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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 yebomimi@gmail.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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Saturday, August 23, 2008


Here is some interesting text and information on ZANLA Forces extracted from Race and History News and Views -text by Hatred Zenenga -www.herald.co.zw it gives the reader an idea on how ZANLA held kupungwes to indoctrinate the local tribesmen into supporting them in their cause.There is mention of Mujibas in the text, these mujibas were used very effectivley against the Rhodesian Security forces and were mainly African juveniles posing as herdboys. They would sweep kopjes and high hill features looking for Rhodesian Security force patrols and observation posts and report any security force movements to the local ZANLA Commander, they would also drive cattle or sheep over terrorist tracks in an attempt to hide them from any Rhodesian trackers. Mujibas would also carry messages to and from different insurgent groups very effectivley.
It's a pity that the Rhodesian Security Forces graves were desecrated at Warren Hills there is no rememberance of them in the country, many of them did not even want to fight a war, they were conscripted.

Fallen gallant fighters, we salute you for liberating us

By Hatred Zenenga, www.herald.co.zw
Monday, 11 August 2003

A group of 20 Zanla freedom fighters arrived one chilly July evening of 1978 at Mapira village in Mhondoro with AK-47 sub- machine guns and RPD light machine guns slung over their shoulders.

This was much to the curiosity of most villagers who, for the first time, got sight of Zanla's vanamukoma (the boys) or sons of the soil (vana vevhu) as they were popularly known then.

The arrival of this group of freedom fighters marked the start of the prosecution of the war in this part of Mhondoro by Zanla, the military wing of Zanu. Most people from this area had only heard about the war of liberation being waged by both Zanla and Zipra combatants in other places far away from them.

At that time, the liberation struggle fought by Zanla and Zipra, the military wing of Zapu, had intensified in areas like Mt Darwin, Chiweshe, Chipinge, Hurungwe, Gwanda and Nkayi.

Zanla had quite a sophisticated system of infiltrating an area and winning the hearts of villagers, whom they depended on for food and general information on Rhodesian security forces.

This group of combatants, which arrived on this July evening at Mapira village, was in fact made up of mostly Zanla political commissars, who were paving the way for larger groups of combatants who later arrived to operate in the area.

Villagers were quickly called to an all-night meeting, popularly known as kupungwe, for politicisation. The freedom fighters introduced themselves as vanamukoma who had volunteered to fight against the racist Smith regime, which imposed itself upon black indigenous Zimbabweans.

They said the Chimurenga war was on to return the country to its rightful owners - the black indigenous Africans.

Much was said about the racial discrimination and injustices by whites against blacks. Many examples were given of white people leading luxurious lives at the expense of blacks who had nothing and were languishing in abject poverty.

Comparisons were made of the size of landholding of whites against that of the black people who found themselves crammed on rocky and unproductive land. The politicisation of villagers was punctuated with revolutionary songs and dances.

After a couple of pungwes, it actually became easier for the villagers to co-operate and identify themselves with the Zanla agenda and mission. It was, indeed, this system which was effectively neutralising the Rhodesian military action against the freedom fighters.

At the pungwes, the commissars would give stern warnings as to what would happen to any sellouts who reported the presence of the freedom fighters to the police or Rhodesian soldiers.

The freedom fighters would pick important contact people and establish information links. This involved mujibhas, chimbwidos and other community leaders such as the headman. These would know where to find the freedom fighters and pass on to them vital information.

It was important that every scrap of information relating to the presence of Rhodesian forces or strangers be passed on to the contact people, who would in turn speedily pass it on to the freedom fighters.

The contact people would also help the freedom fighters to select bases and co-ordinate the provision of food. They were also useful in the transmission of messages between detachments and sections of the freedom fighters.

This worked extremely well, particularly in shutting out the notorious Rhodesian Selous Scouts, who approached villagers posing as freedom fighters.

Selous Scouts behaved like genuine freedom fighters. Their dressing and guns were easily mistaken for those of vanamukoma.

A few weeks after the arrival of the first group, larger groups of Zanla fighters later followed to operate in the area. They were easily accepted by the povo.

But Mhondoro, unlike many other areas, is mostly vleis with imperfect cover of forests. This exposed the freedom fighters to attacks, especially air strikes by the Rhodesian forces.

Between 1978 and 1979, there were battles won and battles lost by the freedom fighters during operations in Mhondoro.

One of the fiercest battles in the area was fought in August 1979 near Kawara Primary School. Rhodesian forces, acting on information from a sellout, stormed a base early in the morning near Nyundo River where some 30 freedom fighters had arrived a day before.

A fierce firefight involving Rhodesian ground and air strikes in which several helicopter gunships had been called in erupted as a fusillade was directed at the base. Seven freedom fighters fell dead, two were captured but the rest escaped.

The bodies of the dead fighters were displayed at Mubaira Police Camp for ordinary people to view. It was a painful moment for those who recognised and knew some of the slain freedom fighters.

Their bodies are buried in a shallow mass grave just behind Mubaira growth point shops along the Chegutu road.

Today, as we commemorate Heroes Day, we remember them, and thousands of other fallen gallant fighters who never lived to enjoy the fruits of what they were fighting for. Their remains still lie in the bushes of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia. We salute you and cherish what you sacrificed for!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


15 June 1976 → House of Commons Sitting

§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make newspaper proprietors liable for prosecution in relation to the publication of advertisements for the recruitment of mercenaries for service outside the United Kingdom. Attempts are sometimes made to portray—[Interruption.]

§ Mr. SpeakerOrder. The hon. Gentleman is trying to introduce his Ten-Minute Bill. I should be grateful for the courtesy of hon. Members leaving the House quietly.

§ Mr. Hughes Attempts are sometimes made to portray the mercenary as a swashbuckling, adventurous and romantic figure. That is a gross distortion of the true nature of mercenaries. They are nothing more than hired killers who murder to order and for no other purpose than commercial gain.

A murderer in this country cannot plead as a defence that he was acting solely in the course of his employment. To do so in some far-flung part of the world does not diminish the offence, nor should it distract from the evil that is done.

I wish to end mercenary recruitment in this country wherever in the world the service is intended. I doubt whether anyone in this House is prepared to encourage the trade in mercenaries, but I suspect that some in this House would seek to excuse inaction by saying that control is too difficult. One of the important ways of prevention is to cut off the flow of information and to stop advertising by recruitment agencies.

Those who seek to further the mercenaries' cause are as bad as the mercenaries themselves. Indeed, the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870, which makes it illegal to enlist in the service of a foreign Power at war with a friendly State, recognises that. Section 12 provides: Any person who aids, abets, counsels, or procures the commission of any offence against this Act shall be liable to be tried and punished as a principal offender. 314 My Bill would update the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 in its definition of the prinicipal offence and make it clear that advertising satisfies the intention of Section 12.

Incidentally, before Second Reading there must be an examination of the rôle of the Press regarding the recruitment of mercenaries in Angola. It has been said that certain reporters, as a result of stories appearing in the Press, were giving telephone numbers to those who inquired for the purpose of recruitment.

I am particularly concerned about the recruitment of mercenaries for the Rhodesian Army, advertisements having appeared widely in the British Press—notably in the News of the World and the Sunday People. It is a matter of urgency to close a loophole in the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) (No. 2) Order 1968. Under Article 14 of that Order, it is an offence to publish or to be party to the publication of any advertisement which would solicit or encourage the taking up of employment or residence in Rhodesia.

There is, of course, a saving provision that a person is not guilty if he can prove that he could not have known or could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained that the advertisement or notice was of that character. In the particular case of a company called Southern Placement Services, Johannesburg, it was easily discovered that this was recruitment for employment in Rhodesia. Indeed, this was exposed in a Tribune publication on 12th December 1975. The fact that the employment was for mercenaries compounds the offence.

I was quite astonished when the Director of Public Prosecutions recently decided that there was no one within jurisdiction against whom he could proceed although an offence had clearly been committed. My Bill, therefore, will change the onus of proof from the negative to the positive. That is to say, a defendant would have to show that he had taken positive steps to ascertain that an offence was not being committed.

In the case of Rhodesia, where we have an illegal régime which is carrying out illegal trials and illegal hangings, the Press has a special rôle to play. We 315 should not forget that Rhodesia is in rebellion against the Crown. The Press of this country rightly defends the freedoms that we hold dear, and I believe that it has a moral as well as a legal responsibility to do nothing to support a régime which rules by force and which denies freedom to the majority of its population.

The trade of mercenary is obscene. It reduces man to below the level of beasts, because animals do not kill without purpose and without reason, as the mercenary does. We in this House have a responsibility to end this despicable trade. I commend the Bill to the House.

§ 3.42 p.m.

§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds) I wish to oppose the motion on three grounds—technically, politically and morally.

First, on the technical level, I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would prefer to wait until the Diplock Commission has reported on this matter, as requested by his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), the former Prime Minister. Second, on the technical level, I note that the hon. Gentleman is requiring the British Press to act as his policeman in stopping advertisements for mercenaries, but his Bill will in no way make it unlawful for British citizens to hire out to fight abroad. The Bill will not affect that at all, yet the hon. Gentleman seeks to require of the British Press that it should not advertise activities which, even if his Bill were to be passed, will remain perfectly legitimate under the law of this country.

I believe that this technical defect alone would lead the Government to advise the hon. Gentleman that this is a Bill which ought not to pass.

Secondly, I believe that the hon. Gentleman totally misconceives the not dishonourable rôle of the mercenary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] A mercenary is someone who follows the not ignoble profession of arms and sells his services for pay. He is by definition a volunteer, a volunteer who accepts a high reward but who frequently quite sincerely believes in the cause he is serving.

There is a long and honourable tradition of mercenary soldiers serving the cause of freedom and democracy. Among 316 the best-known mercenaries are those Swiss who, over the centuries, have served as what the hon. Gentleman might describe as the "killer elite" of the Vatican's Papal Guard. More recently, our own country has made good use of the most effective and gallant mercenary soldiers the world has ever seen—the Brigade of Gurkhas. The Gurkhas have won endless awards for gallantry while serving this country for pay, and from time to time they are recruited by way of advertisements in Nepal, which at present are the responsibility of the Labour Secretary of State for Defence, who, I am glad to say, has been persuaded to keep the mercenary Gurkha Brigade.

§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) A cross we have to bear.

§ Mr. Griffiths Apart from the mercenaries that Britain engages to help to preserve our freedom, tens of thousands of young British soldiers, out of a love of adventure as well as for pay, have regularly hired themselves out as mercenaries abroad. Some of our fathers fought for pay on behalf of Hailie Selassie against Mussolini's Fascists. Others fought, for pay, against the Red Army in Siberia. Hundreds of members of the Labour Party fought, to their credit, in the Spanish Civil War. I recall Mr. Jack Jones boasting about how he and many others of the International Brigade went off to kill Spanish Falangists. Of course, they were volunteers and they believed in their cause, but I have no doubt that Mr. Jones not only expected but got the going rate for the job at the time.

My third objection is to the double standards contained in the hon. Gentleman's proposals, paricularly his description, on the BBC this morning, of the mercenaries as "hired killers".[An HON. MEMBER: "They are."] He made the distinction between "hired killers" and what he described as "freedom fighters" who—in the mythology of the Left—are supposed to kill only from conviction.

But what is the reality? All professional soldiers are hired, in the ultimate, to kill and to risk being killed. That goes for the paid Soviet mercenaries who are now actively assisting the paid professional gunmen who daily murder and 317 mutilate fellow Africans as well as white settlers on the borders of Rhodesia. It goes, too, for the paid professional killers among the Palestine Liberation Organisation and, indeed, some of their opponents, in the blood-spattered city of Beirut.

It applies, in my judgment, to the mercenary army of Cubans who were hired by the Soviet Union to wage war which caused the deaths of infinitely more Africans than any European mercenaries may have injured in Angola. It could be applied with equal force to scores of so-called liberation movements, where the poor bloody infantry may well be provided by the peasants of Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra or many another country but where the sophisticated staff, the bazookamen, the tactical commanders and those who handle the missiles are paid professional mercenaries from the Soviet Union and China.

§ Mr. Flannary What about the South Africans?

§ Mr. Griffiths The point about professional mercenaries, over the whole world, is that one should judge them more by the cause they serve than by their motivation in serving it.

I want to conclude by putting to the hon. Gentleman two questions. I hope that if he does not do so here he will answer them elsewhere. The first is this. Let us suppose that a group of young Socialists, tiring of unemployment in the hon. Member's constituency, to follow his advice and the advice of many of his hon. Friends and band together to go to Chile to fight against what they have been told is an illegal Fascist régime. Would the hon. Gentleman take the view that they were hired professional killers? Would he seek to prevent them undertaking that activity?

318§ Secondly, in respect of the Budapest revolution—where I, among others, was taken prisoner by the Russian Army—let us suppose that a number of young men in this country, responding to the appeal of the oppressed Hungarian people, had banded together and gone to Budapest to seek to resist the Red Army's tanks. Would the hon. Gentleman have regarded their activities as disgraceful or their persons—as he put it—as lower than beasts?

§ The hon. Gentleman's proposals are founded on double standards. His proposal, like so many others that hon. Members have made, ought to be rejected by the House—for a particular reason. By choosing this day of all days to mount his attack on mercenaries, I believe that the hon. Gentleman may seriously have prejudiced the chances of the dozen or so of our fellow citizens—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."]—who are now on trial for their lives in Angola.

§ The hon. Member may well have imagined that by hanging this motion on to the headlines he would gain additional publicity, as no doubt he will. But I wonder what effect this motion will have on the Angola show trial if by its vote today the House of Commons adds its voice to condemning, in advance and not on the evidence, all these young men who could be facing the death penalty in a foreign land.

§ I believe that the House should treat this motion with the contempt it deserves and throw it out.

§ Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nominations of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business) :—

§ The House divided: Ayes 184, Noes 89.

Division No. 182.] AYES [3.51 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Clemitson, Ivor
Archer, Peter Bray, Dr Jeremy Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)
Ashton, Joe Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cohen, Stanley
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Buchan, Norman Coleman, Donald
Atkinson, Norman Buchanan, Richard Colquhoun, Ms Maureen
Bain, Mrs Margaret Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)
Bates, Alf Campbell, Ian Crawford, Douglas
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Canavan, Dennis Crawshaw, Richard
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cant, R. B. Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)
Bidwell, Sydney Carmichael, Neil Davidson, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Cartwright, John Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Selby, Harry
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lambie, David Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dempsey, James Lamborn, Harry Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Doig, Peter Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dormand, J. D. Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Sillars, James
Dunn, James A. Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silverman, Julius
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lipton, Marcus Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alex Litterick, Tom Small, William
Edge, Geoff Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McCartney, Hugh Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) MacCormick, Iain Snape, Peter
English, Michael McElhone, Frank Spearing, Nigel
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) MacFarquhar, Roderick Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mackenzie, Gregor Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Evans, John (Newton) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Stoddart, David
Ewing Harry (Stirling) McNamara, Kevin Strauss, Rt Hn G. R.
Faulds, Andrew Madden, Max Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mahon, Simon Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Marks, Kenneth Thompson, George
Flannery, Martin Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Maynard, Miss Joan Tierney, Sydney
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mikardo, Ian Torney, Tom
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Millan, Bruce Tuck, Raphael
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Moonman, Eric Urwin, T. W.
George, Bruce Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Golding, John Newens, Stanley Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Gould, Bryan Noble, Mike Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Oakes, Gordon Watkins, David
Grocott, Bruce Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Watkinson, John
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Ovenden, John Weetch, Ken
Hardy, Peter Palmer, Arthur Welsh, Andrew
Harper, Joseph Park, George White, Frank R. (Bury)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Parry, Robert White, James (Pollok)
Hatton, Frank Pavitt, Laurie Whitehead, Phillip
Hayman, Mrs Helene Peart, Rt Hon Fred Whitlock, William
Hooson, Emlyn Penhaligon, David Wigley, Dafydd
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Phipps, Dr Colin Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Price, C. (Lewisham W) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Price, William (Rugby) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Radice, Giles Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Reid, George Woodall, Alec
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Richardson, Miss Jo Woof, Robert
Janner, Greville Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Robertson, John (Paisley) Young, David (Bolton E)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Robinson, Geoffrey
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roderick, Caerwyn TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roper, John Mr. Bob Cryer and
Kelley, Richard Sandelson, Neville Mr. George Rodgers.
Kerr, Russell Sedgemore, Brian
Adley, Robert Hannam, John Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Banks, Robert Hicks, Robert Mudd, David
Beith, A. J. Holland, Philip Nelson, Anthony
Biggs-Davison, John Hunt, David (Wirral) Neubert, Michael
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hutchison, Michael Clark Nott, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pardoe, John
Bradford, Rev Robert James, David Pattie, Geoffrey
Braine, Sir Bernard Jessel, Toby Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Brotherton, Michael Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rathbone, Tim
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kimball, Marcus Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lawson, Nigel Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cope, John Loveridge, John Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Luce, Richard Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Drayson, Burnaby McCrindle, Robert Rifkind, Malcolm
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Macfarlane, Neil Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Eyre, Reginald Ross, William (Londonderry)
Farr, John MacGregor, John Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Fell, Anthony Marten, Neil Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Forman, Nigel Mates, Michael Sims, Roger
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Skeet, T. H. H.
Freud, Clement Meyer, Sir Anthony Spence, John
Goodhart, Philip Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Stainton, Keith
Goodhew, Victor Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Tapsell, Peter
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Moate, Roger Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Gray, Hamish Monro, Hector Tebbit, Norman
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus Townsend, Cyril D.
Hampson, Dr Keith More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
320321Wakeham, John Winterton, Nicholas TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wall, Patrick Wood, Rt Hon Richard Mr. Eldon Griffiths and
Walters, Dennis Younger, Hon George Mr. Jerry Wiggin.

§ Question accordingly agreed to.

§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Robert Hughes, Mrs. Judith Hart, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. Ioan Evans, Mr. Frank Allaun, Mr. Gwilym Roberts, Mr. Frank Hooley, Mr. Andrew Faulds, Mr. Bob Cryer, and Mr. Stanley Newens.

HC Deb 15 June 1976 vol 913 cc312-21


TEXT Extracted from SOF Magazine

During the exodus and diaspora of many from what was once a magnificent Rhodesia, now the basketcase plaything of the brutal regime of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, one ‘Troopie’ of the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) made a ‘pimpernellian’-like escape that is worthy of telling and remembering. This is our Troopie’s story.
‘The Trooper,’ or colloquially known to the men of the RLI as ‘Troopie,’ or ‘the little troopie,’ is a bronze statue to commemorate those of the RLI who lost their lives while fighting for what was once Rhodesia. But it is more than that today; it is now a singular emotional and tangible representation of a once proud spirit and represents the sadly lost battle to maintain that splendid Rhodesian ethos; as do the many monuments to the fallen of other conflicts such as Gallipoli, Dunkirk, and Vietnam.
The Trooper was conceived by Lieutenant Colonel Derry MacIntyre when he was commanding officer of 1RLI in 1970, and had a gestation period of nine years until his birth and unveiling under Lieutenant Colonel Ian ‘Tufty’ Bate in February 1979. He depicts an RLI troopie at rest, and with his sweaty hand resting over the muzzle of his 7.62mm FN rifle, his posture has raised some questions about his apparent attitude and poor rifle care. Nevertheless, as Tufty Bate wrote:

“… not long after I took command of the battalion, I was scratching though my desk when I found a note by Lieutenant Colonel Derry MacIntyre, a great CO of the battalion. He had doodled some thoughts on an RLI memorial. I got thinking about it and reckoned it was about time that we had a separate memorial to all the brave RLI men who had passed on to a higher service. I called in RSM (regimental sergeant major) Ken Reed and fielded the idea to him. His reaction was extremely positive and in no time we had a prototype picture of an RLI trooper resting on his rifle with his hands over the muzzle—strictly incorrect, but nevertheless true to his nature. … Army HQ also came to the party with the donation of empty cartridge cases from which the statue was cast; hence the mythology of doppies.”
However, the rather sad demeanour of the statue is most appropriate to signify commemoration of the RLI men killed in action that Troopie represents. The statue was sculpted and cast by Fiorelli Fiorini of Salisbury from a photograph of Trooper Wayne Hannekom, at rest after combat, and funded by the Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association (RLIRA) and generous donations from the Rhodesian public and from around the world.
Troopie was unveiled and dedicated on a dramatic and memorable ceremonial parade in front of a large crowd, on the RLI ‘Holy Ground’ on the 18th birthday of the RLI on 1 February 1979. In his address, the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel ‘Tufty’ Bate said: “This statue, to be known as ‘The Trooper,’ represents the courage and endurance of highly skilled men who fought our enemies with skill and professionalism … It will serve as a constant reminder to all who see it as their sacrifice … Whilst there is so much as a single breath of life left in one RLI soldier, the statue will remain.”
The statue was then unveiled by Corporal R. N. Phillips, one of the battalion's most decorated men, winner of the Silver Cross of Rhodesia. Wreaths were laid, trumpeters of the RAR played the haunting strains of the Last Post and clarion call of Reveille and the commando guards marched off to the regimental march, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
In July 1980, Charlie Aust was called back and was told that the unit would, in fact, be disbanded in October. Among the many issues the battalion faced was the safekeeping of many regimental items, including the two sets of colours and the Trooper statue.
RLI leadership realized that what the statue of the Trooper symbolized would have been anathema to the Marxist Mugabe government and Mugabe’s supporters would have desecrated and scrapped the Trooper.

It was imperative that the Trooper be removed; thus a hastily put-together parade was held at 1100 hours on 25 July 1980 to bid farewell before it was dismantled and moved to a new resting place. In a simple but moving ceremony, command sergeants major solemnly read the Rolls of Honour.
A small working party then secretly and carefully dismantled the Trooper from its plinth in the RLI barracks in Cranborne with a crane and spirited the statue to a secret airfield. A South African Air Force aircraft landed clandestinely and Trooper and two cases of RLI memorabilia, including trophies and silver, were loaded onto the plane; the doors closed and its cargo left the land of Rhodesia for the last time. Well done, those magnificent men! We all, once of the RLI, salute you!
Subsequently, it was decided to move the Troopie to the United Kingdom. The statute was once more clandestinely flown out of South Africa to the UK. The aim of this article is to explain the importance and emotional significance of the Trooper to both the RLI and Rhodesia.
The solemn and prescient words of Tufty Bate: “… whilst there is so much as a single breath of life left in one RLI soldier, the statue will remain …” have been acknowledged by the Rhodesian Light Infantry Regimental Association, which has fully accepted its responsibility, duty and honour, to the RLI and to Rhodesia, to ensure that the Troopie and RLI colours are displayed permanently with proper reverence and dignity.
The Trooper may well be the only existing significant monument representing Rhodesia’s herculean military efforts in the Rhodesian Bush War. The dead whom the memorial commemorates represent that nation’s fight for its existence and dignity against predatory and rampant communism and a megalomaniacal dictatorship. That is its real significance and importance to the diaspora of all Rhodesians, and the free world in general.


Speech To O.A.U. On Rhodesia
Jul. 07, 1966

On Our own behalf and that of the government and people of Ethiopia, We
would like to extend a hearty welcome to Addis Ababa to all members of
the Delegations who are here to attend the Sixth Extraordinary Session of
the Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity. There is no
need for Us to tell you that you should feel very much at home in a
brotherly country.

You are meeting today in this very Hall which give birth to the
Organization of African Unity barely two and half years ago in order to
consider and find solution to the Southern Rhodesian situation which has
posed a grave challenge not only to the Organization of African Unity but
also to the independence of Our individual States and indeed to the national
Liberation Movements of Angola, Mozambique, South-West Africa, South
Africa, etc.

In view of this, your main taks will be to discuss ways and means of how
to implement the provisions of the Resolution which was passed by the
recent Accra Summit Conference of the Organization of African Unity.
We have already made it clear that if decided upon jointly with other
African States Ethiopia is prepared to undertake whatever sacrifices are

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence which was announced by a
racist white settler governement on November 11, 1965, though expected,
had shocked and terrified freedom-loving humanity. That four million
Africans should be condemned to servitude by illegal seizure of power by
a rebel premier, is one of the wicked aspects of colonialism and
imperialism. Although the situation in Southern Rhodesia has become a
matter of serious concern to all peoples, We should not lose sight of the
fact that the oppression and suffering of the four million Africans in
Southern Rhodesia is in particular offensive to the dignity of Africa.

The United Kingdom Government which has constitutional responsibility
to lead the colony of Rhodesia to majority rule, except for a declaration to
apply sanctions, has so far failed to put down the rebellion in Rhodesia and
restore law and order in that strife-torn country.

The United Kingdom Government which has constitutional responsibility
to lead the colony of Rhodesia to majority rule, except for a declaration to
apply sanctions, has so far failed to put down the rebellion in Rhodesia and
restore law and order in that strife-torn country.

The recent Resolution passed by the Security Council of the United
Nations recommending economic sanctions against Rhodesia even though
it did not satisfy African demands should be fully supported and
implemented to quell the rebellion which has clearly been established as
threatening international peace and security. We hope that the measures
so far taken will have the effect of making this illegal government realize
that the policy that they have embarked on will only lead to disaster and
make them reconsider their untenable position and resort to the way of
sanity and reason.

Drastic Measures Needed

Following the resolution adopted by the recent Accra Summit Conference
of the Organization of African Unity, We must renew our appeal to all
nations not to recognize the illegal white minority regime of Southern

The Conference should once again call upon the United Kingdom
Government to emply drastic measures beyond economic sanctions to
crush the rebellion.

As We hae already pointed out earlier, the main task of this Conference is
to discuss the implementation of the provisions of the Resolution on
Southern Rhodesia adopted by the Accra Summit. In attempting to put
into action this Resolution, the Organization of African Unity member
States should enlist the support of friendly powers.

In this hour of trial for the continent of Africa, all Africans should sink
their minor differences and unite their efforts to rescue their Zimbabwe
brethren whose rights, liberty and freedom have been trampled upon by a
settler minority racist regime which has illegally seized power in defiance
of world public opinion and in violation of basic principles of international

Particularly, it is imperative that the Zimbabwe Nationalist Parties should
put away their petty differences and forthwith form a united front in the
face of their national adversity. They must be prepared to fight to the
death for the freedom and independence of their homeland.

Now is the time for them to prove themselves worthy of their name --
freedom fighters. Now is the time for them to commit themselves to
the motto of a famous freedom fighter: "Give me liberty or give me
death." They can count on the unswerving support of free Africa.

All forces of good wherever they may be found must be mobilized to
uproot the white supremacists in Rhodesia and Southern Africa. All
freedom loving peoples must co-operate to destroy this deadly cancer
of human liberty and equality. After all, at issue is not the loss of
freedom to four million Africans, but the survival of human liberty. The
world therefore should not condone the perpetration of one of the
greatest political crimes in human history.

We pray that Almighty God will give you guidance on the
accomplishment of your task

Wednesday, August 20, 2008



Herbert Chitepo, a senior office bearer in the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), was killed in a car bomb. Despite numerous confessions it is still not known who planted the bomb. A Zimbabwean newspaper serialised the report into his murder – which only results in more pointing of fingers. And this more than 15 years after his death. Now we have history served up as murder mystery. Thriller transformed into a study of nationalism

Resource Articles and books

Murder, myths and Mugabe

The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and politics in Zimbabwe
Luise White
Indiana University Press, USA and Double Storey, South Africa
140 pages

Reviewed by Richard Bartlett

Herbert Chitepo, a senior office bearer in the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu), was killed in a car bomb. Despite numerous confessions it is still not known who planted the bomb. A Zimbabwean newspaper serialises the report into his murder – which only results in more pointing of fingers. And this more than 15 years after his death. Now we have history served up as murder mystery. Thriller transformed into a study of nationalism.

Immediately after Chitepo’s death in March 1975 the Zambian government, where Chitepo was living in exile, held an inquiry into the murder. The outcome was not conclusive but did point most directly at internal tensions in Zanu, the liberation movement, as being the most likely reason for his being murdered by fellow Zimbabweans. Conflict in the liberation movement is one possible reason, but since Zimbabwean independence in 1980 there have been many confessions by operatives who once worked with Rhodesian security forces.

The question Luise White raises in this analysis of the assassination is not who killed him, or even why was he killed, but why has discussion and debate around his demise have not been laid to rest? Why are Rhodesians so keen to confess when many believe his own people killed him? Why does a Zimbabwean newspaper see fit to publish the report into his death almost two decades later? Why do Zimbabwean politicians still evade the issues which were raised by guerrillas at the time of his death? And, perhaps most importantly, why should we still care about the murder of some Zimbabwean struggle ‘hero’ when the country has far more immediate and divisive issues threatening its future?
"Why should we care about the murder of some struggle 'hero' when the country has far more immediate and divisive issues threatening its future"

Central to understanding the murder of Chitepo is understanding a rebellion by Zanu cadres on the frontline in Mozambique against their leaders in Lusaka, known as the Nhari rebellion after one of its leaders. The reasons behind the rebellion in 1974 were ostensibly lack of support from the leaders, who were out of touch with the realities of the war in the bush. The mutiny was violently suppressed, leading to many executions, and led to a period of suspicion and in-fighting within the guerrilla movement. In this air of mistrust and power struggles, assassins planted a bomb in the car which Chitepo used. So to appreciate possible reasons for Chitepo’s assassination, it is necessary to delve into almost forgotten corners of Zimbabwe’s history.

White argues, essentially, that history is written by the victors and if we are to understand Robert Mugabe’s recent rhetoric against white farmers, British and other opponents, then we need to examine the history of Zimbabwe’s road to independence, and Zanu’s history, and how these histories are being created and updated. The example of Herbert Chitepo offers a convenient hook on which to show how the founding myths of the nation are used in current political struggles. As White says:

I’m in pursuit of history, of how narratives about the past are produced and reproduced and how power is produced and reproduced by these narratives. I’m interested in the many confessions, why some fail and why others surface when they do. My question then is not who did it, but why do so many people insist they did it?

She goes about this by presenting The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo not as a historical study, but as a murder mystery where the murderer is irrelevant. This technique is used in an attempt to make the book of interest to more than only history academics with an interest in the country. The other reason is implied in the sub-title of the book – texts and politics. Her thesis is based on subverting existing understandings of texts, on deconstructing meanings, on looking behind confessions to find motives (for the confessions, not the murders). Thus she attempts to subvert the entire accepted notion of what historiography should be. As a detective is faced with a plethora of facts in pursuit of truth, so we are invited to consume White’s text as historians (amateur or otherwise) in pursuit, not of truth, but of understanding, and perhaps even revelation.

To achieve this the format the book adopts is not that of standard textbook. The investigation begins not with the murder, but with a listing of all the characters involved, from the victims of the bomb (there were three) to the would-be murderers. This presentation changes the reception of the text from murder mystery to tragedy, as in Macbeth or Julius Caesar. This dual understanding of mystery/tragedy initially confounds expectations. Thanks to hindsight we know it is tragedy, and we know it is murder mystery without resolution. So we read on, not for closure but for its opposite. There have been too many closures and by delving into the texts that offered this closure the possibility exists that we can begin to understand why this was convenient, but may not necessarily be the only interpretation of events.

The other literary technique White uses, and makes a point of mentioning, is that there are no chapter headings. She states: "…as in a murder mystery, there are no chapter titles and no sub-sections within the untitled chapters, and there are some long digressions that provide background information". The attempt to make Zimbabwean history more enticing than a conventional historical text might be is commendable, and does succeed, partially. There are reservations. It does not make the book any easier to get through, unless you are already knowledgeable on the complexities of Zimbabwean history. One figure who absence from this text is surprising is that of Robert Mugabe. He is mentioned, but he is peripheral to the story of the murder, even if he is central to the grander narrative.

This secondary role of Mugabe can be ascribed to White’s use of the murder mystery format and the assumption that readers understand the context in which the murders took place. Understandably, White does not want to overburden readers with excessive background information, but this approach limits the understanding of the text to those unfamiliar with the politics of Zimbabwe’s independence movements in exile.

When Chitepo was murdered in 1975 it was a time of improved outlooks, and fresh obstacles. With Mozambique’s independence a new front opened on Rhodesia’s eastern border, and the Zimbabwe African National Union, which came to be led by Mugabe, eventually established its headquarters there, leaving the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) to operate from Zambia. The mystery of Chitepo’s death tells of these events, but they remain peripheral, where attention is paid to tiny details that came to shape the internecine world of Zimbabwean exiles and guerrillas. Hence we are left pondering grander questions. How did Mugabe come to move from background player to leader? Perhaps this is not directly relevant to Chitepo’s assassination and the subsequent investigations, but the whole point of this book is how texts about and surround the murder "shaped contemporary Zimbabwe".

The other contextual blindspot is the situation in which Zambia found itself in the mid 1970s. It was committed to the liberation of Zimbabwe, but that commitment was costing the country. Rhodesian incursions into Zambia were often more ostentatious than a simple car bomb, as the case of airforce raids to Lusaka would demonstrate. But Zambia was suffering another pressing problem, an economic one. The mid 1970s was a time when oil prices soared and other commodities, such as copper, moved in the opposite direction, which had a serious effect on Zambia’s ability to offer unconditional support to an expanding liberation movement. And on Zambia’s western border, Angola was also moving towards independence. This should have been good news but it quickly turned bad as war in Angola escalated, leading to a fresh influx of refugees into Zambia, adding to its new-found economic difficulties. Did any of this macro-economic environment have an effect on how the Zambian government approached what appeared to be in-fighting in Zimbabwe’s liberation movements. Such contextualisation is beyond the realm of a murder mystery.

But what it lacks in contextualistion, it certainly makes up for in detailing all the important characters, and in doing so takes the book one step beyond what murder mystery can be. This is not about who did what, but about who is said to have done ‘what’ according to surviving written sources. The reasoning behind some of these sources is suspicious, for example, why did the Rhodesians such as Ken Flower, head of the intelligence services in Rhodesia and independent Zimbabwe, admit to having a hand in Chitepo’s murder? Why was he not the only Rhodesian to do so? What purpose do such confessions serve, as they are not intended to bring a murderer to justice? Is it about the perpetuation of the idea of white supremacy? Of the ability of Rhodesian superiority despite losing the battle? These are questions the book raises, and answers as far as is possible.

More importantly, which White addresses more thoroughly, is the reason behind Chitepo’s assassination continuing to cause upheaval in present-day Zimbabwe. White’s thesis is that Mugabe has subverted the notion of the founding myth of Zimbabwe by portraying the country as a victim of colonialism and British imperialism, which is convenient but represents a complete subversion of the history of the country’s conversion from independent minority-ruled state to majority-ruled Zimbabwe. While this idea of history being reformulated to accommodate the needs of Zanu(PF) and the Mugabe regime makes marvellous sense and reaches to the core of the ideological crisis in Zimbabwe, it is often weighed down by the excess of historical detail.

White does warn readers that there is a plenitude of detail that might slow the non-Zimbabwean expert, and such warning should be heeded. The concept of murder mystery as historiography is a difficult one to implement, considering the very different requirements of each. As a study of Mugabe’s manipulation of nationalism predicated on a history which has been shaped to the purposes of the victor, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo makes fascinating reading, once White gets round to her analysis of contemporary Zimbabwe. As murder mystery it expects far too much of armchair detectives – more a case of forensic historian.

Richard Bartlett is the co-editor of the African Review of Books

author/source:Zimbabwe Standard
published:Sun 30-Sep-2001

Josiah Tongogara, Rugare Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi, Kumbirai Kangai, Mukudzei Mudzi named in 1975 report into Chitepo's murder

Staff Writer

Top Zanu commanders from the Dare Rechimurenga and the Zanla High Command killed former Zanu chairman, Herbert Chitepo, in Zambia in 1975, a special report by a Zambian commission into the late leader's mysterious death reveals. This is the first time that the report has been made public since the lawyer-cum-politician's assasination 26 years ago. Chitepo died when a car bomb planted under the driver's seat in his VW Beetle detonated as he was trying to reverse the car from the garage at his Zambian house. The Standard this week reveals for the first time the contents of the report. The report puts paid to claims from within Mr Mugabe's party that Chitepo had been killed by agents of the Ian Smith regime. The late chairman's widow, Victoria Chitepo, is on record as saying it was common knowledge that the leader was killed by fellow party members.

The Report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, which was commissioned by former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, in Lusaka, 1976, cites the late Zanla commander, Josiah Tongogara; current deputy minister of home affairs, Rugare Gumbo, who was secretary for information and publicity; Henry Hamadziripi, secretary for finance; Kumbirai Kangai, secretary for public and social welfare; and Mukudzei Mudzi, secretary for administration as the people responsible for assassinating the Dare chairman, Chitepo.

The report said the late chairman was a victim of a tribal power struggle within the party. Said the report, in the possession of The Standard: "The members of Dare and the High Command decided on March 1975 to kill Chitepo for reasons already stated. On that day, Dauramanzi and Mpunzarima were sent to collect a bomb from Rex Nhongo. They returned on Monday 17 March when Chimurenga handed the bomb to Sadat Kufamazuba for safe keeping until midnight when Chimurenga, Rudo, Short and Sadat planted the bomb on the driver's seat of Chitepo's car. The four men were acting under the directions of Tongogara. On the same night, Tongogara sent Robson Manyika to Chitepo's house to go and check whether Chimurenga, Rudo and Short had carried out the mission. Manyika said he did all this and reported back to Tongogara. This account is consistent with the corroborative evidence of the members of Dare and the High Command before the Commission and with their demeanour when they appeared before us."

The report continues: "The members of Dare and the High Command could all therefore be indicated as principals to the murder of Chitepo because jointly and severally they actively desired to bring this about and did in fact bring it about. Although only one individual may have completed the final act to consummate the crime and though some may not have been present as in the case of Hamadziripi and Chigowe, who claim to have been in Malawi at the material time, they could all be charged for Chitepo's murder."

The report says members of the High Command who gave evidence admitted that on hearing rumours some of them were to be arrested, scattered and ran away from Zambia instead of being eager to assist Zambian Police. "So the whole evidence both circumstantial, as well as direct with regard to the Chitepo assassination, points inevitably and clearly to his colleagues in the Dare and the High Command, especially Tongogara, Chigowe, Mudzi, Gumbo, Kangai and Hamadziripi," says the report.

The commission was chaired by Reuben Chitandika Kamanga and Mathias Mainza Chona, both Zambians, representatives of African countries from Botswana, Congo, Ivory Coast, Libya, Malagasy, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania and Zaire. Its terms of reference was to inquire into the events and circumstances leading to death of Chitepo on 18 March 1975. It was to investigate and establish "whether any racists or imperialists agents, or any racists or counter-revolutionaries or saboteurs were directly responsible for the said death." It was to investigate and establish the identity and the motive of the person or persons responsible for the said death. The commission was tasked to: "Make recommendations with regard to the measures or any additional measures that ought to be taken for the security of persons engaged in any political activities aimed at the attainment of freedom and independence of the people of Zimbabwe and any other country in Africa still under colonial or minority rule."

Said Kaunda on Zambian national radio on 31 March 1975: "We are shocked. We are still grieved and angered. We remain bitter against the murderous act, bitter against the murderers - the enemies of Zambia and Africa. Many Zambians are, to say the least, very dismayed and justifiably irritated by statements made by some Zimbabwe nationals, some, even nationalist leaders, have shown no concern whatsoever for the assassination of Mr Chitepo. To them, Mr Chitepo has been assassinated and that must be the end. Instead of calling upon the party and government to track down the killers of this gallant fighter, they are either completely silent, while others virtually demand that we stop the investigation altogether and thereby shelter the assassins."

Twenty-fours years later, Kaunda was still bitter as he told The Standard in 1999 when he came to visit the grave of the late vice president, Joshua Nkomo: "Chitepo was a committed leader. And some day we will talk about how he died. It is one blot in the history, a sad reflection of the whole liberation of this region. Some of the Zanla leadership left Zambia soon after the burial. I didn't expect them to leave immediately...this was their death. It was our death too, and it required all of us to work together on it," said Kaunda.

At the Review Conference of September 1973, the following were elected to the Dare: Herbert Chitepo - chairman (Manyika); Mukudzei Mudzi - administrative secretary (Karanga); Noel Mukono - secretary for external affairs (Manyika); Kumbirai Kangai - secretary for labour, social services and welfare (Karanga); Rugare Gumbo - secretary for information and publicity (Karanga); John Mataure -political commissar (Manyika); Henry Hamadziripi - secretary for finance (Karanga); Josiah Tongogara - chief of defence (Karanga). Apart from being an astute politician, Chitepo made history by becoming the first black advocate in southern Africa.


Extracted from Illustrated Life Rhodesia
Fortnight Ending January 27th 1971


Army Commander Major-General KEITH COSTER, one of the key figures in Rhodesia's war against terrorism, talks to BEVERLEY WHYTE.

HE IS EVERY inch a soldier Tall — six foot although seems more — well-built, he could be in his late thirties but is in fact just 50.

Major General Keith Coster, LCD., O.B.E., Chief of General Staff, General Officer Commanding the Rhodesian Army and one of the key men in this country's preventive war against communist-inspired guerrilla encroachment, is wearing a smart grey suit and modish suede shoes when we meet. But he might just as well be in battledress for all the camouflage civilian dress affords him. General Coster is amodest man, to the point of self-deprecation, and shies away from personal publicity. He finally consented to this profile because "it wouldn't do the army any harm to be written up. It could do some good. I don't underestimate the value of good public relations."

When he agreed to be interviewed, he suggested in his characteristically unassuming and courteous way that he should come to my office In town —a rare gesture indeed in Rhodesia, where lowly Journalistic Mahomet's must invariably go cap in hand to the

A quiet man, who does an important, difficult job quietly and well, who rates group efficiency more highly than individual brilliance, who believes in training and experience rather than flair, whose military heroes are men like Slim and Auchinlek rather than talented mavericks like Patton and Wingate. Keith Coster is a professional.

Keith Coster went to Maritzburg College for his senior schooling and matriculated in 1936. More at home on the sports field than, perhaps, in the classroom, he represented Natal at junior athletics (best time for the mile: 4.41).
"I never wanted to work in an office," he says. "1 was always keen on the outdoors. My father was a bank manager and 1 rather think he hoped I'd follow him there, but I knew it would never do for me.

"When I left school, I thought of joining the Bechuanaland Police, the British South Africa Police, and the South African Army. In the end I chose the army.
"I wanted to go on the officers' course at the South African Military College, but I was too young. So I joined something called the Special Service Battalion — a military unit raised during the Depression, chiefly to create employment during those years. The SSB lasted until the outbreak of war, when it became a combat unit and its name was changed. The pay was a shilling a day. I actually managed to save money."
"What did you spend your money on in 1937?"
"Natty clothing?"

The General smiles. "No. Just enough to get myself home decently dressed at weekends.'
Corporal Coster duly joined the 1938 officers' course, and found himself "completely compatible" with army life. "It was just what I had been looking for."

The course should have taken two years, but in September, 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the fledgling officers were prematurely commissioned. Second-Lieutenant Coster went into the South African Air Force as a pilot and specialist armament officer, charged with training officers and other ranks —gunners, bomb aimers and pilots— in air armament duties. He was stationed at various air stations in South Africa throughout 1940 and '41; met and married Molly Stanley in 1941, and the following year was posted to the North Africa theatre.

Early Days. Left: Lance-corporal Keith Coster of the Special Service Battalion, 1937.
Centre: Officer cadet during flying training, 1939. Rudder before belongs to a Blenhelm.
Right: Flight Lieutenant, South Africa Air Force. Coster spent his last three years of the war in POW camps in Italy and Germany (where he roomed with author Paul Brickhill, and took part in the Great Escape)

He joined Number Five Fighter Squadron, and was shot down in July, 1942.

IT WAS near a place called El Daba, behind the Alamein I line — west of El Alamein itself. I was out with my Squadron flying a Tomahawk. At a very low altitude, after chasing some Stukas, I was shot down by a Messerschmitt, and set on fire. I force landed, and set off on foot at a spanking pace, heading for the sea. But then I realised that I was being followed by some Germans in a Volkswagen truck. Of course they pretty soon caught up with me. They said: "For you, the war is over, Kommen zie mit".
So I went mit. Being slightly wounded, I spent part of the first night in an ambulance — until I was thrown out by a German officer who wanted to sleep in it himself. So I slept on the sand."

Interrogation for three days at a camp "somewhere in the desert" followed: "psychological methods", says the General vaguely.
He was then handed over to the Italians in Tobruk; moved to Benghazi and from thence by sea to Bari via Taranto. He remained in Italy as a prisoner of war until 1943, when he was moved to Germany; first to Moosburg near Munich, then to Stuttgart, and finally into an Air Force P.O.W. camp — the well known Stalag Luft 3 near Sagan.

"Douglas Bader had been there, but he'd been moved out just before I arrived because he was so troublesome. Wing Commander Stanford Tuck, a well known fighter pilot, was an inmate, though. Also Bob Braham, a top-scoring night fighter pilot, and Wing Commander Day, the Senior British Officer about whom a book has been written."

The young Captain Coster roomed with Paul Brickhill, author of "The Great Escape" and "The Dam Busters".
At the time Brickhill was writing his first book — the manuscript of which he later smuggled out in a plaster cast on his arm. Keith Coster suggested "Barbed Horizon" as the title, but Brickhill eventually made a more banal choice: "Escape or Die".

Keith Coster, like thousands of other Allied prisoners, was determined to escape. At Stalag Luft 3 he found himself involved in perhaps the most famous of all attempts.
"It wasn't my first attempt. I'd been involved in two tunnel efforts in Italy, both of which had been abortive.

In the Great Escape, I was only a minor cog. A tremendous number of people had a part to play in it. We drew cards to choose who would go out. We reckoned to get 200 out, from total camp complement of more than 1,200. I did draw a card, but progress through the tunnel fell behind schedule and only 80 out of the 200 managed to get out. I was one of those who didn't. In the event

I was lucky, because of those eighty who were first in the queue, nearly all were captured and fifty were executed by the Germans.

"My duties were ferret'-watching: 'ferrets* were a special type of German security guard. On the night in question, we were all locked up in the bungalow from which the Great Escape started . . . waning for our turn to come. But it never did. The hold-up came about because a couple of the chaps got stuck in the tunnel Also we'd underestimated the time we needed. Several days later we heard that a number of the escapees had been picked up. But ft wasn't the only attempt we made. We were always working on some escape plan.

"Boredom was your biggest enemy in prisoner-of-war camp. You had to sustain morale, keep yourself occupied. I spent a lot of time keeping fit." (he is still a firm believer in physical training). "Running, exercising; I did gym with a chap called Blake who had represented New Zealand at gymnastics, and who took me under his wing.
"Like everyone else, I tried my hand at studying. French and German were the subjects I chose. Comparatively few of us lost our spirit—most remained healthily cheeky.

"There was a lot of contact, fraternisation between the prisoners and the Germans. We had to use them to get supplies, things like radios. It was largely a matter of blackmail: you'd ask the fellow to get you something quite innocent, and repay him with an item from your Red Cross parcel. Then you'd ask him for something more compromising, and if he jibbed, you'd say: 'Ah, but if you don't,
I'll tell the Commandant about that tin of coffee.' Yes, the SS did make occasional raids—they would rush in, make a search and so on. They were every bit as beastly as films and books have depicted them."

BY JANUARY, 1945, the Germans were on the run. At Stalag Luft 3, in the icy grasp of midwinter, the prisoners could hear the sounds of battle getting closer each day. The Russians were approaching the River Oder.

"At one o'clock one bitterly cold morning, we were told to get up. We set off, pulling sleds with our few belongings on them, across the snow-covered fields in a howling blizzard. We travelled for about 100 kilometres. Then we were entrained in cattle trucks, and moved across Germany from the east to the west. En route, we were regularly attacked by the RAF. We were being used as bargaining counters; the Germans knew that it was all almost over. They regarded us as hostages.

"In April, on my 25th birthday, we were out in the fields moving eastwards. Montgomery's 21st Army Group were approaching we knew. During the first couple of days of May we were bivouacked on a beautiful big estate in Schleswig Holstein. Suddenly, behind us, we saw units of the German Army, withdrawing. An hour later a Daimler scout car when a corporal in charge drove up. The war was over.

"My first reaction was a sense of unbelief.’Stunned mullet'? Yes, that just about describes it."

Ex-P.O.W. Keith Coster and two friends "went for a walk, looking for a way to England".
They chanced on a deserted airfield just as a Canadian pilot, hopelessly lost, was coming in to land. "We told him where he was and hitched a lift with him to England, arriving on May 7. We went straight to Brighton, where all returned prisoners of war were being temporarily accommodated. Then there was a tremendous pre-VE night party. It lasted all night."
Does he remember what he did that night?
"Yes," says the General blandly, "but I'd better not tell you about that."
He does recall, however, that he was in "astonishingly good shape— largely because of my concentration on physical fitness". When he came out of POW camp he was at his fighting weight (25 years later, he is only 20 1b. heavier).

KEITH COSTER flew back to South Africa shortly afterwards "Now the story becomes more prosaic. I must admit I did find peacetime pretty dull—that did take a little time to get used to. At first I was in Pretoria, still in the Air Force. Then I went on a staff course at Voortrekkerhoogte until 1946. I was offered the post of adjutant at the South African Military College, and accepted gratefully. I'd never intended joining the Air Force—it only came about because of the outbreak of war, and because most of my friends joined that service; so I went with them. Afterwards, I got back to the Army as soon as I could.

"I had an excellent job training the first lot of post-war officer cadets— the 1947 and '48 courses. I thoroughly enjoyed this; it was
very worthwhile work. Sadly, a lot of my cadets were later killed in Korea."

A staff post on the HQ of the Armoured Brigade Group at Potchefstroom followed, until the end of 1951, when the Costers, who now included five-year-old Steven and two-year-old Judy, went to England for the then Major Coster to attend Staff College.
"I enjoyed Camberley — in retrospect. At the time I had to work terribly hard to keep up. On the domestic front, it was our first taste of rationing and servant less housekeeping with small children to look after. Altogether an excellent experience. And of course on the military side, the training was first class."

Then it was back to South Africa, and Military College, as a member of the Directing Staff, teaching tactics and administration. I'd heard that the General is a military history enthusiast, and ask him about this. He says cautiously: "I am fairly interested—particularly in the Anglo-Boer War, largely I suppose because I have seen so many of the battlefields for myself. This way, history comes alive."

Which general, out of both world wars, does he consider to have been the greatest? "Sir William Slim-without a shadow of doubt," he says without hesitation. "He was a first class administrator, and a very determined man. He commanded the war's forgotten army and moulded it into a fine, aggressive force. I admire his sense of humour, his refusal ever to accept defeat. And, of course, the way he looked after his troops and kept their morale at such a high level."

I mention Wingate, and he comments: "He must have been an extremely difficult subordinate. Unconventional people are of value in
their own way, but they have to be curbed."

WHEN MAJOR KEITH COSTER left the South African Army in 1954 ("I'd been looking around for a change, and Federation seemed to be an expanding, dynamic concern in which I felt I'd like to be involved") he little dreamt that within fourteen years, he would be General Officer Commanding the army of Rhodesia. "I certainly didn't aim that high," he says. "Had the Federation not broken up,

I would just have made full colonel by the time of my retirement. And I would have been retired by now. The dissolution of the Federal Army siphoned a lot of people off."

The move from South Africa to the Federation required some adjustment. "There was a looser form of discipline up here, but it was no less effective. A challenge? Very much so. It was not only a smaller army, but one that was growing swiftly; after all, it had come from virtually nothing to four battalions almost overnight, so to speak. It had more regular units than the South African Army then possessed. What I found especially interesting was that; apart from the Rhodesian personnel I met, a lot of officers were on secondment from the British Army—and it was refreshing to make contact with a new point of view.

"In 1958, I was sent to Zomba to join 2 KAR. This was the most fascinating part of my career, and exactly what I'd been looking for: sound professional soldiering, and the wonderful outdoor life that the country itself offered—riding, shooting, fishing. Soldiering as it used to be, in fact. Unfortunately it didn't last nearly long enough.

In the Federal Army - "a challenge: It was a small force which grew rapidly.
Left: Lieut. Col. Coster inspecting weapons with Brigadier Anderson and Sir Roy Welensky.
With Major General J. Anderson on a field exercise.

Staff jobs followed until 1963, when he became Commandant of the School of Infantry. In 1964 he was appointed to command 2 Brigade and then, later in that year, he became Chief of Staff to Major-General Putterill. Four years afterwards, in October 1968, he
took up his present appointment as Chief of General Staff.

GENERAL KEITH COSTER what one may term a "soldier's soldier". He takes a real and personal interest in his troops, has the ability to make lance corporal and captain alike feel at ease, goes out into the field as often as he can to meet the men. Twice he has patrolled with active units (with the RAR and RLI—"They both treated me very gently," he says).

He also made his first parachute jump some months ago. Did he enjoy it?
"Yes", he says with his customary diplomacy. And adds, "But I see no point in repeating the experience."

(Keith Coster is a 'soldier's soldier", takes a real and personal interest in his troops, has patrolled with active units and, some months ago, made his first parachute jump into Lake McIlwalne ("I see no point in repeating the experience," he says.))

It will not be long, less than two years perhaps, before General Coster retires—at an age when most men in other professions have accumulated their experience, consolidated their positions, and are at their most valuable. The Rhodesian army insists on a comparatively early retiring age Understandably, because this Is young man's army, and a small army In which promotion must be fairly rapid If young officers are to be attracted Into die service and encouraged to stay.

Nevertheless, Keith Coster will be a real loss to the armed services of Rhodesia.


TIME APRIL 12 1976
The Salisbury government professes not to be worried. But the defense budget has more than doubled in the past three years to $96.5 million, and the armed forces beefed up from 5,000 to 12,000 regulars. General mobilization could raise that to 35,000. Hundreds of foreigners—Britons, Portuguese colonials from Angola, South Africans and Americans—have also been signed on, and mercenaries are being recruited in Britain and the U.S. But the white manpower pool is stretched thin, and the military is increasingly turning to blacks, who make up more than half the army and three-quarters of the paramilitary police force. "They are absolutely first-class soldiers," says Defense Minister P.K. Van der Byl. He insists that he has no qualms about their loyalty.

PRAY FOR RHODESIA implores a bumper sticker seen on many cars in Salisbury these days. Signs in public places warn against loose talk that might jeopardize security. STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK YOUR BONES, BUT WORDS CAN KILL YOU reads one. A BOAST NOW, A BOMB LATER goes another. Over lunch at the staid Salisbury Club, business and government leaders dismiss those who worry about the future as "dismal Jimmys." But many are quietly preparing what they refer to as "fallback positions, " slowly salting away nest eggs abroad despite Rhodesia's stiff system of restrictions on overseas capital transfers. More houses than ever are up for sale, but there are few takers. Last year nearly 10,000 whites left Rhodesia for good. The country's white population was maintained by Portuguese immigrants from Angola and Mozambique, but today more than half the whites hold non-Rhodesian passports (mostly British and South African); less than a third are Rhodesian-born.

The government has forcibly moved more than 200,000 blacks from their ancestral tribal kraals into what are euphemistically called "consolidated" and "protected" villages. The latter, for all practical purposes, are concentration camps, with high chain-link fences, huge floodlights and constant armed patrols. Residents are searched on entering and leaving; violators of the dusk-to-dawn curfew risk being shot on sight. The Smith government says the camps are to protect the tribes from terrorist intimidation. But many of the inhabitants are considered security risks and the camps are intended to prevent them from feeding and aiding the guerrillas. Meanwhile, the tribespeople complain, their farms have been left to ruin and their cattle to die.

Constant call-ups of military reserves have made Forces Requests the most listened-to record program on Radio Rhodesia. Dedications range from tough to touching— "Give them what for, son, we're proud of you,"— "All my love and kisses, darling, hurry home." But not all the troops come home. Since January, 15 members of the security forces have been killed in skirmishes with guerrillas, and newspapers regularly carry obituaries and eulogies from comrades-in-arms in "killed on active service" columns.

Time is slowly running out for white rule in Rhodesia. An intensive campaign by exiled guerrillas may be months off, but the chances of finding a peaceful path to equitable power-sharing between the country's 278,000 whites and 6.1 million blacks now appear to be spent. Negotiations between Rhodesia's white Prime Minister, Ian Smith, and the country's leading black moderate, Joshua Nkomo, have collapsed. Britain's offer to resume transitional control of its breakaway colony, predicated on elections leading to black majority rule within two years, was summarily rejected by Salisbury.

Last week Zambia's President Kenneth Kaunda, Black Africa's most moderate spokesman, called on Britain to intervene with military force if necessary, arrest Smith and his "gang of illegitimates" and replace the white government with a British-led multiracial committee including representatives of the guerrilla factions as well as respected Rhodesian whites to prepare for one-man, one-vote elections. There was little hope his plea would be heeded, but his blunt language was a clear measure of widespread African frustration about how to deal with a country that, as TIME'S Nairobi Bureau Chief Lee Griggs found last week, seems increasingly out of touch with reality—and with itself.

In the upper-class white Salisbury suburb of Highlands on a sunny Sunday afternoon, George and Jeanette Smith sip gin-and-tonic "sundowners" around the swimming pool behind their handsome $50,000 two-story stone home. Both are Rhodesian-born and -bred, in their late 30s, and not particularly prosperous by Salisbury standards. "We couldn 't afford to live like this anywhere else," admits George, a junior partner in a local law firm. Like many other white Rhodesians, he has been called up for military reserve duty three times in the past year, and has had to spend 82 days away from his law practice. "Annoying business, but necessary, "he says. "I dare say it may become a bit more hairy along the border now that the talks between Smith and Nkomo have broken down. But our chappies can cope with the terrorists. We all pitch in to preserve what we have here." He gestures with his glass toward the pool and the house. "You outsiders are forever comparing us to passengers on the Titanic. Well, if you're right, at least we'll go down first class."

The Salisbury government professes not to be worried. But the defense budget has more than doubled in the past three years to $96.5 million, and the armed forces beefed up from 5,000 to 12,000 regulars. General mobilization could raise that to 35,000. Hundreds of foreigners—Britons, Portuguese colonials from Angola, South Africans and Americans—have also been signed on, and mercenaries are being recruited in Britain and the U.S. But the white manpower pool is stretched thin, and the military is increasingly turning to blacks, who make up more than half the army and three-quarters of the paramilitary police force. "They are absolutely first-class soldiers," says Defense Minister P.K. Van der Byl. He insists that he has no qualms about their loyalty.

PRAY FOR RHODESIA implores a bumper sticker seen on many cars in Salisbury these days. Signs in public places warn against loose talk that might jeopardize security. STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK YOUR BONES, BUT WORDS CAN KILL YOU reads one. A BOAST NOW, A BOMB LATER goes another. Over lunch at the staid Salisbury Club, business and government leaders dismiss those who worry about the future as "dismal Jimmys." But many are quietly preparing what they refer to as "fallback positions, " slowly salting away nest eggs abroad despite Rhodesia's stiff system of restrictions on overseas capital transfers. More houses than ever are up for sale, but there are few takers. Last year nearly 10,000 whites left Rhodesia for good. The country's white population was maintained by Portuguese immigrants from Angola and Mozambique, but today more than half the whites hold non-Rhodesian passports (mostly British and South African); less than a third are Rhodesian-born.

The government has forcibly moved more than 200,000 blacks from their ancestral tribal kraals into what are euphemistically called "consolidated" and "protected" villages. The latter, for all practical purposes, are concentration camps, with high chain-link fences, huge floodlights and constant armed patrols. Residents are searched on entering and leaving; violators of the dusk-to-dawn curfew risk being shot on sight. The Smith government says the camps are to protect the tribes from terrorist intimidation. But many of the inhabitants are considered security risks and the camps are intended to prevent them from feeding and aiding the guerrillas. Meanwhile, the tribespeople complain, their farms have been left to ruin and their cattle to die.

Constant call-ups of military reserves have made Forces Requests the most listened-to record program on Radio Rhodesia. Dedications range from tough to touching— "Give them what for, son, we're proud of you,"— "All my love and kisses, darling, hurry home." But not all the troops come home. Since January, 15 members of the security forces have been killed in skirmishes with guerrillas, and newspapers regularly carry obituaries and eulogies from comrades-in-arms in "killed on active service" columns.

Amnesty International, the London-based organization that investigates political repression around the world, last week charged that torture of blacks in Rhodesia is "now employed almost as routine practice by both police and security forces." The methods include beatings, electric shock by electrodes and cattle prods, suspension in barrels of water, threats of castration. Preventive detention of black activists has long been commonplace (three leaders—Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe and the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole—together spent 30 years in jail). At least 700 political prisoners have been held for ten years or longer, said Amnesty.

Salisbury's whites enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. On an average wage of $8,000 a year, they can buy a three-or four-bedroom house on an acre of land with two bathrooms and swimming pool for $46,000 and a 7.75% mortgage. The climate is mild, taxes are low (5%), and good education is available at little cost. A decade of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations has caused little hardship. Almost everything is available for a price, from caviar to cars to calculators. Most households employ two or three domestic servants at wages of $25 to $50 a month. Nonetheless, two in every seven white Rhodesian marriages end in divorce—the highest rate of "marital failure " in the world after Israel.

In the all-black townships of Highfield and Harare outside Salisbury, the tin-roofed, cement-floored cinder-block houses are packed six to the acre. Blacks are not allowed to own their own homes. Instead, they must rent them from the Salisbury city council. Only the main streets are paved and lighted, although most homes now have electricity and running water. The schools are segregated and definitely unequal. The government spent $56 per black pupil last year, $494 for every white pupil. "We don't want to drive the Europeans out," says a black bricklayer who lives with nine relatives in a two-room house in Harare. "But they have everything and we have nothing. This is not fair. We are being cheated. Let them share the country and the money more evenly, and they are welcome to stay. But Smith will never do that, and so we will have to fight."

Crime in white Salisbury has always been low, and guerrilla terrorism has not yet touched the capital. But most whites pack a pistol in the house and some (illegally) in the glove compartment of the car. Distrust of domestic servants is growing; the woman who has a foreign houseboy from Malawi or South Africa is considered lucky. "They're, well, more dependable," says a secretary who lives in one of the newer white suburbs named, perhaps prophetically, Gun Hill.

Several arms caches have been discovered in Highfield and Harare by the newly formed PUTU (Police Urban Terrorism Unit), but a police captain admits that "we probably got only the tip of the iceberg. God knows how much stuff is squirreled away out there." Black feeling has grown more militant now that the talks between Smith and Nkomo have failed. "Nkomo gave it a good go," says a black shopkeeper in Highfield, "but now he's had it. Now we will have to fight one way or the other."
Salisbury's Meikles Hotel still serves excellent Scottish smoked salmon in its elegant La Fontaine restaurant. As she nibbled at a portion last week, a well-dressed Salisbury matron observed that "the brouhaha over black rule was a bit of a bother, but the talks are ended and that's all over now." Did she see anything ominous in the breakdown of black-white dialogue? "Oh heavens, no. My servant tells me all of his people want us to stay and run the country. He's terribly trustworthy, you know."

One of the measures that embitter blacks most is the Land Tenure Act of 1970. The law divided the country in two. Rhodesia's 278,000 whites got the right to own land in the richest and most fertile half. (Ian Smith has two 10,000-acre spreads.) The other half, often untillable bush country, went to the country's 6.1 million blacks. Today more than half the blacks live outside the cash economy, bartering livestock or farm produce for the bare necessities of life. Fewer than 1 million have regular jobs. The average white wage is $8,080; the average black wage is $640. Cotton pickers are paid 350 a bag. Starting salary for black miners is 650 for an eight-hour shift. Since the right to vote is tied to income and property, blacks are effectively cut out; only 7,500 blacks v. 87,000 whites make enough to qualify.

"We've had terrorist incursions for twelve years now, and these haven't worried us," says Ian Smith. "In the past, when they came by the hundreds, they were killed by the hundreds. If in the future they come by the thousands, they will be killed by the thousands." Despairs a Rhodesian lawyer who opposes Smith's leadership: "All we can do is plead with Smith for some sense from the sidelines. He is both stubborn and blind to reality, but it seems we're stuck with him."


PHOTO William Higham
PK van Der Byl extracted from Rhodesian personalities written by Chris Whitehead 1999

Pieter van der Byl was one of the more colourful, eccentric and extreme ministers in Ian Smith's rebellious Rhodesian cabinet when that country unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965. Historians hold that the lanky, languid "P K" van der Byl was, to the frustration of Harold Wilson and successive British prime ministers, the most vocal in persuading Mr Smith not to "succumb or surrender" in the interminable rounds of talks and negotiations to bring an end to UDI. To a generation of British politicians whose careers foundered on Rhodesian intransigence, he cut a Dracula-like figure with his saturnine looks, ineffably arrogant demeanour and sneeringly cutting comments. To many white Rhodesians, though, he became something of an heroic cult figure, particularly when he was appointed minister of defence in a country being drawn inexorably into a protracted and ugly war against black nationalist guerrillas in the 1970s.

Dressed in immaculate combat fatigues and slapping a swagger stick against an elegant palm, he would visit battle-front outposts in the bush inspiring Rhodesia's increasingly beleagured troops with Churchillian bombast. At one stage, he made no secret of his wish to succeed Mr Smith as Rhodesian leader if there should be "even a whiff of surrender"; but the wily Rhodesian leader, more taciturn but also much more astute politically, would confide that he "had P K's measure".

Van der Byl eventually became an embarrassment to Ian Smith, not so much because of his intransigence in negotiations with Britain but more because John Vorster, prime minister of South Africa, Rhodesia's only real ally south of the Limpopo, could stand neither sight nor sound of "that dreadful man". Vorster would make a point of discussing tactics and strategy with Ian Smith before, during and after rugby matches in South Africa. He made it a condition that Mr Smith could bring anyone he wished - except P K van der Byl. The antipathy was born of the fact that van der Byl, of old, wealthy Cape Afrikaner stock, had adopted what he thought was an aristocratic English nasal drawl and imperial English mannerisms and attitudes which, in Vorster's view, were a treacherous abrogation of his Boer roots. As South Africa's involvement in Rhodesia's war became imperative, Ian Smith was eventually obliged to sack van der Byl as defence minister and push him sideways into the post of foreign minister, a meaningless portfolio in a country that was recognised by no country in the world other than South Africa, from which he was effectively debarred.

Pieter Kenyon Fleming-Voltelyn van der Byl was born on November 11 1923 in Cape Town, the son of Major Piet van der Byl, scion of a wealthy Cape farming family who had served in Jan Smuts's cabinet in the 1940s. P K matriculated from Bishop's Diocesan College, which is still regarded by alumni as "South Africa's Eton". During the Second World War, he joined the South African Army as a staff officer in Egypt and then secured secondment to the 7th Hussars in Italy. With the return of peace, he read Law at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he became known as "The Piccadilly Dutchman" for his aristocratic affectations. He moved to what was then Southern Rhodesia in the 1950s, farming tobacco during the post-war boom years when it was impossible not to prosper.

Playing to perfection the role of gentleman farmer, van der Byl became known as a lavish host, particularly to members of Europe's aristocracy who had gravitated to Rhodesia in hopes of better things. As a bachelor, tall, good-looking, affluent and charming, van der Byl became something of a legend for his womanising in a country where discretion was impossible. His exploits, real or imagined, earned him the sobriquet "Tripod" among envious fellow white farmers. He cut his political teeth with the powerful Rhodesian Tobacco Association in the late 1950s and eagerly joined Ian Smith's new, reactionary Rhodesia Front Party, becoming one of its first MPs in 1962. He swiftly became the first party whip and was deputy minister for information, immigration and tourism when UDI was declared on his birthday, November 11 1965. Although then only a deputy minister, his presence looms large in all photographs of the historic, and ultimately tragic, UDI signing ceremony in Salisbury.

Although van der Byl always insisted that visiting journalists "use the tradesmen's entrance", he was a correspondent's dream when it came to pithy quotes and colourful copy. Asked why the government refused to release the names of those hanged for political or criminal offences, van der Byl replied: "Why should we? Anyway, it's academic because they are normally dead." An American woman journalist admired a hunting trophy hanging on his wall and asked where the creature had been shot. "P K" pointed to a remote spot in the bush. "Aren't you worried about guerrillas up there?" she inquired. "My dear child," drawled the minister. "Gorillas these days are found only in remote parts of the Mountains of the Moon. If you mean terrorists, yes, but worried, no."

As defence minister, he revelled in ringing exhortations to battle. "If the battle should wax fiercer, there can be no question of surrender. We shall contest every river, every crossroads, every village, every town and every kopje." It was empty rhetoric. As Rhodesia was obliged to move towards accommodation with its black majority, van der Byl briefly sustained his political career, sharing a cabinet portfolio with a black minister in Bishop Abel Muzorewa's ill-starred "compromise" government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. But when, as van der Byl put it, "the wheels came off" and Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF came to power in 1980, he slipped quietly into the background and in 1982 retired to South Africa to the magnificent estate he had inherited near Caledon in the Western Cape.

Van der Byl married, in 1979, Princess Charlotte von Liechtenstein, a cousin of the Prince of Liechtenstein and a niece of Otto Habsburg; they had three sons.

Written by Chris Whitehead, Editor Rhodesians Worldwide, November 1999

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Grand Reef FAF 8 came slowly to life with Technicians moving out to move their helicopters out of the revetments and on to the hard standing in readiness for another day’s action in the surrounding Tribal Trust lands. Four Squadron engineers removed the parachute flare from the Lynx and prepared it for daylight operations. The night’s dew was wiped from the Perspex windshields, oil levels checked and pre-flight inspections carried out on all aircraft. While this was going on the 3 squadron technician went about his task of turning both propellers on his DC 3 Paradak to prevent the engines from being damaged by a hydraulic stoppage on start up, eighteen times around to make sure all oil was purged from the cylinders.
Further down the Base 3 Commando troopers were jogging down the runway singing dirty songs in an attempt to get a reaction from the “Blue Jobs” (Air Force personnel) Other RLI troopers were checking their kit and weapons in readiness for the inevitable call-out. In the Operations rooms of both the Air Force and Army there was the constant clatter and squeal of the teleprinters clattering out ribbons of information and SITREP’s (Situation reports) The telegraphists shouting Stop sending Stop sending as the ribbons jammed. Aircrews sat in the ready rooms reading Southern Cross donated paperbacks or playing cards, waiting for the siren or hooter to signal a call-out.
A Selous Scout call-sign 33 Alpha were hidden on top of a kopje deep in the Tribal Trust Lands near the Pungwe River, they scanned the surrounding bush and kraals far below as the villagers stirred and started the daily chores. Everything seemed normal with the herd boys heading out into the countryside with the family cattle.
The corporal in charge of 33 Alpha noticed a group of women heading out of a village with pots and various bundles on their heads. They moved swiftly and silently which was not the normal village custom, heading towards the thick vegetation surrounding the Pungwe River. The Corporal straightened up and pulled a pair of field glasses out of his pack and brought the women into view, he was checking the whole area intently looking for clues of Terrorist activity. The women were too quiet, normally their chatter would echo throughout the kopjes as they went about their business.
A movement from the thick bush brought the Corporals eyes to see a flash as a terrorist’s rifle gleamed momentarily in the morning sunlight. The Corporal grunted and his stick was on the alert scanning the river line. This was a feeding party, now they needed to identify how many terrorists were in the camp and what weapons they were carrying; it was a game of cat and mouse. The Selous Scout stick hugged the granite rock scanning, and rescanning looking for clues, it took patience and nerves of steel. Movement was kept to a minimum, they were sure to keep well hidden and only communicated with hand signals, their AK assault rifles kept at the ready.
The Corporal indicated to his second to check the radio batteries as they would require good communications when they called in the Fireforce. The Corporal called his “Sunray” Two one Alpha to report the sighting speaking in a hushed voice and keeping his story to basic facts. “Sunray” replied and told 33 Alpha to maintain visual contact with the party.
The Terrorist group would not move by day normally so there was a good chance they would remain in the camp area unless they were spooked into bomb shelling and meeting up at a crash RV point.
During the next few hours the Scouts counted fifteen Terrorists armed with a variety of weapons and most of them wearing blue denims. Terrorists when on the move would also wear two sets of clothing and if they ran into Rhodesian security forces would stash their weapons and rapidly change clothing in an attempt to shake off their pursuers. This group were armed with a variety of weapons SKS, AK 47 rifles with fixed bayonets, two RPD machine guns and at least one RPG 7 rocket launcher was seen.
A constant dialogue was kept up with “Sunray” who was also on the net to the JOC in Umtali and to both the RLI and Air force.
The Airforce pilots and RLI stick leaders were summoned to the “Blues” briefing room maps were brought out and the briefing was initiated, in Rhodesian terms a “Scene was brewing”.
Grand Reef Airstrip came alive as RLI sticks armed to the teeth moved to their assigned helicopters in anticipation of the siren being sounded. Black is Beautiful camouflage cream was handed out; some troopers wrote their blood groups in biro pen on their shoulders. Technicians fussed about their helicopters and the Lynx technicians lifted FRANTAN canisters from their cradles and fixed them to the racks. Everyone’s ears were strained to get information on what was brewing, the adrenalin started to pump with beads of sweat and a glimpse of fear of the unknown beginning to show. People spoke in clipped sentences as the strain began to show. In the background the Paras began to check out their kit, Para dispatchers checking and rechecking, rifles being cocked as troopers checked their working parts for ease of movement. Any mistakes would certainly be deadly in this environment.
The K Car commander went on the net speaking to both 33 Alpha and “Sunray 21 Alpha” with the assistance of a relay station in the area called Oscar Alpha 3. How many gooks, what weapons, clothing, map references and as much information as the RLI Major could get. The Aircrew sat listening intently checking map references, weather, refuelling points, shackle codes and everything necessary to get to the sighting as quickly and quietly as possible.
Someone fired up the engines on the Paradak warming them up in anticipation of the deployment of the fireforce. The Lynx pilot ran to his aircraft carrying a wad of maps and his FN rifle, he climbed into his aircraft with his crew fussing over last minute adjustment of his weapon system. Then he started up and after carrying out cursory checks started taxiing towards the runway setting up his radio channels as he taxied out. The Lynx would head out to the general area and act as Telstar relaying information from the Scout call-sign directly to Grand Reef and the K Car. The scene was hot and the siren bellowed giving everyone around another jolt of adrenalin.
Stick Leaders ran out of the Ops briefing room and ran to their helicopters to brief their sticks on the ever changing events. Helicopter technicians stood by attempting to listen in and get as much information as possible. The Pilots having been briefed and also having set up a plan of action scrambled to their respective helicopters also spewing white maps as they ran. There were no such navigation aids like the GPS in those days, everything was done by map reading and Rhodesian Air Force pilots were magnificent at their map reading. It was impressive to watch them flying at low level changing from one map to another, they followed the K Car but everyone read their respective maps keeping on the ball at all times.
The pilots jumped into their respective helicopters with the troopers sitting waiting in anticipation for the forthcoming action. As soon as they were strapped in they hit the starting switch and monitored the engine start as the Artouste 3B engines screamed into life, throttle forward after 19000 rpm as the rotors wound up. The FAF was buzzing with the wail of engines and the beat of rotors.
Then K Car came onto the net calling up each G Car in turn “Yellow 1 Radio Check” “Yellow 1 fives” “Yellow 2” “Yellow 2 FIVES” and so on.
“K Cars taxiing” a pull on collective and the K Car taxied out of the revetments smoothly followed by Yellow section, three G Cars and their troops.
On to the runway and a smooth running formation take off as the Fireforce headed out to fight another day.
As Yellow section cleared Grand Reef the technicians on board their respective helicopters would say “Clear to cock” mechanically and automatically cock the 20 mm cannon in K Car or the twin .303 Browning machine guns in the G Car. They would then ensure that white smoke marking grenades were close at hand in case they spotted a potential target. The pilots would then attempt to brief the technician and stick leader (who would have a headset) on what was happening. On many occasions we would have to attempt to pick up what was happening by listening to the radio chatter, K Car and the K Car commander would be having a running commentary assisted by the Telstar Lynx with Sunray Two one Alpha putting in his five cents worth.
The idea was for the fireforce to head for the target area at very low level, just scraping over the vegetation so low that the trees would make a whistling noise as we overflew them. The K Car would pull up about five minutes away from the target area and if possible fly over the Scout or Army OP which normally would identify itself by displaying a white map or dayglo panel. The OP would try not to compromise its position if at all possible.
Once K Car had identified the OP (DONE SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH LOOKING FOR THE TARGET) it would head directly for the target area being spoken on by the call-sign on the ground with clear commands like TURN LEFT, LEFT, ROLL OUT, RIGHT A BIT, ROLL OUT, YOURE OVERHEAD NOW!!! At that moment all hell would break out with K Car throwing out a smoke generator to mark the target, and the gunner bringing the cannon to bear on target as this was the most critical part of the contact. Gunnery at this stage had to be quick and accurate, lives were at stake, and the Terrorists would do one of two things at this stage, start shooting at the aircraft orbiting or bombshell and get the hell out of the target area. It all depended on the terrain and vegetation. Most contacts were fought in river lines or kopjes with a few in village complexes where we had to contend with both Terrorists and villagers bomb shelling together making it extremely difficult not to kill or seriously injure a civilian in the contact area, remember we were being shot at while everyone was running and the first law is to look after number one so you down what is in your sights and take names afterwards. TO BE CONTINUED........