- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- 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 email@example.com 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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08/10 - 08/17
- Rhodesian Insurgency
- FRELIMO PHOTO ESSAY
- MOZAMBIQUE INSURGENCY AGAINST PORTUGAL
- AFRICANS IN PORTUGUESE COLONIAL ARMY
- LOYAL TO THEMSELVES
- MOVIES OF THE 1970's
- ZAMBIAN RAID DIGEST
- CANBERRA IN SOUTHERN AFRICAN SERVICE
- RHODESIAN AIR FORCE THE SANCTIONS BUSTERS
- THE CHOPPER BOYS
- SA RECCES IN THE RUSSIAN FRONT RHODESIA
- VILA SALAZAR
- BISHOP DONAL LAMONT'S LETTER TO THE RHODESIAN GOVE...
- RHODESIA ROLL OF HONOUR
- WAR STORIES
- RED AFRICA (RHODESIA)
- TRYING TO UNDERSTAND MUGABE
- A CASE FOR RHODESIA
- SELOUS SCOUTS RHODESIA
- RECCES IN RHODESIA
- ▼ 08/10 - 08/17 (21)
Sunday, August 10, 2008
SELOUS SCOUTS RHODESIA
Drawing unk -please contact me for credits
On Fireforce Operations we would never have come close to our kills if it was not for the excellent bush skills and modus operandi of the Selous Scouts in the Rhodesian Tribal Trust Lands.
I did many call outs and operations in the bush with these fine soldiers both black and white. In my experience they were and proved to be very discliplined soldiers and do not deserve the bad publicity they get from "bunny huggers". We had a war to fight against an enemy backed by Communist Chinese and Russian forces who were bent on destroying our country, hacking off innocent peoples lips and making them eat them, pushing grass laced with petrol into womens vaginas and setting alight, bayonetting babies and old folk, accusing innocent tribesmen of being sellouts and burning them in thier huts-the world stood by and did F....all, just like it does today...The western world created the monster and Britain is busy eating it today...Smith told you and you did nothing. RIP those brave men who fought for a good and just cause. History will tell...
Extracted from Marloth Park:-
Rhodesia's crack Selous Scouts, a tough and highly selected band of men, White and Black, who are said to be possibly the best and toughest bush fighters in the world, have been branded as a bunch of demented killers by terrorists and their Marxist henchmen who have never hesitated to twist the truth to suit their own sinister ends.
In any case of atrocity, there are those whose interest is served by publishing the facts, those who seek to prevent publicity being attracted to those facts, and those who seek to manipulate selected facts to shift the blame away from the guilty parties. Thus we find that a number of recent acts of ruthless violence in Rhodesia which were indeed committed by terrorists belonging either to the Nkomo or Mugabe wing of the so-called Patriotic Front have been consistently attributed to the Selous Scouts. The lie has been spread abroad by both Nkomo and Mugabe, perpetuated by a number of misguided church leaders, gullible journalists guided only by financial preferences and foreign deserters from the Rhodesian forces who should never have been allowed into the country in the first place.
The underlying motive for these deliberate lies, completely divorced from proven facts, must seem obvious to those acquainted with terrorist and Marxist strategy - namely, the creation of an ever-increasing rift between the population and members of the armed forces, to neutralise the vital battle for the hearts and minds of people enmeshed by the war. To attempt division and dissension within the army itself. Predictably the Selous Scouts, Rhodesia's answer to terrorist infiltration, its most battle-hardened unit, has been selected for this dubious purpose. This superb band of men is being crucified almost daily as murderers and butchers of innocent people, baby-bashers, blood-crazed maniacs.
As contemporary military correspondents we remember very well a not too distant parallel - the vilificiation of the crack Portuguese commando's who bore the brunt of the fighting in Mozambique and Angola. They fought well and died well. They were the victims of consistent Frelimo abuse, aimed at alienating them from the population and stigmatising them as a band of ruthless killers, intent on systematic genocide. Frelimo's sustained campaign of hate and suspicion, fanned by the emergent Armed Forces Movement (AFM) ideology from Lisbon eventually paid off, to such an extent that the commando's were despised and ostracised by the thousands of dismal toy soldiers who never ventured near the front.
Communist strategy seldom differs and another case in point concerns the German Battalion in former French Indochina. Consisting of men who escaped possible war crimes trials in Europe after World War II, they joined the French Foreign Legion and shot, bombed, tortured and bayonetted their way into the Viet Minh. Theirs was a war of reprisals and vicious counter-reprisals, of criminal violence on both sides, of outrages against humanity, of war at its rawest, cruellest and most gruesome. Stumped by veterans who gave even more than they received, the treacherous Viet Minh embarked on a systematic campaign of denigration, using the Communist press and some Western media.
The French were rebuked for using their erstwhile enemies to further their "imperialistic designs" and henceforth the German Battalion ceased to exist. The "Battalion of the Damned" as they preferred to call themselves had lived exactly 1,243 days. during which it destroyed 7,466 guerillas by body count, 221 Viet Minh bases, supply dumps, and camps; it liberated 311 military and civilian prisoners from terrorist captivity and covered roughly 11,000 kilometres on foot. They lost 515 men - to them a very heavy loss indeed. The Viet Minh had scored a resounding victory, to be followed 700 days later by the tragedy of Dien Bien Phu, the ultimate French humiliation.
I thought of all these things when I interviewed huge Joshua Nkomo in the unkept garden of Zimbabwe House, ZAPU's headquarters in Conakry Road, Lusaka. He said killings in Rhodesia by the security forces were becoming as regular as detailed weather reports. He continued:
When met by the ruthless Selous Scouts our people - men, women and children - are asked a few questions and shot.'' He claimed he could produce a witness - there was no sign of him - who could testify to a "particularly degenerate'' security force atrocity near the southern Botswana border. His story: ''Six women - three with babies on their backs - had identified themselves to members of the Selous Scouts before crossing the Shashi River. They had conspicuous front and back identity tags. When they walked down towards the river the three mothers were gunned down. They died, but not the babies on their backs. One of the Scouts asked: "What must we do with the babies?'' Others answered by slitting their throats with bayonets. They were buried in a common grave. A son who inquired after his mother was also shot.
Almost humbly, with incredible hypocrisy, he told the world press:
Freedom fighters are told not to molest civilians, to concentrate only on military targets. Our people are being killed in their hundreds by the Selous Scouts to make the people hate the freedom movement. The freedom fighters are under strict instruction not to touch civilians no matter what their colour. These Scouts are beginning to kindle a bitterness in Zimbabwe towards the White people. The cutting of young children's throats and the shooting of women returning from their fields are beginning to have a cumulative effect on the minds of the people against the White people. If these atrocities do not cease, the Whites will be regarded as part and parcel of Smith. Sustained genocide by the Scouts will lead to a very serious rift between Whites and Blacks and it will reach a stage when my people won't distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.
Only the totally uninformed, the very dumb or the feebly sentimental will be taken in by Mr. Nkomo's exaggerated claims which follow a distinct line, traceable to the Lupane murders on December 5, 1976, when a member of Nkomo's terrorist group, Albert Sumne Ncube, killed Bishop Adolph Schmitt, Father Possenti Weggarten and Sister Maria Francis, on a road near Lupane. According to Sister Ermenfried, the only survivor, the terrorist denounced the missionaries as "enemies of the people" before opening fire. Ncube, who was later captured by the police, admitted these and other murders as well as undergoing terrorist training in ZAPU camps in Tanzania. He subsequently escaped from custody, however, and may have returned to Zambia.
On Sunday, December 19, 1976, a group of Mugabe terrorists from Mozambique slaughtered 27 defenceless African workers on a tea estate in the Honde Valley in front of their wives and children. They then withdrew to Mozambique.
On Sunday February 6, 1977 a group of 12 Mugabe terrorists murdered Father Martin Thomas, SJ, Father Christopher Shepherd-Smith, SJ, Brother John Conway, SJ, Sister Epiphany Bertha Schneider, OP, Sister Joseph Paulina Wilkinson, OP, Sister Magdala Christa Lewandoski, OP, and sister Ceslaus Anna Steiger, OP, at St. Paul's Mission, Musami.
According to Father Dunstan Myerscough, SJ, who survived, together with Sister Anna Victoria Reggel, OP, the murders were "obviously the result of Russian indoctrination. In my opinion, if you want proof the Communists are behind this, come to the mission. The terrorists must have been got at to have that brutality in them." He said he had no doubt of the terrorists' culpability.
Apart from the fact that all these brutal slayings took place on Sundays, thereby indicating that they were planned operations rather than irresponsible acts of folly, as has been claimed by embarrassed terrorist supporters, it is important to note that in all cases the survivors or witnesses were under no doubt whatsoever that the culprits were terrorists belonging to either the Nkomo or Mugabe factions.
The terrorists' culpability was proved beyond any doubt when security forces found an incriminating diary in the possession of a slain terrorist. He described in full how his group had slain the missionaries and how a number of other civilians had been murdered farther afield, concluding: "We were very lucky".
These facts have not, however, deterred the terrorist leaders from attempting to blame the Rhodesian security forces and especially the Selous Scouts, or from attributing these acts of violence to the "inevitable" consequences of Rhodesian government policies. Thus Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe both denied that the Lupane murders could have been the work of their "Patriotic Front". To quote Mr. Nkomo:
It is a tragedy to be looked at against the background of the whole situation and the people of the Smith regime who are causing the continuation of the war. Selous Scouts do this sort of thing to make the guerrilla movement unpopular.
He did, however, call for an international inquiry into the Honde massacre for which his uneasy partner, Mr. Mugabe's followers were responsible.
Terrorist comments on the Honde massacre and the Musami murders have combined this type of accusation with sentimental protestations of innocence. Thus, according to Mr. Mugabe's interview with the BBC on February 8, 1977:
We are not capable of such inhumanity (as the Musami murders). After all, we are fighting a progressive war which is aimed at mobilising all the democratic forces capable of lending support to the Revolution and all along we have been working very harmoniously with all the church organisations.
A Similar line has been adopted by Radio Maputo, the Zambian "Daily Mail" and other channels expressing the views of the "frontline" Presidents.
Coupled with these accusations against the Selous Scouts were "authoritiative" reports by leftist journalist David Martin and a deserter from the Rhodesian forces who peddled his story in London. Quoting nationalist sources, Martin, based in Lusaka (undesirable in Rhodesia), reported in The Guardian that "there can be no doubt that the Selous Scouts had been involved in the recent atrocities''.
The deserter claimed that he had in fact overheard members of the Scouts planning and discussing the atrocities. Adding to the barrage, Botswana claimed at the beginning of May that Rhodesia had been linked to the killing of two people and the wounding of 80 others when a Russian-made hand grenade was tossed on to a crowded dance floor in Francistown. Stating that a Rhodesian coloured had been arrested in connection with the incident at the Mophane Club and condemning the bombing as an "act of sabotage and barbarism," the office of the Botswana President said seven Black Rhodesians had been arrested. The statement said the Rhodesians, in refugee camps in Francistown and Selebi-Pikwe, had admitted being members of the Selous Scouts sent to spy on refugees. They had entered the country as refugees but when they were questioned by the police they admitted that they had been sent by the Rhodesian Government to spy on the situation of the refugee camps for possible attacks. Later reports said the seven Selous Scouts had asked for political asylum and that they had been allowed to travel to Zambia.
Without positive proof, Mr. Philip Steenkamp, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President, said he believed the explosion was connected with Rhodesia's crack anti-guerrilla Selous Scouts unit. The seven "defectors" will no doubt be paraded in front of the world press to add further evidence to mounting Selous Scouts dossiers. Fact or fiction, the lie is gaining impetus and the impact is bound to be the same. Reading into Marxist intentions, the Selous Scouts will be hounded ruthlessly to single them out as the best ''horror cast" in the business. The eventual aim of course, is to discredit them in the eyes of both White and Black Rhodesians with the ultimate hope of sapping them psychologically and creating a public outcry against their "murderous'' ventures. For it is common knowledge that the Rhodesian security forces cannot pursue the war successfully without the unique qualities of the hand-picked Selous Scouts.
In purely military terms the terrorists cannot improve their position and the Selous Scouts have proved to be their enemies in more ways than one.
Understandably bitter about the terror accusation against its crack unit and lest it should be accused of attempting to conceal the ''awful truth", the Rhodesian Government recently reacted by lifting, for the first time, the cloak of secrecy which has surrounded the Scouts since its inception as a tracking combat unit in October 1974. A small group of international newsmen were allowed access to their training base where, for the Scouts, it all begins. Here journalists understood the terrorists' dilemma when they were told that by March 1977 conservative estimates were that the Selous Scouts had accounted for 1,205 terrorist kills, losing a mere ten of their own men. By any means a remarkable record.
The advanced training base is about an hour's drive from Kariba, or a 30-minute boat trip on the edge of the famous man-made lake. It consists of a collection of grass roofed huts which, at first glance resemble a prisoner-of war camp like those used by the Japanese in World War 11. The camp, known as the Wafa Wafa, takes its name from the Shona words Wafa Wasara which loosely translated means Those who die, die - those who stay behind, stay behind.
It is an approptirate motto - because the gruelling selection course here "kills off" more recruits than those who survive to finish successfully. That any of the recruits survive the training period at all seems a minor miracle, but they do and subsequently become the Rhodesian answer to terrorist infiltration. Principally they are taught to kill and survive and, in training, are pushed to their physical limits. Rations are cut to one sixth of that given to a man on normal active service.
It is therefore appropriate to describe the grassy encampment as the selection and tracker-training headquarters of one of the most specialised and toughest fighting forces ever seen.
Among the many tests they undergo is one where they are dropped in the bush with a gun, 20 rounds of ammunition, a match and material to strike it, and an egg. Lions, buffalo and elephant abound and the object is to have the egg hard-boiled and ready for inspection the following morning.
The Scouts' operational record was sketched briefly by a Rhodesian Journalist:
Shrouded in secrecy with a mystique that spawns a thousand stories, many true and most mere rumour, the Scouts have in only two years become the most-decorated outfit in the Rhodesian security forces collecting along the way amongst many other awards - six Silver Crosses (the highest award for gallantry yet presented); 11 Bronze Crosses; six orders for Members of the Legion of Merit for acts of bravery, sel- dom reported, but which have all played a major part in fighting the country's terror war.
The Selous Scouts is fully-integrated, with an undisclosed number of soldiers - but the ratio is eight Blacks to two White troops.
The initial selection procedures last for about 18 days and are probably the most rigorous in the world. Every man who goes to the camp is a volunteer - and many are highly experienced, battle-hardened soldiers who find that after a few days they simply cannot stand the strain. Small wonder that following the most recent selection course, only 14 out of 126 volunteers made the grade.
The officer commanding the Selous Scouts, and the driving force behind it, is Major Ron Reid-Daly, a 47 year old regular soldier who was once regimental sergent- major of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, known as "The Incredibles." He learned his job with the British Special Air Service in Malaya after leaving his native Salisbury in 1950 to go to England, and he served with the SAS during the Communist terror war there in the early 1950's.
The prison camp analogy does not elude Reid-Daly.
I reckon in most armies today I simply wouldn't be allowed to put these poor bastards through the kind of selection course we give them. They'd think I was trying to kill the men who volunteer to join us. I agree, there is something of the prison camp attitude towards our men under selection and training. We take them to the very threshold of tolerance mentally - and it's here that most of them crack. You can take almost any fit man and train him to a high standard of physical ability. But you can't give a man what he hasn't already got inside him.
Under selection each man is reduced to below a threshold which the average human being could not endure. He is virtually "dehumanised", forced to live off rats, snakes, baboon meat and eyes, to survive in hostile surroundings which prove that nature, too, can be as deadly as any human enemy. And they are taught to live off nature, to drink from the water in the carcass of a dead animal - a yellowish liquid - and to eat maggot-ridden green meat which can be cooked only once before becoming deadly poisonous.
Students are not given rations except for water. They are expected to survive off the land, making their own fires without matches, and making and using bark string - "gusi tambo" - to help catch food for themselves. They are soon hungry enough to capture any small creatures they can find - grasshoppers, lizards and squirrels - to stave off the hunger. "And you do get hungry." said one student who had recently been on the survival course. "We caught and killed a small leguaan, and before we even had time to skin it, one of the men was ready to take a bite out of it".
The Selous Scouts have for the first time admitted that thev have been used on hot pursuit raids into Mozambique including the highly spectacular and tactically successful raid on the Nyadzonya terrorist training camp last August in which over 300, and possibly more than 500, terrorists were killed.
For those who come through the selection course there follows a posting to one of the small sections on operations, after a short tracking course, initially as a flank tracker. They work in remote parts of Rhodesia hunting down terrorist spoor and leading the infantry in for the kill if the invading group is too big for the small two or three man teams to handle on their own. Each member of the Selous Scouts, down to the lowest ranking White soldier, speaks at least one African language - necessary for communication with their Black comrades-in-arms with whom they work in the closest possible context as equals.
Tracking survival and close-combat tactics are high on the list of the Scouts' training priorities. From what newsmen saw at Wafa Wafa camp it takes a very special kind of man to qualify for service in what has become Rhodesia's elite and much-envied military unit. Yet Major Reid-Daly detests the word elite:
We do not consider ourselves an elite group of men, nor do we think we are of the highest calibre. It could cause the men to imagine themselves better than they really are and this could in turn lead to recklessness. We are simply just trackers out to do a job.
About training procedures, Major Reid-Daly, as tough as they come, explained:
We take a chap right down when he first comes here, right to the bottom. And then we build him up again into what we need in the Selous Scouts. Some people might say it's a dehumanising process, and maybe it is. But as far as I'm concerned, that's the way it has to be if we have to keep this unit up to standard. I have heard of all sorts of so-called crack outfits becoming nothing more than shadows of what they were because of a lowering of standards to increase the numbers of men going through into combat. And I'm determined not to let that happen here.
You see these men sometimes in town, with their chocolate-brown berets and green belts with an osprey badge. The osprey is a bird of prey, a fish eater, not common, but found in small numbers in many parts of the world where there are large stretches of water. The badge - previously the unofficial badge of Rhodesia's tracking men - was drawn up in commemoration of Andre Rabie, the first regular instructor of tracking. He was killed on active service in 1973.
Most of the men who are involved in this anti-terror outfit regard Andre Rabie as having being the inspiration behind the Selous Scouts.
The Selous Scouts have one of the best stocked aviaries in Rhodesia. They have also added a snake park. Not as frivolous as it sounds. The emphasis is on bush survival and in order to survive for many days at a time if necessary, the men must be able to recognise and make use of whatever vegatation, birds, animals and insects the bush has to offer. They must also learn to understand and turn to advantage what they see. An instructor said:
Everything is of some use to you in the veld. The more you get familiar with it, the better your chance of survival. The ignorant person bumbles into trouble wherever he goes. Certain birds give your presence away. Butterflies, which some people see as nothing but pretty little insects, are a potent indication of water in the winter months. We aim to make our students at home in the environment in which they work. Vegetation not only provides them with food in times of need. It plays one of the basic roles in tracking. And certain trees are used medically. The marula gives the best anti-histamine you can find.
Many of the men are trained parachutists to enable them to reach an area quickly when their tracking skills are required.
Their stories of survival in the bush are manifold - like the youngster from Salisbury who spent 18 days in the bush trying to evade a terrorist gang who were hot after his trail. As the Scout put it, "a spot of bother when something didn't work out quite right".
He had no rations, no water and a limited supply of ammunition. But his fieldcraft and survival training at Wafa Wafa helped him win through.
These are the men the terrorists want out of the way, men who are justifiably proud of their official motto - Pamwe Chete, Together Only.
Editor: The breakdown and build-up training technique used for the training of the Selous Scouts appears to be very similar to that used by the Portuguese for the training of their Comandos.
JACKAL HUNT ONE
THE HERDSMAN, searching for his lost cattle in the dense bush and Kalahari sand veld of Northern Matabeleland, sighted an African digging a hole in the crumbling soil miles from the nearest habitation. A few days later at a beerdrink, the herdsman mentioned his find to the kraal elders who decided to inspect the peculiar excavation. They arrived at the scene to find that the earth had been replaced although it was obvious that the herdsman had not imagined the cavity. The group returned to the kraal, notified the police and then went back to the mysterious hole, led by the Kraalhead, to make their indications. Whilst awaiting the arrival of the authorities, the Kraalhead leaned against a tree while his tribesmen lounged in the grass nearby. A shot rang out followed by a burst of automatic fire. The Kraalhead fell with a bullet through his chest, his followers fled and an uneasy peace returned to the area.
But not for long. The patrol which had been sent for arrived to find the Kraalhead's body carrying handwritten notes threatening death to tribesmen who became police informers. The notes and a number of expended shells of Russian origin indicated that the cold-blooded murder was the work of a terrorist gang. Three pairs of footprints led away from the bushes from which attack had so unexpectedly come.
Operation Jackal Hunt One was on.
Police detachments were brought in from all over Matabeleland, together with units of the Army and Air Force. They arrived in the area early in the morning of September 22, the day after the murder, and at first light experienced African trackers supported by Police and Army personnel moved off on the spoor of the three retreating terrorists.
Intensive examination of the area from which the tribesmen had been fired upon brought to light more expended shells, an expended bullet lodged in a tree and the tracks of the murderers which indicated that they had crawled up on the tribesmen gathered around the hole and had ambushed them from the thick undergrowth. A base camp was set up near the scene of the murder and patrols were dispatched in an effort to contain the retreating terrorists in the north and south of the immediate area.
The tracking team had initially moved in a westerly direction before the spoor swung in an arc of some fifteen miles radius before taking a southerly direction. It was apparent that the fugitives were taking steps to cover their tracks and the crumbling sand of the terrain assisted them in that clear imprints were not retained. After a day and a half on the trail- estimated to be only about 24 hours old - there were indications that a fourth person had joined the original three and soon after, this number was increased by another two. At midday on September 24, having painstakingly followed the terrorists for over 30 miles in the desolate country, the spoor was lost and the rest of the day spent trying to regain the trail but without success. In the three days of almost impossible tracking and relentless pursuit, the team had been supplied and supported from the air by the RRAF, evidence of the intensive co-operation between the three elements of the Security Forces which was to typify the whole operation.
The loss of the spoor brought the focus of the exercise back to the base camp and the activities of the many CID teams who were probing into kraals and villages over a wide area in an attempt to obtain further information on the gang. These efforts were rewarded when, on September 25, a tribesman admitted that he had visited the terrorists' camp and on the same afternoon, he led a patrol to the site.
The camp consisted of seven holes in the ground. All but two of them had been filled in. To ensure that the holes which had been destroyed contained no secrets, they were excavated in the broiling sun. The two intact holes were extremely well camouflaged. One was a round hole about 2 ft. 6 in. deep with a diameter of some 6 ft., and the other was rectangular, 2 ft. deep, 4 ft. wide and about 6 ft. Iong. Both were covered with thin branches and thatch and such was the degree of concealment that one of the holes was discovered before the informant's indication when one of the police details actually standing on the roof remarked that the ground beneath him was more resistant than the surrounding soil.
The only items of equipment left at the camp were a few cooking pots. The area was photographed and the camp destroyed.
The local who had led the Security Forces to the camp indicated that a gang of six terrorists had been active in the area. They had initiated a programme of indoctrination of the local people, had extracted food and supplies from them, and had made efforts to increase the size of the gang with local recruits.
On the same afternoon, September 25, information was received that there was a possibility that two of the gang were in the vicinity of a kraal some fifty miles from the original area. A CID team, with Army support, left immediately. An hour or so before dawn on the following morning, the party had not reached their objective and increased their pace to a trot. They arrived at the kraal at first light to find it deserted. Within minutes of the team's arrival, fortunately after they had gone to ground, into the kraal walked two terrorists, one of them carrying a PPSH submachine gun. On being challenged, the armed terrorist surrendered immediately, but the other made off in a desperate bid for freedom despite a number of warnings to halt. With no alternative, he was fired at and wounded low in the body. When searched he was found to have a primed grenade in his pocket. His companion was likewise found to be carrying two grenades and two magazines of ammunition for his weapon. The injured man's weapon, a SKS Siminov carbine, was retrieved from the bush on the indication of his companion. Two more grenades were found in the same place.
Following the capture of these two terrorists and information gathered from local tribesmen, some pattern of the gang's activities emerged.
The group had originally numbered eight men who had been trained in Algeria, had infiltrated the country from the north and who had been in the area for some time. Their mission had been to carry out a recruiting and training role among the locals before moving to bigger things.
The original leader of the gang and another member had been arrested after the latter accidentally shot himself through the shoulder and they had travelled to Bulawayo where one of them had been captured. The other was arrested in Salisbury. The leadership had been assumed by another member of the remaining six and two locals had successfully been recruited to restore the gang to its original strength of eight. The two newcomers had been armed with the weapons left behind by the two that had been captured.
The two terrorists arrested entering the kraal at dawn were original members who had been operating apart from the remainder. This accounted for the distance between the two spheres of activity.
The new leader had decided that the group should be further split into two groups of three. Each trio consisted of two founder members with a new recruit. It was deduced that it was the leader's team which had been responsible for the murder of the Kraalhead following the herdsman's report that he had seen an African (the leader, as it transpired) digging the new hole- the first stages in the construction of another underground camp.
The amount of information obtained by the arrest of the two terrorists was considerable due to the fact that, after the murder, the gang leader had picked up the other three members of the splinter group and had then trekked with them to the kraal where he had explained the latest developments to the remaining two. He had warned them to lie low where they were but also gave them some indications of his own future plans.
His idea was that the other six should travel south far beyond the present area of suspicion where they would attack an isolated farm to obtain food and money. As the Security Forces switched to the area of the proposed attack and were withdrawn from the gang's original base area, the group would backtrack to their former well-prepared and well-equipped hunting ground. There they would lie up- for months if need be - until the heat was off.
The fact that the terrorist leader had covered some 90 miles in the three days following the murder in order to warn the detached pair, had picked up the other section of the gang in his travels and had also been involved in the time consuming and finally successful efforts of covering the tracks of the party, gave an indication of the calibre of the opposition to the Security Forces.
This then was the position on the morning of September 26.
In the light of the information gathered, the tactics of the Security Forces were formulated.
Despite the terrorist leader's intentions, as obtained from the captured members, it was felt that it was more than likely that he would change his immediate plans in view of the activities of his pursuers. The isolated farms upon which the attack was envisaged presented a challenge of distance and despite the extensive travels already undertaken by the gang, it might be beyond their already extended capabilities. One school of thought expounded the possibility that the gang, finally convinced of the scale of operation mounted against them, might seek flight over the borders into Botswana. There was another possibility that the terrorists would abandon their immediate plans in favour of returning immediately to their base area where they would go to ground.
The identity of the local recruits had been established and their relatives were questioned about contacts which might be made by these two members of the group should the gang choose any of the three possible routes. Kraals which might be sympathetic to appeals for food from the local pair were watched.
There had been no let-up in the questioning of tribesmen in the immediate area of the murder - the area in which the two bands had so firmly entrenched themselves before September 21. These interrogations were fruitful when, on September 27, a large cache of equipment was discovered. In a large tin, sunk in concrete, were found considerable amounts of ammunition, seven blocks of TNT and a quantity of subversive literature. The cache even contained an inventory of contents, presumably prepared by the terrorist leader.
The following day brought no news of significant nature and plans for the future were prepared by the Security Forces.
The early hours of September 28 brought another breakthrough. The father of one of the local recruits reported that his son had deserted the gang and had returned to his kraal. He was arrested just after dawn in possession of an SKS carbine and ammunition. It was significant that this man made no attempt to evade arrest; on the contrary, he seemed almost eager to end the days of harrowing flight. He indicated the spot at which he had left his companion, a founder member, when he had entered the kraal in search of food. At this spot was found another SKS, two grenades and ammunition.
Unbeknown to the Security Forces, this man's companion had witnessed the recovery of his weapon and the indications made by the local recruit. He remained in hiding for the rest of the day and throughout the night, and the next morning took up a position on the road in which he was found by a passing police vehicle. He surrendered almost thankfully.
The score by now was four down and four to go. The outstanding members of the gang were its leader, two others of the original group, and the remaining local recruit.
The other newcomer was arrested in circumstances similar to those which had resulted in the capture of his fellow local. Tired and hungry - and apparently lacking the stricter discipline of the others - he walked into his father's kraal and into the arms of the waiting patrol. His SKS carbine was quickly located.
It was obvious that the remaining trio were sore pressed and becoming desperate for food. Questioning of the latest captives revealed that the prediction that the gang would discard their plan of attacking a distant farm in favour of an immediate return to their base area with its caches of equipment was correct All points at which the fugitives might be tempted to demand assistance were ambushed and the remainder of the Security Forces made an obvious withdrawal from the area.
The ruse worked. During the night of September 29/30, another of the gang - the leader - walked into an ambush around one of the kraals. He was unarmed and it was discovered that the remaining terrorists had been hidden nearby with the trio's weapons whilst the leader foraged for supplies.
The news of the arrest of the leader reached Control just after dawn on September 30. (For obvious reasons, no direct communication with the watching patrols had been risked.) Tracking parties were sent on a difficult trail in the wake of the leader's companions. Before midday, however, a positive sighting of the pair was received from another patrol and within a very short time the net had been closed on the whole gang.
In the meantime, the terrorist leader had guided a patrol to what turned out to be the only remaining cache. A buried 44 gallon drum contained ammunition, explosives and an assortment of other equipment. An added bonus was the discovery of the leader's weapon, another PPSH submachine gun which he had left with his companions. They had deposited the gun in the cache after their leader had failed to return.
The hunt was over. All members of the gang and their weapons - 4 PPSH submachine guns 5 SKS carbines, 14 grenades and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, as well as explosives - had been accounted for. There remained only the formalities of the murder investigation to be completed.
The notebook from which pages had been torn to provide the warnings found on the Kraalhead's body was recovered in the possession of one of the terrorists, the stubs were matched with the notes and a handwriting comparison inextricably proved his complicity. The murder weapon was identified by ballistics examination and it was found that the same weapon had fired all the shots at the scene of the murder.
The final chapter was enacted in the Bulawayo High Court where three of the gang were sentenced to death. The remainder of the gang received long terms of imprisonment for being accessories after the fact to murder and in possession of offensive weapons and material. In an earlier hearing, 17 tribesmen who had given assistance and received training from the gang were convicted and imprisoned.
At the conclusion of the case, the Judge commended the Security Forces generally and the investigating team for the high standard of conduct of the operation.
Finally, a tribute to all concerned in the many aspects of this exercise. It had been a highly successful operation exemplifying the finest standard of command, control and close co-operation between the three Services throughout all levels of personnel. The Commissioner of Police was pleased to award a Commendation to one member of the team and a number of other Policemen received official notification of the good work performed. Above all these, the appreciation of Rhodesians of all races of an operation about which they must needs know little was the greatest reward.
1. THE CONCEPT
The concept of ‘pseudo’ insurgents, i.e. members of the counter-insurgency forces posing as insurgents, is a well established, if lesser known, method of gathering intelligence and one often used by police units involved in crime detection.
In practice, select members of the Security Forces are trained in the habits and modus operandi of their enemy down to the smallest detail. Groups then infiltrate known insurgent areas, attempting to establish themselves as genuine insurgents. In counter-insurgency terminology this phase of the operation is known as ‘validification’ and is aimed both at convincing insurgents and members of the local population of the authenticity of the group.
Once a pseudo team has established its credentials as insurgent forces, the focus shifts to gathering all available information on insurgents and local support for them in the area. In this way pseudo operations can contribute substantially to the total Security Force intelligence picture. In an area where insurgent presence has already been established, as was the case in north-eastern Rhodesia in 1973, and where traditional Security Force intelligence sources have been eliminated through popular support for the insurgent cause, pseudo operations may prove to be the only reliable source of intelligence.
Within the cycle of any pseudo operation, validification and the acceptance of both local population and insurgents of the pseudo team, invariably proves to be the most difficult. To succeed, pseudo teams need to emulate insurgent forces in every respect. Furthermore, the insertion of these teams into an area is in itself a very delicate operation.
In most cases success is only possible if the pseudo team contains a number of former insurgents, recently captured by Security Forces and persuaded to change sides (‘turned’, in counter-insurgency jargon).
Again, this need not go hand-in-hand with physical intimidation as might seem necessary. Numerous studies on the motivation of ‘revolutionary’ forces indicate that ideological commitment to the cause of ‘liberation’ plays a far less important role in motivation than is generally believed. (1)
Research has substantiated that there is a willingness among captured insurgent personnel to change sides in the traumatic post-contact and initial period of capture. Should a captured insurgent not be presented with obvious means of escape and be physically involved in counter-insurgency operations on the side of Government forces he, in effect, becomes committed to the latter cause.
With the aid of these former insurgents, pseudo teams are able to establish contact with the established insurgent support structures within local communities. Through the local population, further contact with insurgent groups could also follow. Information gleaned in this way is passed on to the traditional elements of the Security Forces for action. Only in very exceptional circumstances would a pseudo team itself use intelligence obtained to eliminate insurgent forces. For, if in the latter case, the operation is not entirely successful, the pseudo team would immediately risk being exposed as government forces and thus lose all prospect of gaining intelligence.
But pseudo operations are not exclusively aimed at obtaining intelligence leading to insurgent casualties. The aim of these operations can also be much less subtle. By passing themselves off as insurgents, pseudo teams could sow distrust between the local population and insurgent forces in general. Such actions could include acts of indiscretion towards property, women and cattle, or local customs and tribal beliefs. If, as was the case in Rhodesia, competing insurgent forces (ZANLA and ZPRA) are vying for local support, pseudo practices could fan any friction between such forces into open armed hostility. Ethnic affiliation could aid in this regard.
However, if the strategy is to survive, it needs to be tightly controlled and limited in practice. Once members of the local population and insurgents become aware of the strategy, their security becomes stricter and further validification and establishment of pseudo teams becomes increasingly difficult. There is the danger, also, that pseudo operations may be used as license for transgression of the law. If the two factors are combined and members of the local population become aware of Security Forces posing as insurgents and committing crimes in this guise, the real insurgent forces are presented with an ideal propaganda weapon. At such time both Security Forces and the Government are likely to lose some of their claim to legitimacy that seems a natural product of their position as enforcers of, and compliers with, the law.
In recent counter-insurgency history, pseudo operations were first conducted by Special Branch in Malaya. Since the concept was only introduced towards the latter stages of the campaign, the impact was limited. The idea was, however, regenerated and expanded during the Mau-Mau emergency in Kenya under the driving leadership of Capt (later General Sir) Frank Kitson. (2) It was from these experiences that Rhodesian pseudo operations were born.
2. THE FORMATION OF THE SELOUS SCOUTS
In the period after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence Special Branch was the first to employ methods of gathering intelligence that could be termed as pseudo operations. These were first conducted in the Zwimba and Chirau Tribal Trust Lands during 1966 and were continued in these areas on an informal basis up to 1973. These first attempts were unsophisticated and mainly aimed at determining the loyalties of members of the local population.
Within Rhodesian Army circles pseudo operations were apparently first suggested by the second in command of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Major John Hickman. Sometime before 1966 he forwarded a paper to Army headquarters outlining the possible implementation of such a scheme. Subsequently after much delay, a pilot scheme was jointly run during 1966 by the Army, Special Branch and the British South Africa Police. This met with little success, for, at the time, the vast majority of the local population could still be considered passive, if not hostile to the insurgent cause. Little intelligence could thus be gained by posing as insurgents. Moreover, pseudo modus operandi was at an early and rudimentary stage of development. For the time being serious Army interest abated.
While the traditional sources of Security Force intelligence had been functioning adequately inside Rhodesia up to 1971, a drastic change resulted from ZANLA penetration into the North-east during 1972. Security Forces suddenly found themselves in an actively hostile environment late in 1972.
By the end of that year Rhodesian authorities were fast becoming aware that the security situation in the North-east was deteriorating rapidly. What had seemed to be an effective and sound network of informers dried up in a matter of weeks. Although aware of insurgent presence and intimidation, lack of operational intelligence forestalled effective counter-measures. This lack of detailed and accurate information now led to the regeneration of the concept of pseudo insurgents.
The former second-in-command of the Rhodesian Light Infantry was by this stage Officer Commanding 2 Brigade. Against the background of an almost total lack of operational intelligence and declining Army morale, Brigadier Hickman obtained permission to restart a pilot pseudo scheme. Similar interest had been revived in Special Branch.
With the approval of Joint Operation Center Hurricane, Superintendent Peterson of Special Branch Harare formed an all—black pseudo team on 26 January 1973. The team of six men, two African Detective Constables and four former insurgents were placed under the command of the Special Branch officer at Bindura. Following rudimentary training the team was alternatively deployed in Bushu and Madziwa Tribal Trust Lands, near Saint Albert’s Mission and in Chinamora Tribal Trust Land near Harare. While some useful information was gathered, these operations led to no insurgent casualties. At the time the lack of white leadership and expertise in the team was identified as the major problem. For a few months the team was disbanded, but eventually reorganized this time to include white members.
A few weeks after the formation of the Special Branch team, the Army commenced with two pseudo teams of their own. These consisted of two Special Air Service non-commissioned officers who had been attached to the Army Tracking Wing at Lake Kariba and a number of black soldiers from the Rhodesia African Rifles. Finally, former insurgents were added to the teams.
With the benefit of some weeks of operational deployment with their own pseudo team, Special Branch could train the Army teams in much greater detail - as well as provide them with vital and detailed intelligence.
Subsequently a third Army team was deployed with the result that operations could be conducted in the Mtepatepa farming area and in Chiweshe Tribal Trust Land. However, Army disillusionment soon reduced the number of teams to two. By this stage effective control of all teams had passed to Special Branch.
The first tangible success attributed to these teams occurred during August 1973 when a ZANLA insurgent was captured along the Ruya River. During the same operation the concept of ‘frozen areas’ was developed to minimize the chances of a clash between members of the Security Forces and a pseudo team. The official definition of such areas read as follows:
A Frozen Area is a clearly defined area, in which Security Forces are precluded from operating, other than along main roads. Army Security Forces already in an area to be declared “Frozen” will be withdrawn from such an area by the time stipulated in the signal intimating that such an area is to be “Frozen”. This signal must be acknowledged by the recipient. The above ruling also applies to all armed members of the Services and Government Departments with the exception of:
a. Those personnel tasked to operate exclusively along the Cordon Sanitaire.
b. Those personnel stationed at Protective or Consolidated Villages and establishments provided with a permanent guard in which case they are restricted to 1000 meters from the perimeter of such establishments.
c. In the event of a vehicle breakdown, ambush or mine deterioration on the main road within a Frozen Area those personnel involved are to remain in close proximity of their transport. (3)
On 31 August 1973, a pseudo team effected the first ZANLA casualty to result from these operations.
Within both the Army and Special Branch these pseudo operations were being conducted under the tightest security. Coordination between pseudo and regular Army units was achieved on an informal basis. As a result, a map reading error led to a clash between the pseudo team and an Army patrol during which the pseudo team commander, Sergeant Rabie, was killed. Temporarily all pseudo operations were halted.
By this stage the senior Army and Special Branch members involved were convinced of the use of pseudo operations. The death of André Rabie had, however, indicated that pseudo operations had to be conducted within a formalized structure and coordinated with other Security Force actions in an area.
During November 1973 a former Regimental Sergeant Major of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Captain Ron Reid-Daly, was recruited and promoted to Major as Officer Commanding the pseudo insurgent unit to become known as the Selous Scouts. The personal involvement of Lieutenant-General Walls in this appointment suggests that pseudo operations had received official blessing. Henceforth pseudo operations fell directly under the control of Special Branch. Officially part of Army Tracker Wing, the training camp moved to a secluded venue at Makuti near Lake Kariba where a number of vigorous selection courses were conducted, eventually swelling the unit to about 25 members. The regimental base eventually came to be situated at Inkomo near Darwendale.
When the first troop of pseudo operators was ready in January 1974, they were deployed from Bindura, where their Special Branch officer was located, into Chiweshe, Madziwa and Bindura Tribal Trust Lands. By the end of February a second troop became operational and a third during March. All three troops operated in Shona—speaking areas against ZANLA. Each troop was divided into three operating sections of nine to twelve men, a number of whom were former insurgents. Depending on their number, however, sections increased in strength to twenty and thirty men strong in sate cases. Although the unit was mainly under Army control, control of intelligence, deployment and in some instances training was in the hands of Special Branch. At no stage were even the military intelligence organizations allowed to exert any influence over the unit.
Security, however, remained a problem, for even at this early stage it was becoming common knowledge in the operational area that the Security Forces were masquerading as insurgents. (4)
Following operations in Omay Tribal Trust Land bordering Lake Kariba during December 1974 the need for Matabele pseudo teams to operate against ZPRA within Matabeleland became apparent. These operations coincided with the discovery that ZPRA had started using rubber dingies to cross the lake and enter the neighboring areas. For the first time Security Forces also encountered insurgent forces using radio’s inside Rhodesia. As a result a ZPRA orientated pseudo troop was formed and stationed near Bulawayo.
During the first half of 1974 the success of the Selous Scouts had reached such proportions that Lieutenant-General Walls instructed the unit during May to double its strength from three to six troops. By December this had been achieved with an addition of about 50 former insurgents.
Although the existence of the unit, and to a lesser extent its type of operations had by now become an open secret, official notification of the Selous Scouts was only served during 1977. During April of that year the magazine To the Point reported that:
Rhodesian army chiefs have taken the wraps off a legendary anti-terrorist unit that for two years has played a vital and almost totally secret role in the war ... According to their commanding officer, Major Ron Reid-Daly, they have been directly and indirectly responsible for the elimination of 1203 of the 2500 terrorists who have died in the four-year-old war. (5)
In fact, the majority of insurgent casualties inside Rhodesia were the direct result of intelligence obtained during pseudo operations.
3. PSEUDO MODUS OPERANDI
Depending on the specific circumstances that enabled a pseudo team to enter an area as insurgent forces, pseudo methods and the deception employed varied widely from one area to the next.
According to then Major Reid-Daly the role of the Selous Scouts was to infiltrate the tribal population and the terrorist networks, pinpoint the terrorist camps and bases and then direct conventional forces in to carry out the actual attacks. Then depending on the skill of the particular Selous Scouts’ pseudo group concerned, their cover should remain intact which would enable them to continue operating in a particular area ... perhaps indefinitely. (6)
As already indicated, validification was a prerequisite for success. Detailed operational intelligence was required to enable a team to enter an area without arousing suspicion. The next step was to establish contact with the local population, and specifically with the insurgent agents within local villages. As a final step these agents or contact men were used as go-betweens with the pseudo team and any other insurgent team in the area. Having made contact a meeting was arranged which would be used finally to establish the credentials of the pseudo team.
Patience is essential in almost all types of pseudo operations. Arranging a meeting with a real insurgent group could entail several weeks during which numerous letters were passed back and forth via mujibas (insurgents’ youth supporters) and contact men. If successful, a meeting would be arranged between the two groups at a neutral spot in which the senior group was approached by the juniors. Following this, the members of the two groups met and mingled. Information would be exchanged, beer drunk and possibly some revolutionary songs sung. Information gleaned at such meetings, as well as from other sources was then passed back to Special Branch or directly to Fire Force, the helicopter-borne reaction force, for action. One such specific type of operation that proved to be highly effective, was termed the Observation Post tactic.
For obvious reasons white pseudo team members could not come into direct contact with members of the local population or insurgents. When a pseudo team thus entered a village, the white(s) remained outside and as close as possible. After contact had been made between village members and a pseudo team, for example, the village would be kept under close observation. The reaction of villagers very often gave a good indication of the presence and location of other insurgent groups. Upon confirmation of such suspicion, the Selous Scouts team leader would call in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group. To facilitate this, observation posts were manned on high ground close to the village. Former insurgent members with a detailed knowledge of both local customs and insurgent practices proved invaluable in picking up the most minute indications of insurgent presence. The use of observation posts was especially suited to the rugged terrain in the Northeast of Rhodesia and proved highly successful in these areas.
The modus operandi of the Selous Scouts was particularly well suited for engaging the services of captured or wounded insurgents. It often happened that Fire Force attacked an insurgent group, eliminating most of them and capturing the remainder.
Immediately following capture and the traumatic memory of the preceding fire-fight, these insurgents would be ‘turned’ by promise and threat. Along with a number of Scouts these prisoners would adopt the identity of the former insurgent group and function as they had done in an adjacent area sufficiently far enough from the local population who could identify them. In this instance the newly-turned insurgents would introduce the group to contact men and in general establish their bona fides with the local population. This method, however, relied upon total security, specifically in the area of the contact. But even where a prisoner had become compromised he could still be used as advisor or source of detailed local information.
A further variation of pseudo work entailed what were termed ‘hunter—killer’ groups. In contrast to a purely defensive, intelligence-gathering role, these teams were used aggressively. Having located a specific insurgent infiltration route, pseudo teams were dispatched along it on the pretext of returning from Rhodesia for resupply and retraining after an extensive operation. En route further information was collected while the group, in contrast to its normal intelligence function, eliminated all insurgents on the way.
Hunter-killer groups were first used north of Mount Darwin in the Mavuradonha area where the rugged terrain inhibited normal Security Force operations.
In relation to their numbers, the success of the Selous Scouts became an important element in Rhodesian counter-insurgency operations. Both senior Army and Special Branch officers continuously called for the further expansion of the unit. Once the Selous Scouts had two platoons trained for deployment, their tactical headquarters shifted to Bindura. As the war spread across the country, deployment of Selous Scouts was no longer limited to the Northeast. The first Scouts troops moved to Inkamo Barracks on 12 July 1974, which became the regimental rear base. During January 1977 it was renamed the André Rabie Barracks.
In general, the Selous Scouts achieved less success in penetrating the tighter, more disciplined ranks of ZPRA than was the case in the unstructured command and control groupings of ZANLA. Three Group did, however, achieve considerable success in a process of validification could entail extraordinary measures. It could entail calling in an air strike by Security Forces on their own position or close to it. Alternatively it could consist of select aggression against Security Forces or civilians. One such example was documented in Africa Confidential
After a white farmstead about forty miles north-west of Salisbury had been attacked, it was discovered that one of the two groups in the assault were Selous Scouts ... (7)
In some cases attempts at validification did more harm than good, as was the case with the first attack on a Protected Village. This was carried out by a pseudo team in the Mount Darwin area in Kandeya Tribal Trust Land during 1974 and precipitated a rash of similar attacks by real insurgent groups. A second example occurred in Nyanga North where a resident pseudo team trained and briefed the local population so well in aiding them that by the time real insurgents penetrated the area, a clandestine organization had been firmly established for them.
Especially during the initial years, many pseudo operations were conducted to sow distrust between members of the local population and the insurgents. Rudimentary attempts towards achieving this objective consisted for instance of theft or offending local customs. Numerous further refinements were added. One such practice entailed calling in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group after they had left a specific kraal. After two or three such occurrences the insurgents invariably suspected the kraal members of informing Security Forces of their presence. In revenge, and to forestall any repetition, innocent kraal members were executed. This would normally put an end to any voluntary support that the insurgents could expect from the kraal. (At the same time such punishment could also intimidate the inhabitants from helping the Security Forces).
A second method used relatively widely once an insurgent contact man had been identified, was for a pseudo team to eliminate him publicly after labeling him a traitor to the insurgent cause. Since the rest of the kraal members knew the contact man to be a loyal and staunch insurgent supporter, such a death would lead to considerable disillusionment and bewilderment. This practice had become so common by the end of the war that the Rhodesian Criminal Investigation Department had opened a number of murder dossiers on Selous Scouts and Special Branch members. Invariably poor security led to a general knowledge of these measures. As the war progressed and Selous Scouts operations increased and intensified, this knowledge also spread to the local population and insurgent forces in the field.
Although the short term benefits that were achieved by such illegal actions were substantial, once the local population became aware of these practices, it could only have had a distinctly negative effect on their attitude toward the government in general. The task of government, i.e. judicious law enforcement and maintenance of law and order, is incompatible with substantial transgression of the law. Under these circumstances it becomes extremely difficult for any such regime to claim legitimacy.
Once insurgent forces and their supporters became aware of pseudo activities, various measures were instituted to identify any such teams. Specific bangles and pieces of clothing were worn which would provide positive proof of identification. On specific instruction, members of the local population changed their method of aiding insurgent forces. Instead of leaving nightly food parcels at predetermined spots, each insurgent received his food individually during daylight. Any white member of such a team would thus be identified. It was only during 1979 that the Selous Scouts succeeded in fielding all-black teams to eliminate this problem.
In reaction to these changing means of identification, the Selous Scouts launched an intensive intelligence effort to remain constantly aware of what these entailed in any specific area.
A major success that did result from these operations was the mutual suspicion and distrust between insurgent forces in the field. Contact between such groups was increasingly preceded by lengthy exchanges of oral and written messages and coordination of forces for a single operation presented acute problems. This was even more so in those areas where both ZANLA and ZPRA forces were operating. Within ZANLA, groups frequently attacked one another. To increase this breach even further, pseudo ZANLA teams began attacking ZPRA insurgents, thus ensuring that the next encounter between ZANLA and ZPRA would turn into an armed clash. During the period between 1976 and 1978 when ZANLA attempted to encroach on Matabeleland, the success of this method was such that a captured ZANLA commander confessed to having been shocked by the fact that his first eight contacts were with ZPRA forces. He was captured by the Security Forces in the ninth.
A further method employed in the Mount Darwin area entailed the intimidation of known contact men to aid the Selous Scouts. Shortly after having called in Fire Force on a group of insurgents in the area, the pseudo team visited the contact man. It was made clear to him that failure to cooperate with Security Forces would lead to his death. Thereafter his kraal was kept under constant surveillance from an observation post. Each time an insurgent group entered the area, the contact man would, for example, hang up a certain blanket after which he would meet the Selous Scouts at a predetermined spot to exchange information. Fire Force would then normally eliminate the insurgent group.
The contact men recruited in this manner were code—named ‘Lemon’ and ‘Orange’ and collectively known as ‘Fruit Salad’. Since they were also paid for their services, the sudden appearance of riches in both cases led to insurgent suspicion and retribution. In his book Selous Scouts Top Secret War Lieutenant-Colonel Reid-Daly describes a similar operation code—named Market Garden with the two compromised contact men known as Apple and Banana. This incident occurred at the foot of the Mavuradanha mountains in the North—east. (8)
As stated above, the Selous Scouts eventually could claim the highest kill ratio of all Rhodesian Security Forces. Although Fire Force, and First Battalion Rhodesian Light Infantry, which constituted the quick deployment troops of Fire Force, were physically responsible for most of these insurgent casualties, the intelligence that had led them to the insurgents originated from the Selous Scouts.
Yet, the very success of pseudo operations led to constant demands for the further expansion of the unit. Originally a single platoon of highly skilled men, the Selous Scouts grew into a disproportionately large unit of 1 800 men. A substantive portion were, however, territorial soldiers and thus not permanently attached to the unit. The rapid increase in numbers in itself led to a number of problems. In the first instance the unit was forced to lower its entry standards to obtain enough personnel to comply with Combined Operation demands. This led to a general lowering of operational standards in the pseudo role as did the widespread use of the less-demanding observation post tactic. The latter did not require as high a standard of training and experience as did normal pseudo operations. On the other hand, these recruits were not all suitable for pseudo—type operations, while their training could not be as thorough.
As a result pseudo operations again shifted in emphasis away from that of gathering intelligence to a more aggressive role where insurgent casualty figures became all-important. This process was aided initially when substantial bonuses were paid for insurgent casualties.
The major problem touched on above, that of the widespread use of pseudo operations and the illegal nature of some of these practices, relates to a much wider problem, namely that of legitimate political authority. Without a legitimate claim to authority in the eyes of a substantial portion of its population, a government would have to rely on coercion alone to enforce compliance to its laws.
Legitimacy is a political necessity, for it reduces ... dependence on naked power by allowing (the government) ... to rely on authority. (9)
Furthermore, Claude E. Welch points to an important factor in relation to government resorting to force
inconsistent use of coercion can both speedily alienate individuals and focus their discontent upon political institutions. (10)
As a legitimate institution, authorities lay down and enforce compliance to laws that govern human activity in any country. Should this same government provide evidence of not abiding by these same laws, it stands to lose much of its legitimacy in the eyes of those affected. Such loss of legitimacy of necessity focuses on the political structures and institutions of the country. Within rural areas such dissatisfaction is aimed at the manifestations of government, i.e. local administration, the police and other government institutions and agencies.
In the following quotation Frank Kitson addresses the same problem, if more directly relevant to pseudo operations
...there is absolutely no need for special operations to be carried out in an illegal or immoral way and indeed there is every reason to ensure that they are not, because they are just as much part of the government’s program as any of its other measures and the government must be prepared to take responsibility for them. (11)
Pseudo operations were used extensively in Rhodesia and in the long term proved to be counter-productive. In such operations the population inevitably become the battleground. If adequate protection from the insurgents is not provided, pseudo operations cause the local population to be yet further alienated from the Security Forces. In fact, the widespread use of such operations in Rhodesia trapped the local population between the two opposing sides: the insurgents on the one hand and the Security Forces posing as insurgents on the other. Both sides were ready to exact retribution should the local inhabitants assist the enemy. Yet, purely as a military measure pseudo operations were probably the most effective means of effecting insurgent casualties. According to a study by the Directorate of Military Intelligence in 1978 a full sixty eight percent of all insurgent fatalities inside Rhodesia could be attributed to the Selous Scouts.
Casualty figures in themselves, however, are not a sure indication either of success or failure in a counter-insurgency campaign. This is particularly true in pseudo operations: although numerous insurgents were killed, Security Forces failed to gain any permanent hold over rural areas. Such operations did succeed in creating distrust and confusion both amongst the insurgents themselves and between the insurgent forces and the local population. At the same time the punitive approach to subverted and potentially subverted rural people led to the simultaneous creation of distrust and confusion between the rural population and Security Forces. Security Forces completely lacked a strategy by which they could steadily gain control over increasingly subverted rural areas. Therefore, the Selous Scouts were merely the instruments of an overly aggressive and punitive strategy, simply directed at killing as many insurgents as possible and punishing the rural black population to force them to desist from support for the insurgent forces.
Security Forces should not have attempted to exert an uncertain control over all contested areas. The most seriously subverted Tribal Trust Lands should have been temporarily abandoned. Those areas securely under government control should have been identified. Working outwards from these secure bases, Security Forces would then have been able to concentrate their resources on adjoining areas which were as yet only partially subverted. These threatened areas could have been consolidated by means of strict population control and by involving the local population in their own defense and development.
Within the structure of the Rhodesian Security Force apparatus the affiliation of the Selous Scouts presented problems of its own. Army control of the unit was initially vested in the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant-General Walls. When appointed as General Officer Commanding, Combined Operations, General Walls retained this relationship. COMOPS involvement in the planning of special force operations has been discussed in Chapter 2, ‘Command and Control’. In addition friction developed between the Selous Scouts and the Special Air Service each vying for the status as primary special forces unit.
A particular problem resulting from Special Branch’s control over all pseudo intelligence activities was the almost total absence of co-operation with the Directorate of Military Intelligence. The Selous Scouts were in fact under specific Special Branch instructions not to divulge any information to the Directorate of Military Intelligence. It would seem that professional jealousy and personal animosity played a major role in these co-ordination problems. When the concept of pseudo operations was initially put into practice, military intelligence organizations were by their own admission, incapable of controlling them.
Selous Scouts liaison with brigades also left much to be desired. An area would be frozen, pseudo teams would move in, complete their task and be withdrawn with very little intelligence passed on to the brigade headquarters in whose area it had taken place. Again Frank Kitson has very definite ideas on the subject
...special operations must be organized and implemented under the auspices of the normal machine for directing the campaign and the advantages to be gained from them weighed against the psychological implications of them becoming known. Furthermore normal Security Force units should be informed as to the nature and purpose of special operations as far as it is consistent with the requirements of security so that they come to regard Special Forces as helpful colleagues and not as wild, irresponsible people whose one purpose is to steal the credit from those who carry out more humdrum, but necessary roles. (12)
In the final analysis the technique of pseudo operations in Rhodesia proved highly successful and reemphasized its value as a method of gathering intelligence. The problems encountered and deviations from the concept were less the result of the Selous Scouts and Special Branch than they were the result of the absence of a coherent Security Force counterinsurgency strategy and a punitive approach to the whole problem of the insurgency.
Chas Lotter Poem:-
"The Selous Scouts"
I used to sit by the water's edge
and watch the campfire glow
And I'd listen to the night-birds cry
and feel the breezes blow.
My belly full of the meat I'd shot,
I'd sit for hours and muse
As the moon came up and the shadows changed
to many different hues.
I used to roam through this country wide
in search of game so fleet
And I'd listen to the lions roar
as they too searched for meat.
I'd make my camp on the grassy plain
or in the mountains tall
And I'd friends at every farm and store
and every native kraal.
But now when I near a river's edge
or roam this country wide
I've a lot of men to back me,
and I think of them with pride.
They're a scruffy lot to look at,
but they've a tracker's skill;
They're damned fine men in a follow-up,
and damned good at a kill.
The Scouts they're called, and well-named, too,
for the man whose name they bear
Was the greatest hunter in this land,
and these men fear no dare!
For the game they hunt is vermin
that would pillage, plunder and maim.
And they do their job efficiently,
with never thought of fame!