move, however, as it ensured the safety of the city’s inhabitants. The Prime Minister and Minister of Defence lamented in Parliament that "developments were a setback to the integration of forces." However, they remained resolute and refused to consider suggestions to establish tribal battalions as a solution.47
ANLA and ZIPRA elements were disentangled and relocated outside Bulawayo, each group having only "12, painted red rifles" for camp duties.48 The Dumbuchena Commission of Inquiry into Disturbances at Armed Encampments was appointed on 29 April 1981, only managing to produce an inconclusive report "which fell short of government expectations" in its attempts to remain neutral and not to apportion blame.49
Factional problems soon developed into political differences between ZAPU and ZANU(PF) that were exacerbated by the discovery and seizure of a series of arms caches on properties and farms acquired by ZAPU. This led to the arrest of ZIPRA JHC commanders. Nkomo, the leader of the Party, was later expelled from Government and at the height of these acrimonious relations in March 1983, he fled to London for a few months. This resulted in a tangibly tense situation in the integrated force. Matebeleland was subject to total curfews on travel and activity, with house to house searches in rural areas and urban zones. A considerable number of ex-ZIPRA cadres deserted with their weapons, and banditry increased. The Government attempted to neutralise the volatile emotions among ZIPRA members by promoting some of their officers but, because the problem was essentially political, these interim measures failed to solve differences, until the Unity Agreement was reached on 22 December 1987.
Disarmament applied to both external and internal sources of arms. The continued problems with dissidents and actions of white fifth columnists culminated in a national call for arms to be surrendered to Government armouries from the beginning of 1981. At this point in time, the majority of people felt safer and had developed confidence in the new Government with its observance of the rule of law. After the Bulawayo disruptions, however, the feeling gradually emerged country-wide that citizens’ safety was threatened by the plethora of weapons in the hands of civilians and soldiers who were not under Government control.
On 26 February 1981 amnesty was granted to civilians and soldiers handing in their weapons to national armouries. Externally, Prime Minister Mugabe succeeded in signing a defence protocol with Zambia on 20 January 1981 according to which all ZAPU war material still in Zambia would be delivered directly to the Zimbabwean Government. With regard to Botswana, an understanding was reached whereby dissidents from Dukwe refugee camp, their arms and weaponry, and the mines that they had cached, were handed to the Zimbabwean Government on 3 February 1981.
As a result of problems with dissidents, a new uniform was introduced early in 1981 to distinguish deserters in the old uniforms from the integrated forces. This meant that huge quantities of cloth acquired from the old Rhodesian Army were wasted.50
The first 27 lieutenant colonels and officers of higher rank in the integrated National Army to be given command of military units, passed out from the Staff College on 11 April 1981. In his address, the Minister of Defence cautioned them on their deployment, expressing the hope that it would not lead to a divided army or command.51 However, this event ultimately represented the first steps in consolidating integration with a professionally and conventionally trained command.
A DEPARTURE FROM THE AIMS OF INTEGRATION - THE FIFTH BRIGADE
aced with external and internal pressures, the Government became concerned about its survival and took the decision to establish the Presidential Guards, the Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the People’s Militia.
The People’s Militia consisting of 20 000 members was to be established over four years, beginning in late 1982 under the Deputy Minister of Defence (Para-Military). It was tasked to co-operate with the ZNA, Police and the Central Intelligence Organisation. This body, appearing to be highly politicised in favour of the ruling party, initially had 750 members trained by the North Koreans, a number expected to double to 1 500 and to include 150 women. Candidates were to be drawn nationally, aged between 16 - 65 years, could include some soldiers who had been demobilised and were eventually to be deployed throughout the country.52
The Fifth Brigade had its origins in a North Korean donation of over $12 million worth of arms and equipment to Zimbabwe. These were accompanied by 106 North Korean instructors who were to train locals in their use and maintenance for between four and eight months, the Minister of State Security announced on 21 August 1981.53 The agreement also stipulated that North Korean instructors would receive pay equal to those of their counterparts in the ZNA. It was therefore, not surprising in the light of local rates, that the whole Korean contingent claimed to be colonels and brigadiers for remuneration purposes.
Members of the Fifth Brigade were to be drawn from already integrated battalions with the focus on the politically acceptable ZANLA and ZIPRA cadres. However, as this exercise occurred during a period of heightened tension between the two, reports abound of ZIPRA cadres simply abandoning their army careers and absconding from the designated training area in the Eastern Highlands. As a result, the Fifth Brigade eventually comprised only members of ZANLA. When it was ready for operations, this development was confirmed by ZANU(PF) politicians who threatened alleged ZAPU dissidents in the Western region with the "deployment of the 5th Brigade."54 Moreover, it was a threat that was carried out in late 1982 and early 1983 with controversial results. In September 1983, a Commission of Inquiry was appointed to investigate the events involving the Fifth Brigade, but to date the conclusions have not yet been made public.
To increase the efficiency of established battalions, 32 Infantry Battalion became the first unit to pass out at the Nyanga Battalion Battle Training School in late 1983. The school "was erected specifically to train Battalions together with sub-units and Armoured Cars and Artillery to improve their experience and combat as well as firing efficiency."55 In the following year, BMATT contingents at Staff College and the Zimbabwe Military Academy called for increased facilities as "the emphasis was for future indigenous ZNA Instructors to be further consolidated before taking over."
INTEGRATION AND THE AIR FORCE
Developing Zimbabwe’s Air Force was difficult to effect as it demanded particular skills and technical expertise. When South African pilots and technicians pulled out, some of the local top pilots, instructors and technicians also left with few choosing to remain. As the Minister of State, S. Sekeramayi was to assert in Parliament in 1983, "no meaningful integration was taking place in the Air Force".56
Personnel shortages and lack of equipment forced certain squadrons to amalgamate, but the basic organisational structure remained unchanged. In the budget of 1981, the Government allocated $42 million to the Air Force, part of which was for the procurement of new "Hawks for the intermediate role, replacing the Vampire trainer".57 The Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) was only renamed in May 1981, the delay reflecting the deliberate hands-off policy adhered to since Independence.58
However, the South African sponsored sabotage of 25 July 1982, damaging ten planes, among them those newly acquired, with five completely written off and a Cessna 337 destroyed, galvanised the Government into action.59 The incarceration of Air Force Officers on the Board of Inquiry, as Senator Partridge claimed, "drove all the remaining whites from the force in sympathy".60 This confirmed the irrefutable theory that this was exactly what the saboteurs hoped for, effectively leaving Zimbabwe with no credible air capabilities. Government moved swiftly by seeking assistance from Pakistan. A Pakistani officer was put in charge of the reconstituted Air Force and was accompanied by a contingent of pilots and technicians who could transfer skills to the local Zimbabweans. The Koreans also aided in strengthening the base and air defences. Zimbabwean cadres were led by the Deputy Commander of the ZNA who was transferred to the Air Force on 21 December 1982, while young pilots from Romania and Russia underwent conversion training and were posted to vacancies.61
RE-ORGANISATION AND MODERNISATION, 1984 AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS UNTIL 1987
By 1984 Zimbabwe had largely overcome its internal and external political upheavals. Threats that could lead to the disintegration of the ZNA disappeared and units were now in operation against RENAMO along the border from Dande in the north-east to Mtetengwe and Beit Bridge. Early in 1983, the Manning and Records Directorate was established to counter the remaining endemic accounting weaknesses, provide for orderly promotions and postings, and to address soldiers’ career planning needs. Because the initial phase of integration had absorbed all those wishing to take up a military career and as a result of the absence of job opportunities in Zimbabwe’s limited formal economy, an inordinate number of soldiers remained in the army and led to over-strength brigades. The time had come to reform this amorphous organisation into conventional shape. Commanders at all levels had been appraised and began to appreciate the finer characteristics of a conventional army, staff activities and logistics.
During the next year, careful documentation and records were kept by accounting teams in all units and sub-units to ascertain the army’s strengths. The exercise showed that some units had too many members, while others were understaffed. Attempts were made to rectify the position by providing established units with the necessary qualified manpower. These included training establishments, brigade sub-units such as medical transport and education divisions. Parallel to this, was the allocation of funds to establish permanent new battalion locations.
At the same time, opportunities were provided for members to attend various educational and vocational courses in the country’s polytechnic and university on full pay. On average, the army annually has over fifty students enrolled for different degrees at the local university and abroad. This policy became especially beneficial when promotion prospects at the top became minimal and qualified senior officers could leave with generous packages, to begin their own professional practices or were snapped up by the private sector.
The armed forces have survived within a supportive political environment. On 22 December 1987, The Herald headline screamed "Unity at last!" This announced the accord signed between elements of the Patriotic Front who were divided just before the 1980 elections. Since the collapse of the Coalition in 1981, attempts to remove differences had been elusive. The Agreement, signed between the political leaders of ZANU(PF) and ZAPU, to establish a united ZANU(PF), meant that Zimbabwe was to have two vice-presidents and was to share Cabinet and Government posts. The second paragraph of the Agreement called for "immediate steps to eliminate and end the insecurity and violence prevalent in Matebeleland." Former ZIPRA leader, Lookout Masuku, was posthumously declared a National Hero and his wife given a seat in Parliament, while Dumiso Dabengwa was given the ministerial post of Home Affairs. This was done to assuage and consolidate the integration process.
In conclusion, several factors can be isolated that led to the successful military integration of the three warring parties in Zimbabwe between 1980 and 1987. Firstly, there was always close and interested political supervision from Government, so that when problems arose, immediate support and solutions were forthcoming. Secondly, the integration process benefited from an enlightened guerrilla leadership, who followed political instructions during the war and continued to do so when absorbed into the new military. Africa is known for its scourge of coups and counter-coups and it is to the credit of this leadership that it has remained subordinated to political decisions, even to the extent of serving under officers such as Walls and McLean, however briefly. Furthermore, amongst the military arms of both liberation movements there have been young and innovative cadres who, to this day are sought after by both public and private enterprises, as well as in international forums, such as the United Nations. They were easily transformed into staff officers, pilots, technicians and unit commanders.
A further important factor creating stability and continuity needed for successful integration, was the existence of the ‘African Askari’, a unique feature of the Rhodesian struggle. They had enlisted largely as a result of unemployment and not because of political convictions. They played a critical role in the war when the numbers and level of experience were reduced as a result of soldiers defecting to South Africa. Their actions, though largely uncoordinated, often stemmed from the ‘gut feelings’ of old and experienced soldiers. These contingents of former army members integrated with ZIPRA or ZANLA, did not suffer from problems of faction fighting because of their apolitical stance and tended to require only further efficiency training to be successfully integrated. It is to the credit of the incoming hierarchy that they recognised the potential of this semi-professional category. They were utilised and were instrumental in sustaining the integration process, when it was seriously threatened at the end of 1980 and the beginning of 1981.
Zimbabwe also benefited from outside assistance provided by the involvement of BMATT. On apolitical level, Britain appeared to be the only country which attempted to dissuade South Africa from engaging in more military escapades in Zimbabwe, as was the case in Angola and Mozambique. During tense political periods in the region, the presence of BMATT personnel acted as an insurance against attack in critical areas, while it also ensured that South Africa knew that the camps did not shelter members of the ANC. On a military level, BMATT provided objective views that all sides came to trust and have confidence in. A special rapport developed between members of BMATT teams and the ZNA.
Outside assistance also had positive results when, under the auspices of the Commonwealth, help could be obtained from Pakistan in the reshaping of the Air Force. It was a choice that was accepted even in the international arena. Experiences with the North Koreans were less favourable, but subsequent Chinese involvement appeared to be generally welcomed.
Zimbabwe’s experiences in integrating armed forces from extremely different military backgrounds seem, in retrospect, to have been an important exercise in the Southern African region. Despite the problems that were experienced, these were transformed into opportunities from which much can be learned. The successes of the integration process was, in the final analysis, as a result of the sustained commitment of all concerned.
1. See Keesings Contemporary Archives, Longmans, London, 1980, p. 30376.
2. J. Davidow, A Peace in Southern Africa: The Lancaster House Conference on Rhodesia, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, 1984. p. 11.
3. P. Johnson and D. Martin, Zimbabwe: Apartheid’s Dilemma, Destructive Engagement: Southern Africa at War, ZPH, Harare, 1986, p. 45.
4. Davidow, op. cit., p. 92; P. Goodwin and I. Hancock, Rhodesians never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia, 1970-1980, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1993, p. 277.
5. Davidow, ibid., p. 91.
6. P. Johnson and D. Martin, The Struggle for Zimbabwe: The Chimurenga War, ZPH, Harare, 1981, p. 316.
7. IISS, The Military Balance, 1979-1980, International Institute of Strategic Studies, 1979.
8. The Chronicle, 14 March 1981.
9. Johnson and Martin, op. cit., 1981, p. 323.
10. Goodwin and Hancock, op. cit., p 244.
11. P.L. Moorcraft, Will there be a Civil War in Zimbabwe?, SA Journal of International Affairs, 1981, p.244.
12. The Herald, 12 August 1980.
13. Moorcraft, op. cit., p. 236.
14. For comparable accounts, see T.O. Ranger, Revolt in Southern Rhodesia 1896-7: A Study in African Resistance, Heinemann, London, 1967, and F.C. Selous, Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia, R. Ward, London, 1896.
15. I. Mandaza, The Post White Settler Colonial Situation, I. Mandaza (ed.), Zimbabwe: The Political Economy of Transition, Codesria, 1986, p. 39.
16. Presidential speech, Zimbabwe debates: First session, first parliament, 14 May 1980.
17. The Chronicle, 3 March 1980.
18. Mandaza, op. cit., p. 43.
19. Johnson and Martin, op. cit., 1986, p. 46; Moorcraft, op. cit., p. 251.
20. Keesings, op. cit., p. 30165.
21. P.L. Moorcraft and P. McLaughlin, Chimurenga! The War in Rhodesia 1965-80. A Military History. Sygma/Collins, Glasgow, 1982, p. 241.
22. J.D. White, Military Units and Embellishments Rhodesia/Zimbabwe 1890-1980, unpublished manuscript, p. 52.
23. Goodwin and Hancock, op. cit., pp. 315-6; Davidow, op. cit., p. 81.
24. The Chronicle, 6 March 1980.
25. The Herald, 21 June 1980.
26. Moorcraft and McLaughlin, op. cit., p. 241.
27. The Herald, 21 June 1980.
28. Ibid., 18 July 1980.
29. IISS, op. cit., p. 5.
30. White, op. cit., pp. 51-52.
31. Moorcraft and McLaughlin, op. cit., p. 71.
32. White, op. cit., pp. 51.
33. Davidow, op. cit., p. 92.
34. Zimbabwe debates, Second session, first parliament, 15 September 1981, col. 303.
35. Moorcraft and McLaughlin, op. cit., p. 238.
36. The Herald, 6 and 7 September 1980.
37. The Chronicle, 1 and 2 October 1980.
38. Ibid., 29 January 1981.
39. The Herald, 27 March 1982.
40. Ibid., 16 February 1983.
41. Ibid., 14 March 1982.
42. The Chronicle, 26 July 1984.
43. Ibid., 4 October 1983.
45. P.L. Moorcraft, African Nemesis, Zimbabwe, 1980-1989, 1993, p. 299.
46. The Chronicle, 14 February 1981; Moorcraft, ibid., p. 301.
47. Zimbabwe debates, Second session, first parliament, 15 September 1981.
48. The Chronicle, 18 February 1983.
49. The Herald, 2 September 1982.
50. Keesings, op. cit., p. 30904.
51. The Chronicle, 11 April 1981.
52. The Herald, 9 October 1982.
53. Zimbabwe debates, Second session, first parliament, 21 August 1981, col. 1208.
54. The Chronicle, 12 and 13 February 1984.
55. Ibid., 13 December 1983.
56. Ibid., 21 October 1983.
57. Zimbabwe debates, Second session, first parliament, 15 September 1981.
58. White, op. cit., p. 52.
59. Johnson and Martin, op. cit., p. 50 (footnote 16.).
60. The Chronicle, 21 October 1983.
61. The Herald, 30 December 1982
- Beaver Shaw
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- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
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