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I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on 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, February 14, 2009


Interview: Wilfred Mhanda, former freedom fighter
As a senior commander in Zimbabwe's armed movement, Mhanda helped Robert Mugabe come to power, a move he soon regretted. Trained by the Chinese, he was jailed in Mozambique, then blocked from jobs in his own country.

How did you come to be a Zanla guerrilla?
My father was always a keen African nationalist and by the time I was 11 in 1961 I knew all about Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and other liberation heroes. Our maths teacher at school was arrested by the white minority regime and another of my teachers was banned, so politics strongly affected my schooling. But I had no party affiliation: I just wanted freedom.
I attended a mission school at Zvishavane where Garfield Todd, the former liberal prime minister, had taught. He had founded the school and was still chairman of the school board and had a lot of influence there. He often used to come to the school and hold a seminar on current affairs with us. I would walk five kilometres each way to school to talk to him and I thought a great deal of him. Judith Todd, his daughter, also played a role in my life and once arranged for me to go on a scholarship to Manchester University, though I never got there because of the struggle.

Garfield Todd used to deliver milk to the school and sometimes the pupils would carry him shoulder high, particularly after he was restricted to his farm at UDI and became a martyr under the Smith regime. Another great figure for us was Todd's friend, Leo Barron, the liberal lawyer who also used to come to the school sometimes. By the time I did my A-levels in 1970 I was already in trouble with the police. We organised a demonstration against Smith's unilateral declaration of independence in 1969 and also against the Land Tenure Act, so I had to report to the police at very regular intervals. I would spend from 7am to 5pm at the police station, sitting there working at my school books. In 1971 I went to the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury. Really I wanted to study pharmacy in Manchester.

Was there much anti-Smith activity at the university?
I was doing a BSc in chemistry, zoology and botany but political work took up much of my time. I joined Zanu, which was led by Ndabaningi Sithole. Like Joshua Nkomo's rival Zapu, it was banned. We had a cell of ten and our main aim was to recruit students for the armed struggle. They would pretend to be going on holiday with the Student Christian Movement but would slip into Botswana and on to Zambia for basic military training. I was arrested in May 1971. Rhodesian intelligence tipped us off that one of our group was an agent: they had known about us all along. It was time to get out. Five of us skipped bail and fled to Botswana. I am the only survivor of that group. Two, Celestine Dembure, who was my very close friend, and Dzinoruwa Chirau, died at the hands of the liberation movement. One was killed in action and the fourth died for reasons that still remain unclear. I am certainly lucky to be alive.

And in Tanzania you did military training?
I became a military instructor, and was promoted to a political commissar and then a Zanla commander. In 1975 I joined the Zanla high command and was in charge of both political and military training. Our military trainers were Chinese and I was chosen for three-months advanced strategic training in China. The Chinese said that I was far too precious to be sent to the front to fight and I must be kept back as an instructor. Nonetheless I did fight at the front in north-eastern Rhodesia in 1974 and for three months in 1976. I saw plenty of action.

How did you like China?
The training was very good. I studied under a Chinese lieutenant-general and we studied the Chinese revolution, its guerrilla tactics and battles against Japan and the Kuomintang. But they didn't teach us Marxism-Leninism. They didn't really trust us because we weren't all communists. We had to go out and buy Marxist classics for ourselves. China was a very closed and strange society. The Chinese themselves were essentially racist. Crowds would form and stare at us if we appeared in the street.

By this time wasn't there a difficult situation over the leadership of Zanu?
While Ndabaningi Sithole was in detention for ten years in Salisbury, Herbert Chitepo led the party from its base in Zambia. But Chitepo was murdered in Lusaka in March 1975. The next day the Zambian government closed our camps and took everybody to a remote area. Zambia's president, Kenneth Kaunda, had decided that Zanu and Zanla were a hopeless lot and that it would be far better if we were united under Joshua Nkomo's control. Kaunda and Nkomo got on well and it was no secret that Kaunda wanted to see Nkomo win the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe so as to maximise his own influence there. We managed to foil his attempt to put us under Nkomo but it didn't endear us to Kaunda. He accused us of being "anti-unity" and of responsibility for Chitepo's death.

How did Kaunda try to get you to join up with Nkomo?
It was pretty ruthless. There were 1,200 Zanla people under arrest in that remote camp, including nearly 500 women, children and old people. There were only 300 or 400 real fighters among us and another 300 raw recruits. The Zambians said that we all had to join Zapu's military wing, Zipra, and they starved us all - even the women and children - of rations, soap and other necessities to try to force us to do so. In the end about a hundred people did join Zipra. But most of us wanted to consult Sithole on the issue and had to pretend to go on hunger strike before the Zambians allowed us to do so.

What had been happening with Sithole?
Robert Mugabe and his followers had staged a coup against Sithole while they were all in prison. Smith released Mugabe, who then led a Zanu delegation to meet with the leaders of the front line states - Agostino Neto, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel and Kenneth Kaunda. They were surprised and horrified to see Mugabe leading the delegation and asked how on earth he could stage a coup inside an enemy prison against the properly elected leader of the movement. They suspected the prison authorities had helped Mugabe. Indeed, Nyerere was so angry that he refused to accept Mugabe as leader and demanded that delegation return to Rhodesia and come back with Sithole. In the end this is what happened and Sithole, who had been released in December 1974, helped to negotiate the December 1975 unity accord with Zapu and two smaller movements. This was very much what the front-line leaders wanted. Two months later Sithole was rearrested. This was just one of a number of openings that Smith created for Mugabe. Looking back it is difficult not to believe that Smith wanted to help promote Mugabe as the leader of Zanu.

How did Mugabe emerge as a rival to Sithole?
Mugabe wanted to build a following among the refugees in Mozambique. At that time there were only 300 Zanla fighters in Mozambique but many more Rhodesian refugees. However, President Machel would not allow him into the country, so he sat for three months on the border. The border was always alive with Rhodesian agents and later we wondered whether Mugabe had been in touch with them then. He finally slipped into Mozambique disguised as a refugee, but Machel put him under house arrest far away from the refugee camps.

What was your attitude to all this?
Like most of the Zanla fighters I still considered Sithole our leader. When we got to know him, it was a disillusioning experience. We quickly discovered that Sithole was very keen to talk to Smith, whereas we wanted to fight him. Sithole believed that we were very close to an independence deal with Smith and everything he did was based on that. I will never forget the way he turned to us fighters and said, "I can certainly talk to Ian Smith but as for you, my children, I don't know what's going to become of you." When the Zambians shot and killed ten Zanu fighters, we expected Sithole to protest but he simply didn't want to know about it. He didn't even want to let us go to their funerals or to visit the wounded in hospital. We were beyond the pale. It made your blood run cold. Sithole knew that we were resentful and he formed an alliance with the Zambians against us. His idea was to arrest the fighters at one of the memorial services. But we realised what was going on and escaped into Tanzania, where we decided to depose Sithole and back Mugabe instead. With Sithole out and Chitepo dead he was the obvious person, but we didn't really know what he was like.

The front-line states continued to agitate for unity and so they sent both Zanla and Zipra commanders to Mozambique saying "You must unite and fight." We agreed with this and the result was that we united as the Zimbabwe People's Army (Zipa), under the leadership of Rex Nhongo. I was number two to Nhongo on the Zanla side and thus number three in Zipa as a whole. We sat down and worked out our war strategy and in January 1976 we resumed military operations together.
However Machel was worried about continuing trouble in the military camps and wanted Zanu leaders to balance the Zapu leaders. We suggested Mugabe or Josiah Tongogara. Machel didn't like or trust Mugabe. He was quite adamant about this and said we must find somebody else. But we weren't very keen on Tongogara and in the end Machel accepted him as leader.

What was Robert Mugabe like?
Gradually, of course, we realised that we had made a terrible mistake. I now greatly regret it, as do the other members of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform. He was arrogant, paranoid, secretive and only interested in power. And he didn't want unity at all since he was scared that Nkomo, as the senior African nationalist, would take over a united movement. He dissolved Zipa and abolished all the joint organisations between the liberation movements, which was very upsetting for those of us who had worked hard for unity. When Mugabe asked me to join his Zanu delegation to the Geneva negotiations on the country's future in 1976 I refused, saying that I only wanted to go under a Patriotic Front banner uniting the Zapu and Zanu forces.

How did Samora Machel react?
The irony was that Machel had finally become reconciled to the idea of Mugabe as Zanu leader. Just as Kaunda supported Nkomo as future president of Zimbabwe, Machel now backed Mugabe, who he thought would be his client in turn. When Mugabe came back from the Geneva negotiations having received international publicity, Machel decided it was time to really get behind him. Knowing that many Zanla fighters were extremely critical of him, Mugabe persuaded Machel to arrest us in order to head off a military rebellion. I was arrested along with some 600 fighters and the 50 top commanders. Some of the fighters were released but the commanders stayed in jail for three years.

What was your prison experience like?
It was the worst part of my whole life; even now it is dreadful to recall. We were packed like sardines into converted offices that were our cells. We were naked and slept on cement floors. There was nowhere to go to the toilet so we simply had to defecate and pass water onto the floor and eat our meals amid that filthy mess. The cells were only cleaned once a month. We were infested with lice and we were also starving. We had to go through winter without blankets and there was so little food that we often used to eat rice mixed with sand. Naturally we fell ill with fevers, malaria and so on. I have read about conditions on the slave ships and our conditions were virtually identical. One of the holocaust survivors wrote, "He who has not experienced it cannot believe it. He who has experienced it can't understand it," and that is exactly how I felt about conditions in that jail. The nightmare went on for six months and only stopped because Nyerere persuaded Machel to relax conditions. We were moved to a remote former Portuguese military camp, called Balama, where we spent two years and planted our own crops. We were finally released after a representative of British Labour Party took up our case with the foreign secretary Lord Carrington. Our release was part of the whole independence deal.

What happened to you after independence in 1980?
Mugabe did not want us and used his casting vote to stop us being re-integrated into Zanu. By this time there were 64 of us; 27 aligned ourselves with the Patriotic Front, while others rejoined Sithole and some followed Bishop Muzorewa. Luckily, joining the Patriotic Front gave us the protection of Joshua Nkomo, who was minister of home affairs. We really needed it: as soon as Mugabe was elected he arrested all 27 of us. We spent ten days in the cells, the last five of them on hunger strike. Nkomo got us out, but it was clear that Mugabe had marked us as enemies. With the president himself against us it proved virtually impossible to get work. In 1981 the man in charge of the president's personal security told me, "You're mad hanging around here. You're only looking for trouble and you will get it if you stay." I managed to get a scholarship to West Germany and went off with no intention of ever coming back.

Why did you come back?
I had to. I did an MSc in chemical biotechnology and was then offered a lectureship at the Technical University of Berlin. I was very keen to take it, particularly since I had a German girlfriend by that time, but Zimbabwean intelligence told the German government that I was a communist, so the job offer was withdrawn. After that I tried to settle in France, but after much shuttling to and fro, it became clear that neither country would have me and I would have to return.

When I came back in 1988 I found that people like myself were blacklisted for all jobs. As soon as anyone offered us a job the Central Intelligence Organisation would make sure the offer was withdrawn. In the end a friendly personnel officer arranged a deal whereby we were allowed back into the labour market if we agreed to have nothing to do with politics. Today I work as a quality control manager.

Despite all this aren't you are one of the men who put Robert Mugabe where he is?
Yes, I'm afraid so. I now greatly regret it, as do the other members of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform (ZLP). We have come together because we are so shocked at the present situation in Zimbabwe. We are the real war vets. The people who are now describing themselves as war vets and invading white farms are not really war vets at all. Often they are just thugs. We fought for freedom and democracy in this country and what they are doing is quite the opposite. We would like to see a united front with the farmers against what is happening now. After all, today's white farmers all want to be Zimbabweans and are contributing to the country. We plan to go to the farms and tell the so-called war vets that what they are doing is completely at variance with everything the liberation movement stood for. We can't afford to be neutral. What we say is "Don't sit on the fence, because the fence is electrified."

What do you feel about the way Mugabe's regime has turned out?
We knew what he was like even before independence and are in no way surprised by what has happened. For a long time we kept our opinion to ourselves but now others have come round to our point of view. The vast majority of people in the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform - its members range from company directors, to magistrates, to high-ups in the army and the police - are now sympathetic to the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe is only interested in power. It's not even true that he is a racist. He is just making quite cynical use of racism as a means of staying in power. The truth is that he has always wanted to be an English gentlemen, dresses like one, makes much of his love of cricket and so on. Indeed Samora Machel said to him in 1976, "If you want to fight the British, why do you always choose to go through London when you travel?" Machel was very suspicious of him.

Do you feel that Josiah Tongogara would have been a better leader?
No. He would have been at least as bad as Mugabe, probably worse. The only man that we now think would have made a really good president of Zimbabwe was Herbert Chitepo, who was really our Mandela, and just possibly Jason Moyo. Unhappily both of them are dead. Chitepo's death remains a mystery to this day. There are those who think that Mugabe had him killed, but they have no proof of that. We are inclined to feel that the Smith forces did it, though with inside help. Many people whom we knew perfectly well were Smith agents were later recruited into the upper ranks of Zanu-PF by Mugabe.

How did you know that?
In the camp in Tanzania we would question the new recruits and found there were always a considerable number acting as agents of Smith. We would gradually uncover them and then unravel their networks. Our policy was not to victimise them but to turn them into our people so that they could feed false information back to Smith. Some later attained very high positions. But their presence was always a risk - some must have carried on working for Smith. It's possible that Smith may have ordered the murder of Chitepo to help clear the way for Mugabe

Are you scared about coming out in such open opposition to Mugabe?
We have decided that it's high time to do so. We are not scared because we trained the heads of the air force, the army, the police and many others. We have supporters even within the intelligence services. No one dares to attack our credentials. We can expose Mugabe and ask people in power who are you, what did you do for liberation? No one has done more than the people in the ZLP to liberate this country. Now that other people recognise the truth about Robert Mugabe, which we have known for so long, it is time for us to tell our story at last. We will never regret our struggle for liberation. We made great sacrifices and now we want respect as the real war veterans. We do not want to see our name dragged through the mud by the criminals who are occupying farms.

Have you all joined the MDC?
No, we are sympathetic to it, but the answer does not lie in another almighty party. While we would like to see the MDC defeat Zanu-PF, we do not want it to become too powerful either. It will need a strong opposition, but we do not want that opposition to be Zanu-PF. Most of all we need the restoration of the rule of law and a multi- party system with a proper democratic Constitution. Donate

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Matthias Mainza Chona and Reuben Chitandika Kamanga were joint Chairmen of the Chitepo Commission looking into the death of Herbert Chitepo a Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) Freedom Fighter. Below is an article from the Standard newspaper on the report of the commission.


3. Herbert Witshire Chitepo was born on the 15th June, 1923, in a village in Inyanga District of Southern Rhodesia. He was educated at St David’s Mission School, Bonda, St Augustine’s School, Penhalonga and then at Adam’s College, Natal, Southern Africa, where he qualified as a teacher in 1945.

4. After teaching for a year, he resumed his studies to graduate with a BA degree from Fort Hare University College in 1949. He qualified as a Barrister-at-Law while in London as a research assistant at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was the first African in Southern Rhodesia to qualify as a Barrister. On returning to Rhodesia in 1954, he practised as a Lawyer and defended many African nationalists in court. In 1961, he served as legal adviser to Joshua Nkomo at the Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference in London. The settler regime did not detain him as he did not come out in the open as an official of the nationalist movement and the regime also feared that being the first lawyer, Chitepo was too internationally well-known to be locked up. However, this could not be ruled out.

5. In May, 1962, he was persuaded by ZAPU to go into voluntary exile to escape possible detention. He became Tanganyika’s first African Director of Public Prosecutions and performed his functions exceedingly well. When the Sithole/Nkomo split occurred in July, 1963, he sided with Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and became Chairman of ZANU from its foundation. He held this post until the 7th December, 1974, when the Lusaka Accord was signed.

6. In January, 1966, Chitepo resigned as Director of Public Prosecutions and moved to Zambia in order to concentrate on the armed struggle. He toured world capitals canvassing support for ZANU and for the enforcement of total economic sanctions against Rhodesia. With his friendly disposition, he was very effective and earned for ZANU international recognition and respect.

7. Rev. Sithole and others who were in detention within him prepared a comprehensive document giving powers to Chitepo to lead ZANU while Rev. Sithole was in detention and specifically authorising him to carry out the armed struggle. Accordingly, Chitepo organised and planned guerilla attacks and underground activities in Rhodesia from 1966 onwards. In 1972, he co- ordinated war operations with FRELIMO and opened up the North Eastern region of Zimbabwe as a new and more effective war front.

8. Chitepo is survived by his wife, Mrs Victoria Chitepo and six children—four daughters and two sons.


9. On the 31st of March 1975, His Excellency the President Dr Kenneth Kaunda, addressing the Nation on both radio and television, announced the decision of the Zambian Government to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to study the events and circumstances leading to Chitepo’s death.

10. In this Broadcast, the President among other things said:

‘As you know, Zambia recently witnessed one of the worst criminal acts perpetrated against the people of Zimbabwe and their struggle, and against Zambia’s boundless efforts in support of that liberation struggle. This was the brutal assassination of the late Herbert Chitepo, one of the most leading nationalists in Zimbabwe.’

11. The President further said:

‘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 and their imperialist paymasters. This is really asking imperialism and racism to continue corrupting the minds of freedom fighters and to deal a heavy blow on our struggle.

‘Can we stop the investigation? I say categorically, No. We are going ahead with full strength till we find the culprits and identify the real agent bent on disrupting the armed struggle.’

12. President Kaunda further stressed:

‘It is our national and international duty to seek these agents out, expose them and bring them to book. We have a duty to investigate the cause of Mr Chitepo’s death and we intend to carry out that investigation with the thoroughness of a toothcomb. We will leave no stone unturned.’

13. Announcing the formation of the Commission itself, His Excellency the President had this to say:

‘We have nothing to hide from Zimbabweans, the OAU and the World. I have thus on behalf of the Party, Government and people of Zambia decided to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to carry out the investigation. The Special Commission will consist of team selected from the UNIP Central Committee and Cabinet. I am also inviting some members of the OAU Liberation Committee and its Executive Secretary as well as representatives of Botswana, Zaire, Congo (Brazzaville), Malawi, Tanzania and FRELIMO, to be members of the Special Commission. Zambia Security Services will be at the disposal of the Commission in its investigation.

‘I want the Special Commission to thoroughly study the events leading up to Mr Chitepo’s death. To this end, I invite anyone, anywhere in Zambia, Zimbabwe and the rest of the world who has any evidence to help the Commission to come forward. I especially invite leaders in Zimbabwe and their compatriots in the world who feel very strongly about our actions to come to Zambia and give the Commission the facts. We will provide a full report to the OAU following the findings of the Commission.

‘As always, we in Zambia want to be completely honest about the recent events. We will be honest in the interest of the struggle we have vowed to support until victory is won in Zimbabwe.

‘At the same time, this inquiry will not interfere with the criminal proceedings through a court of law if the assassins are found. We view Mr Chitepo’s death with utmost gravity.

‘Finally, let me say that we understand the situation in Southern Africa very well. We know what we are doing. We know every step we are taking. The armed struggle in Zimbabwe has not ended, it will continue, it will be intensified unless majority rule is achieved. Smith must not be under any illusions whatever. 1975 is a year of decision.’

14. The full text of His Excellency’s address to the Nation is at Appendix 1.


15. The composition of the Commission was agreed between the Zambian Government and the Council of Ministers of the Ninth Extra-Ordinary Session of the Organisation of African Unity held in Dar-es-Salaam in early April, 1975. This took the form of geographical representation. On this basis, invitations were dispatched to the Heads of State of the countries which were chosen within each geographical region to send representatives to serve on the Commission. Apart from Zambia, Commissioners were invited from:

1. Botswana

2. The Congo

3. Ivory Coast

4. Libya

5. Malagasy

6. Malawi

7. Morocco

8. Mozambique

9. OAU (Liberation Committee)

10. Rwanda

11. Sierra Leone

12. Somalia

13. Tanzania

14. Zaire

16. The two Zambian Commissioners were Hon. R.C. Kamanga, MCC, Chairman of the Political, Constiutional, Legal and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Central Committee of UNIP who was also the Chairman of the Commission and Hon M Mainza Chona, SC, MP, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General. The Secretary of the Commission was Mr C.C Manyema. The following countries responded to the invitation to the July meeting of the Commission and sent the representatives listed under each of them respectively:


Hon. A. H. C. Sikunyana, MP, Member of the Central Committee of Botswana Democratic Party

Mr E. Legwaila, Senior State Counsel


His Excellency Ismail Seddik Ben Ismail, Ambassador


His Excellency H. J. Ratsimbazafy, Ambassador


Hon. A. E. Gadama MP, Minister without Portfolio


His Excellency Abdelaziz Jamai, Ambassador

OAU (Liberation Committee)

Lt Col, Mbita, Executive Secretary

Sierra Leone

Hon. Mr Justice S. M. F. Kutubu, Judge of the High Court


Mr S. Sufi, Charge d’Affaires


Ndugu Basheikh Mikidadi, member of the Central Committee of TANU

Ndugu J. S. Warioba, Attorney General


His Excellency Bande Larity Nyarende, Ambassador

Citoyen Malengela Sham-buyi, First Secretary

17. On the 1st and 2nd July, 1975, by Statutory Instrument Nos. 101 and 102 of 1975, we were appointed by His Excellency under the provisions of the Inquiries Act (Laws, Volume IV, Cap 181), with the following terms of reference:


1. Inquire into the events and circumstances leading to the death of the late Herbert Chitepo on the 18th of March, 1975

2. Establish the facts of and surrounding the said death.

3. Investigate and establish whether any racist or imperialist agents or counter-revolutionaries or saboteurs were directly responsible for the said death.

4. Investigate and establish the identity and the motive of the person or persons responsible for the said death.

5. 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 of any other country in Africa still under colonial or minority rule.

18. The full terms of the Commission are contained in Statutory Instrument No, 101 of 1975 and are at page vii.


19. In accordance with the Inquiries Act, on Tuesday, the 1st July, 1975, the members of the Commission present were sworn in by the Hon. Chief Justice of Zambia, Mr Annel Silungwe at the High Court Building, Lusaka. These included the Commissioners from Zambia, Botswana, Libya, Malagasy, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zaire. The Commissioners from Malawi and the OAU (Liberation Committee) were sworn in on Wednesday, the 2nd July, 1975, while the Commissioners from Somalia and from Mozambique were sworn in on Thursday, the 3rd July 1975, and on Tuesday, the 27th January, 1976, respectively.

20. On the evening of the 2nd July, 1975, His Excellency the President hosted a dinner in our honour. By coincidence, leaders of the ANC, including Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Joshua Nkomo and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, were in Lusaka at that time and were also invited to dinner.


21. In view of the Commission’s composition, the three official languages of the OAU namely: Arabic, English and French were used. At the July meeting, the pattern of language usage by countries was as follows:






OAU (Liberation Committee)...........English

Sierra Leone............English

Somalia................ .English




22. In its initial stages, the Commission was faced with the problem of inadequate interpretation and translation facilities owing to the non-arrival of interpreters and translators requested from OAU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. Alternative arrangements had to be made for interpreters and stenographers from Egypt.

23. During this initial period, the Commission’s work proceeded with the help of local interpreters and translators who were called upon at very short notice and who were unfamiliar with the simultaneous interpretation system. However, they worked hard and made it possible for the Commission to continue until a group of professional interpreters and stenographers finally arrived on the 22nd July, 1975. These did an extremely good job within a short time.


24. Regarding the hours of work, we decided that we would normally meet from 0900 hours to 1300 hours and from 1600 hours to 1900 hours. This schedule was not, however, strictly adhered to. Quite often we started our work at 1000 hours instead of 0900 hours, and started at 1500 hours instead of 1600 hours. As for the time of adjournment, our meetings sometimes went on until well after midnight. The Commission sat daily, except on Saturdays and Sundays. We sat on one Saturday only, the 5th July, 1975. However, this schedule did not apply to the meetings of any Committee appointed by the Commission. Quite often, Committees worked on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and during any period when the Commission was in recess.

Chitepo assassination saga deepens

Staff Writers

FORMER Rhodesian prime minister, Ian Smith, and associates of former Zanu chairman, Herbert Chitepo, have thrown their weight behind the Zambian government’s report on the assassination of Chitepo.

The report, currently being serialised by The Standard, last week sparked fresh debate on the whodunit of the Chitepo assassination, amid government denials that top Zanu PF officials had been involved as alleged by the report.

The report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, commissioned by the Zambian government in 1976, lists former Zanla commander, Josiah Tongogara, current home affairs deputy minister, Rugare Gumbo, who was then the secretary for information and publicity, Henry Hamadziripi, who was then secretary for finance, as well as the then secretary for public and social welfare, Kumbirai Kangai and secretary for administration, Mukudzei Mudzi as having been responsible for the Chitepo killing.

As government rushed to give credence to reports prepared by Rhodesian agents suggesting that they had themselves assassinated Chitepo, former Rhodesian leader, Ian Smith, in turn, moved to dismiss claims by the state media that his government had claimed responsibility, saying he believed the Zambian report.

“I do recall there was a report instigated by the Kaunda government and that seems to tie up with what I think happened. The only report I know about is the Zambian government one and that seems to fit in with what happened,” said Ian Smith in an interview.

James Chifungo, the Zanu PF youth chairman during the liberation struggle in Zambia, last week dismissed suggestions by the Zanu PF information and publicity secretary, Nathan Shamuy-arira, that Chitepo had been murdered by Rhodesian agents.

Chifungo told The Standard on Thursday that Shamuyarira was the “least qualified person” to comment on the death of Chitepo because he had quit Zanu to join a splinter group called Frolizi.

“Nathan has no authority to speak about the death of Chitepo because he left Zanu in 1971 to form his own party, Frolizi, after losing the chairmanship to Chitepo”

Dismissing The Standard’s story published two weeks ago, Shamuyarira said the report’s findings were incorrect and that Chitepo had been killed by the Central Intelligence Organisation officers of the Rhodesia regime.

Chifungo said Shamuy-arira had appeared in the Zambian press in 1971 saying he had quit Zanu to form a grouping of his own. “Some of us who were in the armed struggle are still waiting for him to renounce his membership of Frolizi,” added Chifungo.

Chifungo described the Zambian report as accurate in that it reflected the events which occurred in the liberation struggle when top Zanu leaders broke into factions based on tribal lines.

Chifungo who was the provincial youth chairman for the Copperbelt province between 1964 and 1975, boasts of recruiting to the liberation struggle, many guerrillas some of whom are now late such as William Ndangana, Ernest Kadungure, James Gwaku, Felix Santana Mupunga and Noel Mukono.

He claimed to have worked closely with the late Chitepo and some black businessmen in Zambia, to mobilise moral support and resources for the armed struggle.

An intelligence officer with Zipra, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals, agreed with the contents of the Zambian report on the assassination of Herbert Chitepo and exonerated Smith’s agents.

He said Zanu PF was capable of committing these kind of horrendous acts. “I saw how they brutally murdered John Mataure, Made Kurozva and 20 other people during the tribal clashes,” he said.

He denied claims that Rhodesian spies had a hand in Chitepo’s assassination saying tribal clashes within Zanu had created the atmosphere for the assassination.

“The bomb originated from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and passed through Rex Nhongo and Robson Manyika’s hands,” he explained.



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

Stardard 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.

EXCLUSIVE - The Standard will, from next week, serialise the Report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo which was commissioned by former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda. The report is the most authoritative account into events surrounding the cold-blooded murder of the former nationalist leader. Standard editor, Mark Chavunduka, said yesterday that not a single sentence of the entire report will be edited out.


Zimbabwe Standard, 15 July

Colleagues killed my husband – Chitepo

Victoria Chitepo, widow of the late national hero, Herbert Chitepo, has for the first time publicly acknowledged that her husband was killed by his associates in the liberation war. Chitepo was commenting on contents of The Story of my Life, a book written by the late vice-president, Joshua Nkomo. The book has never been readily available in Zimbabwe and was only briefly serialised in The Herald. In the book, Nkomo alleges that Chitepo was killed by his colleagues.

The serialisation of Nkomo’s book, highly critical of President Mugabe, in the state-owned newspapers was prematurely brought to an end two weeks ago. In an interview with The Standard on Thursday, Chitepo said she did not want to make a big issue out of her husband’s death but confirmed he was murdered by his liberation war comrades. Chitepo, who was the Zanu PF chairman, was killed by a car bomb in Zambia in 1975. Ever since, Zanu PF officials have consistently blamed Rhodesian security agents for Chitepo’s death.

A report produced by a commission of inquiry into Chitepo’s death has never been made public in Zimbabwe. The inquiry was instituted by the Zambian government at the height of the liberation war. Commenting on the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo’s statement that Chitepo was killed by his allies, the national hero’s widow said it was public knowledge that her husband’s murderers had gone scot free. In his controversial book, Nkomo said Chitepo was murdered by his colleagues in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla). Wrote Nkomo: "From Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia were . . . Herbert Chitepo, who became a brilliant lawyer - having been my friend, he later became my great adversary, until he was murdered by his own associates in Zambia in 1975."

His widow confirmed Nkomo’s version of events: "I don’t have anything new to add to this issue. What has been said by Nkomo is not new. It is public knowledge and I cannot add anything new. The people who killed my husband have never been held accountable for their action. So talking about it will not open a new chapter. In fact, your paper has done very well to highlight this issue and to question why the people who killed my husband are still free men."

It is widely believed that Chitepo was murdered in the course of a power struggle by close Zanu PF allies. Soon after his death, the Kenneth Kaunda-led Zambian government detained the Zanla leadership over Chitepo’s death after they had aroused suspicion by leaving Zambia soon after Chitepo’s burial. In an interview with The Standard in 1999, when visiting Nkomo’s grave, Kaunda said the actions of the Zanla leadership on the aftermath of Chitepo’s death had caused suspicion. He expressed surprise that the Zanla leadership had not bothered to investigate Chitepo’s death.

"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. Although Kaunda refused to name the Zanla leaders who had made the suspiciously early departure, he alluded to problems within Zanla forces which had led to "some sad developments".


Institute for war & peace reporting

Africa Reports

Mugabe Still Fears Chitepo’s Legacy
President remains anxious to counter claims that he benefitted from the death of Zimbabwe’s Nelson Mandela.

By Trevor Grundy in London (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 16, 17-Mar-05)

Thirty years ago on the morning of March 18, Herbert Chitepo - leader of the Rhodesian liberation movement ZANU - was assassinated when a bomb planted in his Volkswagen Beetle exploded outside his home in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

The murder of Chitepo - whose remains were found inside the car, which was blown onto the roof of his house by the force of the blast - happened during one of the darkest periods of Zimbabwean liberation politics, when a comparatively unknown ZANU militant, Robert Mugabe, was trying to topple the incumbent 51-year-old leader.

Following Chitepo’s death, there was extensive bloodletting between ZANU’s ethnic and ideological factions. Mugabe emerged as Chitepo’s successor, and he went on to become prime minister and then president of independent Zimbabwe – posts that Chitepo would perhaps have filled had he lived.

The question of who killed Chitepo has never faded away in Zimbabwe, and is whispered incessantly in the beer halls and village courtyards.

There has been no closure on the death of Zimbabwe’s lost leader, and while it is dangerous to ask about it, even today’s schoolchildren take the risk, as Dr Terence Ranger, an expert on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and a retired professor of race relations at Oxford University, told IWPR.

“Last time I spoke to secondary schoolchildren in Zimbabwe, the headmaster rather foolishly said that I could answer any questions about history,” he said. “A dozen hands shot up. They all wanted to know who killed Chitepo.”

The ordinary public, historians and opposition politicians would also like to know who was responsible for the murder of Chitepo, Rhodesia’s first black barrister who served for a while as the first African Director of Public Prosecutions in British-ruled Tanganyika.

Some claim that they know the answer.

David Martin, an Africa correspondent for the UK’s Observer, claimed in his book “The Chitepo Assassination” that the murder was arranged by Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith, Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and South African president John Vorster. They are said to have seen Chitepo and his militancy as an obstacle to their Machiavellian ruses and he therefore had to be removed.

Martin said a Scotsman was recruited by agents of Ian Smith in Salisbury, now Harare, to carry bomb parts into Zambia and blow Chitepo away. Martin said he had written the book to “rest the spirits that have remained disturbed for a decade”.

But Martin’s claim is dismissed by many others, including Chitepo’s widow, Victoria.

In July 2001, and after 16 years of silence, Victoria claimed that her husband’s murder was an internal ZANU job, and demanded unsuccessfully that his killers be brought to justice. Her plea followed statements by Kaunda that Chitepo’s ZANU opponents, not Rhodesian agents, were responsible for the killing.

Veteran nationalist James Chikerema, who with Chitepo was one of the founding members of ZAPU liberation movement before ZANU split away, has another theory about his death.

“ I knew Chitepo for years. He was murdered by [Josiah] Tongogara and the Karanga mafia,” he said.

Tongogara was the commander of ZANU’s guerrilla forces in exile at a time of dangerously high ethnic tensions within the movement, between Chitepo’s Manyika clan of the larger tribal Shona grouping, and Tongogara’s Karanga clan.

“I saw Tongogara soon after Chitepo had been killed,” said Chikerema. “We were at State House [in Lusaka] on that morning of March 18. I said to him, ‘You are a murderer. You will never get away with this.’ Then I reached for my gun but the Zambian police got hold of me and stopped me. There would have been a shoot out there and then.”

Asked how Tongogara reacted to this, Chikerema said, “He was frightened. He looked sheepish and guilty.”

However, until the day he died in a mysterious car crash on Boxing Day 1979, Tongogara - long seen as a charismatic alternative to Mugabe as leader of Zimbabwe - always denied involvement in the murder.

No autopsy results or photographs of Tongogara’s body were ever released, leading to further speculation . A CIA briefing two days later described Tongogara as a potential political rival to Mugabe because of his “ambition, popularity and decisive style”. On the same day, the US embassy in Zambia issued a statement saying, “Almost no one in Lusaka accepts Mugabe's assurance that Tongogara died accidentally. When [our] ambassador told the Soviet ambassador the news, the [latter] immediately charged 'inside job'.”

The stories and the theories about the assassination of Chitepo, regarded by many ZANU fighters as their Nelson Mandela, whirl around to this day and have the complexity of an Agatha Christie mystery.

While there are some who believe Mugabe himself had Chitepo killed, Chikerema doubts this. Nevertheless, the murder shaped contemporary Zimbabwe and allowed Mugabe to move from being a background player to leader. It is he, who by force of personality, has shaped Zimbabwe over the past 25 years and no one will ever know how the nation might have fared under President Herbert Chitepo.

Mugabe, anxious to eradicate all accusations that he benefitted from the death of Chitepo, has introduced a widely criticised “patriotic history” in all Zimbabwe’s schools, colleges and universities designed to prove that there was total ZANU unity under Mugabe’s inspired leadership during the 1972-79 struggle for freedom. Loyal “historians” have been hired to write a torrent of books and articles proving that divisions among black nationalists were always created by outsiders.

But Mugabe still fears Chitepo’s enduring legacy, just as he fears that of Tongogara. Indeed, Mark Chavunduka, editor of the independent Standard, was arrested and tortured in 2001 for writing that Mugabe was haunted by Tongogara’s ghost.

Throughout Mashonaland there is a legend that when Chitepo’s remains were brought from Lusaka and reburied at Heroes Acre, on the outskirts of Harare, a white bird flew at the face of Mugabe, who ducked and cried out in fear. And throughout Chitepo’s home province, Manicaland, in the Eastern Highlands, the people dismiss the official version that Smith’s white agents murdered their most famous son.

In the villages of Manicaland, songs are still being sung calling on Chitepo to rise from the grave and lead Zimbabwe.

The remains of the dead Chitepo and Tongogara today lie close to each other in Heroes Acre, the full stories of their mysterious deaths untold. And, ironically, Mugabe may join them there one day.

Author and broadcaster Trevor Grundy worked in Lusaka in 1975 for the Financial Times and the BBC and was the first reporter at the scene of the assassination of Herbert Chitepo on March 18, 1975.


Caliber: 7,62x51mm NATO
Weight: 11 - 13 kg on bipod (depending on version), ~21 kg on tripod
Length: 1260 mm
Barrel length: 545 mm
Feed: belt
Rate of fire: selectable, 650-750 and 950-1000 rounds per minute

The MAG (Mitrailleuse d'Appui General = General Purpose Machinegun), had been developed by the famous Belgian company FN Herstal in the 1950s, as a true universal machine gun, that could be used as a light MG on bipod, as a medium MG on tripod or as a vehicle-mounted and coaxial MG on helicopters, armored cars and tanks. The basic design of the MAG is no more than a time-proven Browning action, taken from the M1918 BAR automatic rifle, turned upside down and adopted for belt feed. The basic design used as much steel stampings and pressings as possible to save the labor and costs, and the final gun had the angular, but very business-like appearance. By no way a beauty, it is extremely reliable and proven design, that seen widespread service, being adopted by several tens of armies around the world, including Belgian, British, Australian, Canadian, USA and many other armies. It was fitted to various vehicles, helicopters, tanks etc. So far it is one of the most popular GPMG's in the world.

Technical description.
The FN MAG is a gas operated, belt fed, air cooled automatic weapon. It uses the long piston stroke gas system with the gas regulator, located below the barrel. The bolt is locked using a swinging shoulder that engages the cut in the floor of the receiver. The air-cooled barrel is quick-detachable, with the carrying handle attached to it to help handling of the hot barrel. The receiver is made from steel stampings.

The M240 is fed using the disintegrating steel belts of various lengths. The rate of fire can be selected between "low" (~650 rpm) and "high" (~950 rpm), depending on the tactical situation, and the gun can be fired in full auto only. The charging handle is located on the right side of the receiver.

The simple folding bipod is attached to the gas block, and there's a mounting points on the bottom of the receiver to fit into the various mountings, including infantry tripods. The open sights are fitted by standard, and some of the latest production MAG versions have Picatinny-style scope mounts on the top of the receiver. Standard guns are fitted with the pistol grip and trigger, and the wooden (early models) or plastic (present manufacture) butt, coaxial guns (like M240C) have the trigger replaced by the electric solenoid, and the pintle-mounted versions, like the M240D, have the spade grips instead of the pistol grip and the butt.



Caliber : 7,62mm NATO (7.62x51)
Action: Gas operated, tilting breechblock, select-fire or semi-auto only
Length: 1100 mm (990 / 736 mm for "Para" model)
Barrel length: 533 mm (431 mm for "Para" model)
Weight: 4.45 kg empty (3.77 kg empty for "Para" models)
Magazine capacity: 20 rounds (30 rounds for heavy barreled SAW versions)
Rate of fire: 650-700 rounds per minute

The FN FAL (Fusil Automatique Leger - Light Automatic Rifle) is one of the most famous and widespread military rifle designs of the XX century. Developed by the Belgian Fabrique Nationale company, it was used by some 70 or even more countries, and was manufactured in at least 10 countries. At the present time the service days of the most FAL rifles are gone, but it is still used in some parts of the world. The history of the FAL began circa 1946, when FN began to develop a new assault rifle, chambered for German 7.92x33mm Kurz intermediate cartridge. The design team was lead by Dieudonne Saive, who at the same time worked at the battle rifle, chambered for "old time" full-power rifle cartridges, which latter became the SAFN-49. It is not thus surprising that both rifles are mechanically quite similar. In the late 1940s Belgians joined the Britain and selected a British .280 (7x43mm) intermediate cartridge for further development. In 1950 both Belgian FAL prototype and British EM-2 bullpup assault rifles were tested by US Army. The FAL prototype greatly impressed the Americans, but the idea of the intermediate cartridge was at that moment incomprehensible for them, and USA insisted on adoption of their full-power T65 cartridge as a NATO standard in 1953-1954. Preparing for this adoption, FN redesigned their rifle for the newest T65 / 7.62x51mm NATO ammunition, and first 7.62mm FALs were ready in 1953. Belgium was not the the first country to adopt their own rifle in 1956. Probably the first one was a Canada, adopting their slightly modified version of FAL as C1 in 1955. Canadians set to produce C1 and heavy barreled C2 squad automatic rifles at their own Canadian Arsenal factory. Britain followed the suit and adopted the FAL in 1957 as an L1A1 SLR (Self-loading rifle), often issued with 4X SUIT optical scopes. Britain also produced their own rifles at the RSAF Enfield and BSA factories. Austria adopted the FAL in 1958 as a Stg.58 and manufactured their rifles at Steyr arms factory. Various versions of FAL were also adopted by the Brazil, Turkey, Australia, Israel, South Africa, West Germany and many other countries. The success of the FAL could be even greater if Belgians would sell the license to W.Germany, which really liked to produce the FAL as a G1 rifle, but Belgians rejected the request. Germany purchased the license for Spanish CETME rifle and as a result of this H&K G3 rifle became probably the most notable rival to FAL.

During the time, FAL was built in numerous versions, with different furniture, sights, barrel lengths etc. There are, however, four basic configurations of FAL rifle: FAL 50.00, or simply FAL, with fixed buttstock and standard barrel; FAL 50.63 or FAL "Para", with folding skeleton butt and short barrel; FAL 50.64 with folding skeleton butt of "Para" model and standard length barrel; and the FAL 50.41, also known as FAL Hbar or FALO - a heavy barreled model which was intended primary as a light support weapon. There are also two major patterns of FALs around the globe: "metric" and "inch" FALs. As the names implied, these were built in countries with metric or imperial (inch) measure systems. These patterns are slightly different in some dimensions, and magazines of metric and inch pattern sometimes could not be interchanged. Most "inch" pattern FALs were made in British Commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia) and have had folding cocking handles and were mostly limited to semi-automatic fire only (except for Hbar versions like C2). Most "metric" pattern rifles had non-folding cocking handles and may or may not have select-fire capability, but as with other light select-fire weapons chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO round, the controllability of the full auto fire is disappointing and shots spread in burst is extremely wide. But, regardless of this, the FAL is one of the best so known "battle rifles", reliable, comfortable and accurate. It is somewhat sensitive to fine sand and dust but otherwise is a great weapon.

The only countries still producing the FAL rifles until the present time are the Brazil and, most surprisingly, the USA. Brazil adopted the FAL under the name LAR and manufactured it at the IMBEL facilities. The USA produced a small amount of FALs as the T-48 at H&R factory in early 1950s for Army trials, but at the present time a number of private US Companies is manufacturing various versions of FAL rifles using either surplus parts kits or newly manufactured parts. Most of these rifles are limited to semi-auto only and are available for civilian users. Probably most notable US manufacturer of FAL modifications is the DS Arms company, which produced its rifles under the name of DSA-58.

The FN FAL is a gas operated, selective fire or semi-automatic only, magazine fed rifle. It uses short piston stroke gas system with gas piston located above the barrel and having its own return spring. After the shot is fired, the gas piston makes a quick tap to the bolt carrier and then returns back, and the rest of the reloading cycle is commenced by the inertia of bolt group. The gas system is fitted with gas regulator so it could be easily adjusted for various environment conditions, or cut off completely so rifle grenades could be safely launched from the barrel. The locking system uses bolt carrier with separate bolt that locks the barrel by tipping its rear part into the recess in the receiver floor. The receivers initially were machined from the forged steel blocks, and in 1973 FN began to manufacture investment cast receivers to decrease production costs. Many manufactures, however, stuck to the machined receivers. The trigger housing with pistol grip is hinged to the receiver behind the magazine well and could be swung down to open action for maintenance and disassembly. The recoil spring is housed in the butt of the rifle in fixed butt configurations or in the receiver cover in folding butt configurations, so the folding butt versions require a slightly different bolt carrier, receiver cover and a recoils spring. The cocking handle is located at the left side of the receiver and does not move when gun is fired. It could be folding or non-folding, depending on the country of origin. The safety - fire selector switch is located at the trigger housing, above the triggerguard. It can have two (on semi-automatic) or three (on select-fire rifles) positions. The firing mechanism is hammer fired and use single sear for both semi-automatic or full automatic fire. Barrel is equipped with long flash hider which also serves as a rifle grenade launcher. Design of flash hider may differs slightly from country to country. The furniture of the FAL also can differ - it could be made from wood, plastic of various colors or metal (folding buttstocks, metallic handguards on some models). Some models, such as Austrian Stg.58 or Brazilian LAR were fitted with light bipods as a standard. Almost all heavy barrel versions also were fitted with bipods of various design. Sights usually are of hooded post front and adjustable diopter rear types, but can differ in details and markings. Almost all FAL rifles are equipped with sling swivels and most of rifles are fitted with bayonet lugs.


Caliber 7,62x39 mm
Weigth 7,4 kg empty, on integral bipod
Length 1037 mm
Length of barrel 520 mm
Feeding belt 100 rounds in drum-like box
Rate of fire 650 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity 735 m/s

The RPD (Ruchnoy Pulemet Degtyarova - Degtyarov Light MG) was one of the first weapons designed to fire a new, intermediate cartridge 7.62x39mm. It was developed circa 1944 and was a standard squad automatic weapon of Soviet army since early 1950s and until 1960s, when it was generally replaced by the RPK light mg, which, in many opinions, was not a good decision. However, some RPD still can be encountered in Rsussian army reserve stocks, and thsese MGs were also widely exported to many pro-Soviet countries and regimes around the world. It also was manufactured in other countries, such as China, where it was known as Type 56 LMG.

The RPD can be described as a further development of the earlier Degtyarov machine guns, tracing its ancestry to DP-1927 LMG. RPD is a gas operated, full auto only weapon. Gas drive uses a long stroke piston and a gas regulator, located under the barrel. It uses a simple and robust bolt locking system seen in other Degtyarov guns, which uses two locking flaps, that are pushed out of the bolt body into recesses in the receiver walls to lock the bolt. Flaps are pushed out by the bolt carrier to lock and are withdrawn from recesses to unlock the bolt by specially shaped cams on the carrier. RPD uses belt feed. A detachable round box (drum) can be clipped under the receiver. This box can hold a 100-rounds non-desintegrating metallic belt, and loose belt also can be used. Each belt drum has its own folding carrying handle, but usually belt drums were carried in special pouches. Unlike earlier Degtyarov guns, the return spring is located inside the butt. Heavy barrel cannot be replaced quickly, but RPD still can provide a significant firepower at the ranges up to 800 meters. Rear sights are ajustable for range and drift, folding integral bipod is located under the barrel. All RPDs were issued with carrying slings and could be fired from the hip, using the sling to hang the gun on the shoulder.


Technical description for the AKM assault rifle:
The AKM is a gas operated, selective fire assault rifle.

The gas operated action has a massive bolt carrier with a permanently attached long stroke gas piston. The gas chamber is located above the barrel. The bolt carrier rides on the two rails, formed on the receiver walls, with the significant clearances between the moving and stationary parts, which allows the gun to operate even when its interior is severely fouled with sand or mud. The rotating bolt has two massive lugs that lock into the receiver. Bolt is so designed that on the unlocking rotation it also makes a primary extraction movement to the fired case. This results in very positive and reliable extraction even with dirty chamber and cases. The rotation of the bolt is ensured by the curved cam track, machined in the bolt carrier, and by the appropriate stud on the bolt itself. The return spring and a spring guide are located behind the gas piston and are partially hidden in its hollow rear part when bolt is in battery. The return spring base also serves as a receiver cover lock. The cocking handle is permanently attached to the bolt carrier (in fact, it forms a single machined steel unit with carrier), and does reciprocate when gun is fired.

The receiver of the AKM is made from the stamped sheet steel, with machined steel inserts riveted into the place where required. Earliest AK-47 receivers were also made from the stamped and machined parts, riveted together, but this soon proved to be unsatisfactory, and most of the AK (made between 1951 and 1959) rifles were made with completely machined receivers. The receiver cover is a stamped sheet metal part, with stamped strengthening ribs found on the AKM covers.

The relatively simple trigger/hammer mechanism is loosely based on the 1900's period Browning deigns (much like the most other modern assault rifles), and features a hammer with two sears - one main, mounted on the trigger extension, and one for the semi-automatic fire, that intercepts the hammer in the cocking position after the shot is fired and until the trigger is released. Additional auto sear is used to release the hammer in full auto mode. The AKM trigger unit also featured a hammer release delay device, which is served to delay the hammer release in the full auto fire by few microseconds. This does not affects the cyclic rate of fire, but allows the bolt group to settle in the forwardmost position after returning into the battery. The combined safety - fire selector switch of distinctive shape is located on the right side of the receiver. In the "Safe" position (topmost) it locks the bolt group and the trigger, and also served as a dust cover. The middle position is for automatic fire, and the bottom position is for single shots. The safety / fire selector switch is considered by many as the main drawback of the whole AK design, which is not cured in the most of derivatives until now. It is slow, uncomfortable and sometimes stiff to operate (especially when wearing gloves or mittens), and, when actuated, produces a loud and distinctive click. There's no bolt stop device, and the bolt always goes forward when the last shot from the magazine is fired.

AKM is fed from the 30 rounds, stamped steel magazines of heavy, but robust design. Early AK magazines were of slab-sided design, but the more common AKM magazines featured additional stamped ribs on the sides. Positive magazine catch is located just ahead of the trigger guard and solidly locks the magazine into the place. Insertion and the removal of the magazine requires slight rotation of the magazine around its front top corner, that has a solid locking lug. If available and required, a 40 round box magazines of similar design, or the 75 rounds drums (both from the RPK light machine gun) can be used. Late in production plastic magazines of the distinctive reddish color were introduced.

AKM rifles were issued with wooden stocks and pistol handles. Late production AKM rifles had a plastic pistol grip instead of wooden one. The wooden buttstock has a steel buttplate with mousetrap cover, that covers the accessory container in the butt. The AK buttstock are more swept-down than the AKM ones. The folding stock version had been developed for the airborne troops and its had an underfolding steel shoulder stock. These modifications of the AK and AKM were designated the AKS and AKMS, respectively. AK were issued with the detachable knife-bayonets, and the AKM introduced a new pattern of the shorter, multipurpose knife-bayonet, which can be used in conjunction with its sheath to form a wire-cutter. All AK and AKM rifles were issued with the canvas carrying slings.

The sights of the AKM consist of the hooded front post and the U-notch open rear. Sights are graduated from 100 to 1000 (800 on AK) meters, with an additional "fixed" battle setting that can be used for all ranges up to 300 meters.

AKM rifles also can be fitted with the 40mm GP-25 grenade launchers, that are mounted under the forend and the barrel. Grenade launchers had its own sights on the left side of the unit.


The Role of Airpower in the
Rhodesian Bush War, 1965-1980
Lt Col Stuart Pettis

Between 1965 and 1980, the vastly outnumbered military forces of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, fought a counterinsurgency (COIN) against rebel forces infiltrating the country on three sides. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the Rhodesians developed many innovative and unique COIN tactics, at both the operational and tactical levels. Many of these tactics involved their robust air force which included close air support, air mobility, and command and control (C2) aircraft. Today the United States finds itself fighting a COIN campaign with a small ground force and is incorporating very advanced air forces from several nations into this fight. The Rhodesians were able to develop numerous innovations which are applicable to today’s conflict.

The country of Rhodesia is approximately the size of Montana. It is bordered by Botswana and the Kalahari Desert to the West, Zambia and the Zambezi River to the North and a band of low mountains which forms the border with Mozambique to the East. It shares a border with South Africa to the South. The country’s relatively high altitude gives it an overall pleasant, Mediterranean-like climate.

The modern era of Zimbabwe’s history begins in 1890 when Cecil John Rhodes, a ruthless and cunning mining executive, negotiated rights from the tribal king to bring miners into the area. In 1893, white settlers intervened in a dispute between two tribes, the Shona and Ndebele, using it to seize the best grazing and agricultural areas from the Ndebele. Displaced Shona and Ndebele were relegated to “tribal trust areas,” akin to Native American Reservations in the United States. The new country was named Southern Rhodesia and in 1923 became a self-governing British colony.

Despite Rhodesia’s filial ties with her mother country, following World War II the white rulers of the country were increasingly at odds with Britain over expanding suffrage to include the majority native-African population in the political process. At the time, approximately 80,000 white Rhodesians held all real power and the 2.5 million native-Africans held almost none. As a result of this, on 11 November 1965, Rhodesia issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or “UDI.”

The UDI made Rhodesia a pariah and the subject of United Nations trade sanctions which were enforced by Great Britain and others. The sanctions would limit the import of war material, forcing the Rhodesians to become exceptionally self-sufficient. With majority participation in government now unlikely, various insurgent groups began a military effort to meet their objectives. This was the start of what Rhodesians called “The Bush War” and Zimbabweans call the Second Chimurenga or Liberation Struggle.1

The Opposing Forces
Several types of forces were arrayed against each other during the war. On the Rhodesian side were small but capable military and police forces. Due to the small white population, these forces were well integrated and used a national combined operations center and five regional joint operations centers which focused efforts of the Army, Air Force, and police. The Army consisted of several units which had legacies going back to the First World War including the Rhodesian African Rifles, the Rhodesian Light Infantry, and armored car, artillery, and horse-borne scout units. They also had two elite units, the Selous Scouts and the Rhodesian Special Air Service (SAS). The Selous Scouts were an elite unit of trackers who specialized in operating in small units to hunt down and kill guerillas. This feared unit also contained a large number of former guerillas who had changed sides.2 The Rhodesian SAS began as C Squadron of the British SAS. It specialized in reconnaissance and clandestine operations, especially across borders in supposedly neutral border nations.3 The police, formally known as the British South African Police, were a paramilitary organization with a large reserve which combined both policing and internal security functions. It is important to note that all but a few of these units included both white and native-African members.4 In fact, the term “native African” is deceptive since many of Rhodesia’s white inhabitants were from families that had lived in Africa for generations.

As a former part of the British Commonwealth, the Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF) of 1965 was robust by African standards, second only to South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa. The RhAF consisted of 71 aircraft, including 12 Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers, 17 Canberra light bombers, 14 Vampire bombers, eight C-47 Dakota transports, 12 Provost T-52 trainers, and eight Alouette III helicopters. They also had a reserve of civilian aircraft (Cessnas) which were used for reconnaissance. Despite international sanctions which severely limited the availability of spare parts and new aircraft, by 1980 the RhAF had 132 aircraft, most of the additional aircraft being helicopters.5 The RhAF was composed of approximately 1,300 personnel trained in the British manner, which had all members of the crew, operational as well as support, performing very sophisticated maintenance. The personnel were highly motivated and by 1978, the aircraft still had an 85% serviceability rate, despite shortages.6

Despite having a common goal and enemy, insurgent forces were divided into two factions which roughly corresponded with the tribal groupings within the country. The factions were the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People’s Liberation Army (ZIRPA). ZANLA was a Shona-based organization ultimately led by Robert Mugabe. It initially operated out of Zambia but shifted its focus to Mozambique after that country won its independence from Portugal in 1975. ZANLA had Chinese support and conducted its operations as a classic Maoist people’s struggle. Its forces consisted of small bands which infiltrated into safe areas in Rhodesia from which it conducted terrorist and insurgent attacks. ZIRPA, which operated from Zambia, was a Ndebele-based organization led by Joshua Nkomo. With advisors from the Soviet Union, ZIRPA built up a large motorized conventional force which it coupled with marginally effective guerillas operating within Rhodesia. ZIRPA’s war-time strategy was to allow the Rhodesians and ZANLA to fight each other to a standstill before committing its motorized forces to achieve its victory.7

Overview of the War
The Bush War can be divided into two distinct phases. The first phase, which took place between 1964 and 1972, consisted of amateurish incursions by insurgent forces infiltrating from Zambia. The insurgent forces, although operating from the same host country, were divided into the two factions as described above. They also lacked adequate and even standardized training. For example, in one ZANLA platoon three men had been trained in Cuba, two in Algeria, another in Zambia, and their commander in Russia.8

Tellingly, the first “battle” of the war, the “Battle of Sinoia,” was a police action in April 1966 against a group of insurgents who were attempting to conduct terrorist attacks against white farmers and incite the majority population to join the insurgency. However, Rhodesian security forces detected the group and the “battle” was in fact simply the killing of seven insurgents with no casualties for the Rhodesians. Although not a significant battle, the anniversary of the event is celebrated today as “Chimurenga Day.” “Chimurenga” is the Shona word for struggle.9

Strategically, the defining feature of this first phase of the war was that Rhodesia only faced infiltration from one front, the border with Zambia, and had sympathetic regimes to their south with South Africa and to the east with Portuguese-controlled Mozambique. This allowed the Rhodesians to focus their limited manpower exclusively in one area. Also, because the various insurgent groups allied themselves with South Africa’s African National Congress, the apartheid-era South African government covertly assisted the Rhodesians with manpower, logistical support, and military equipment.10

Insurgent objectives in this phase of the war were fairly modest - to attack white-owned farms and to cut the oil and power line link to Mozambique.11 The guerrillas made little effort to co-opt the local populace, which would have given them sanctuary.12 The insurgents also faced a natural barrier, the Zambezi River, as well as flat, open terrain which enabled Rhodesian Security Forces to detect infiltrators. This forced the insurgents to break into small groups to avoid detection and weakened them militarily.13

Even with their small numbers, the Rhodesians were the clear-cut winners of the first phase of the war. By the late 1960s, they had hunted down and eliminated insurgent forces within the country, effectively sealing the border with Zambia. They also felt confident enough to allow the release of leaders jailed early in the conflict, including Robert Mugabe.14 By the end of this phase, the insurgents had retreated back to their sanctuaries, were licking their wounds, and started retraining for a new phase of the conflict.

The Rhodesian Government’s euphoria was short-lived, however. The second phase of the war, running between 1972 and 1979, saw a complete reversal. Unfortunately, the Rhodesians’ earlier success caused them to overlook the insurgents’ growing menace. The rebel groups spent 1969 in intense training with Soviet, Cuban, and Chinese advisors.15 The Chinese advisors to the ZANLA would be of particular importance since they advocated a Maoist “People’s War” which would lead ZANLA to establish extensive strongholds in the countryside. The Soviet advisors to ZIRPA would help create an extremely formidable conventional threat, but it would ultimately prove ineffective.

A second event helped change the nature or the war. ZANLA’s undisciplined conduct led to expulsion from Zambia, but ZANLA ultimately found a new sanctuary in Mozambique.16 Although nominally under Portuguese control, vast areas of Mozambique’s territory were under the control of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), Mozambique’s indigenous insurgent group. With common objectives, both FRELIMO and ZANLA cooperated and created large bases in the border areas with Rhodesia. Coupled with the existing ZIRPA infiltration routes from Zambia, this added an additional 1,231 kilometers of border for the Rhodesian Security Forces to cover. Once FRELIMO won their war in 1975, this support for ZANLA became overt.17

Beginning in 1971, Rhodesia had to commit all of its security forces to battling the insurgents. The tactics of the rebel groups continued to be small hit-and-run raids, but now with much larger formations of up to 100 insurgents. Their targets remained isolated farms and infrastructure with farm workers often bearing the brunt of their attacks. However, they also conducted reprehensible terrorist attacks such as the shooting down of civilian airliners with SA-7 surface-to-air missiles and the subsequent slaughter of crash survivors in 1979.18

Adding to Rhodesia’s woes, South African forces were withdrawn in the face of international criticism and Botswana was added as an insurgent sanctuary. Facing attacks from three fronts forced Rhodesia to cede control of the Northeastern Tribal Trust lands as well as most rural areas to the insurgents. As in Vietnam, they controlled the day but the insurgents controlled the night. Despite these limitations, the Rhodesians fought an exceptionally innovative campaign in an attempt to limit the number of insurgents within Rhodesia. The tactics they employed included using groups of former insurgents emulating insurgent groups to draw out real insurgents.19 They also used very advanced air-mobile operations known as “Fire Force” missions to rapidly engage insurgents with their limited available forces. Finally, they flagrantly ignored international borders to engage insurgent base camps in neighboring countries. While militarily sound, these attacks were countered in the international media by the insurgents, who characterized them as attacks on refugee camps.20

Although winning battles, by 1979 the Rhodesians were being swamped by insurgents crossing from three different countries. As early as 1976 the Rhodesian government realized they needed some form of majority rule. Despite high kill ratios, the continued effect of extended military call ups and sanctions had their effect. In 1979, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a moderate African leader, was elected Prime Minister of the country, now referred to as “Zimbabwe Rhodesia.” The new constitution allowed for greater participation in elections but was far short of what ZANLA and ZIRPA wanted. Therefore, the war continued. In response, the Rhodesian SAS conducted a spectacular campaign against Zambia’s infrastructure, cutting all trade routes and crippling their economy. With Mozambique knowing it was next, both countries urged ZANLA and ZIRPA to sign an accord, which they did on December 20, 1979. The next year, Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister after Zimbabwe’s first election with universal suffrage.21

The Role of Airpower in the Conflict
Airpower played a central role throughout the war. Strategically, covert airlift was used to violate sanctions and bring much-needed hard currency and military supplies to the country. In addition, the RhAF played a key role in the collection of intelligence, using Canberras supplemented with civilian Cessnas for photo reconnaissance and one of their venerable C-47 Dakotas, nicknamed “Warthog,” as an electronic intelligence collector. This aircraft collected and analyzed electronic communications as well as missile and surveillance radar data. Given the remoteness and the lack of friendly forces in areas where insurgents established bases, the strategic importance of these intelligence platforms cannot be understated.22 However, the RhAF had its greatest impact at the operational and tactical levels.

Operationally, the RhAF used airpower to overcome the Rhodesian Security Forces’ lack of manpower. With a total of 42,800 security forces (including reserves) to cover 409,542 square kilometers of territory, the RhAF used airpower to rapidly bring combat power to bear on insurgents. It provided vitally needed reinforcements and close air support for the small formations of soldiers operating in the bush. Airpower was also often employed to provide needed killing power or to maneuver insurgents into infantry-based kill zones. Finally, with limited long-haul communications, airpower provided high-level command and control, especially during cross-border operations.

The Rhodesians used air mobility primarily for Fire Force operations. The geography of Rhodesia includes rock formations known as “kopjes,” isolated steep-sided prominences, similar to the mesas of the American Southwest. Many of these kopjes had vegetation and made outstanding observation posts. When one of these posts located a target, a three-helicopter force consisting of two “G-Car” troop helicopters would deploy two “sticks” of four soldiers each onto the target. Later a “K-Car” or “killer” attack helicopter was added to the formation.23 Until 1976, the G-Cars were armed with a machine gun operated by their technician. After 1976, the single machine gun was replaced by twin machine guns. The K-Cars were armed with a 20 millimeter cannon.24

While eight soldiers seems small, early in the conflict when insurgent formations were small, it was more than adequate. At other times, when facing a larger formation of insurgents, a mortar team would be deployed via helicopter to attack the insurgents. Operating from the RhAF’s many forward airfields, these forces were able to rapidly respond to contacts.25 To extend the range of their helicopters, forward refueling points were established using a convoy of tankers drive to within 10 minutes of the target area. If this wasn’t possible, C-47s would air drop fuel drums along the helicopters’ flight path.26

With the success of these operations, paratroop drops and fixed-wing close air support were added to the mix. In the paratroop drops, the sticks of troops from helicopters would establish blocking positions to stop the insurgents from escaping. Paratroopers would then deploy from C-47s, the same aircraft used in the World War II Normandy invasion, to flush insurgents into open area killing zones.27

Fixed-wing aircraft were also often used to pin down insurgents or to drive them into blocking positions. An example of this type of operation took place in April 1979. After Rhodesian intelligence identified a large ZANLA logistics base across the border in Mozambique, the military planned an operation to destroy the base and accumulated supplies, as well as to capture several members of the ZANLA hierarchy. The RhAF started the attack with air strikes by Hunter aircraft dropping traditional bombs and strafing, accompanied by Canberras dropping cluster bombs. The air strikes served as cover for the insertion of troops by helicopter on the outskirts of the camp. As dazed ZANLA insurgents took stock after the air strikes, they were stunned to see a line of Rhodesian troops sweeping through their camp.28

In addition to direct insertions, the RhAF used C-47s to deliver troops to areas inaccessible by their helicopters, especially during cross-border strikes. The Rhodesians were particularly fond of airdrops and consequently the entire SAS and approximately half of the rest of their forces trained as paratroopers.29 Aircraft were also used to extract isolated sticks of troops in emergency situations. Troops operating outside of Rhodesia wore special harnesses which they could quickly attach to trapeze bars lowered from helicopters to rapidly hook up and depart under fire.30 Airdrops were also used to resupply troops operating away from supply areas.

The RhAF also used airpower in more traditional roles. When patrols encountered formations larger than they could handle, they would call in close air support to deliver needed killing power. For example, in November 1977, an SAS patrol operating in Mozambique set up a mine-triggered ambush along a known ZANLA and FRELIMO supply route. However, when the supply convoy arrived, it consisted of over 400 troops supported by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), a far too formidable target for either the fifteen men in the SAS patrol or helicopters. Fortunately for the SAS, the ZANLA stayed in place after the lead vehicle in the convoy struck a mine, giving the RhAF time to bring in Hunter aircraft and let the SAS stay hidden.31

Similar to this were the “pseudo-gang” operations of the Selous Scouts. As former guerillas themselves, the Selous Scouts would emulate legitimate guerilla groups. Originally these missions were to gather intelligence. However, they would also identify targets for Fire Force missions or air strikes.32

Air strikes were also used in classic interdiction roles to destroy known fixed targets, often in conjunction with ground forces who swept through camps to capture or kill survivors and to gather intelligence and weapons. For example, in November 1976, the Rhodesians planned a large attack against a ZANLA camp complex housing over 8,000 inhabitants near Chimoio, Mozambique. The plan called for paratroopers from the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) and SAS to take up blocking positions on two sides while 40 helicopters placed RLI troops on a third side. The fourth side would be covered by K-Car attack helicopters, completely boxing in the insurgents. Close air support was used to cover the air assault, and these strikes would also drive the insurgents into the blocking positions around their camp. The air strikes were in turn covered by a civilian DC-8 airliner which flew over the camp to condition the insurgents to the sound of aircraft and keep them from scattering when they heard the RhAF aircraft.33

Initial air strikes were planned to coincide with the morning parade at 0800. As planned, the insurgents fled to trenches when the civilian DC-8 flew overhead and had just returned to their formations when the Hunters struck. A total of eight Hunters, six Vampires, and three Canberras conducted repeated strikes over the course of the day. As the initial air strikes were ongoing, the paratroop drops took place, allowing the fighter-bombers to suppress AAA fire. Also as expected, insurgents fled from the camp and into the killing zones of the waiting Rhodesian forces. The operation, code-named Dingo, was a complete success with over 2,000 enemy killed. The camp was destroyed along with vast amounts of supplies and weapons. Rhodesian losses were one airman, who was killed as a result of crash landing his Vampire in Rhodesia, and one soldier.34 However, this was a temporary success, since the camp was soon rebuilt requiring a similar but less successful attack in 1979.35

The Rhodesians also developed several innovative tactical uses for airpower. One example was the use of long-range dog handling. Early in the war when security forces were often tracking one or two guerillas, tracking dogs were used to hunt them down. To increase their range and mobility, security forces outfitted tracking dogs with harnesses carrying two-way radios and an orange panel. The dog’s handler would then watch the dog from a helicopter which also held a team of soldiers. By listening to the dog’s breathing and heartbeats, the handler could follow the hunt, giving commands by radio as needed. Once the dog had cornered its quarry, the soldiers on board the helicopter would be employed to deal with the insurgents. This tactic was successful early in the war before insurgent bands became larger.36

The RhAF also used modified C-47s as “Command Daks,” airborne command posts, similar to the EC-130 Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC). While helicopters were used for command and control throughout the conflict, their limited dwell time and range required the RhAF to retrofit a C-47 with additional communications and other command systems. The Rhodesian innovation with these aircraft wasn’t in the concept, but in the employment. Unlike the ABCCC, which was a forward extension of the Air Operations Center with a lieutenant colonel as the senior passenger, the Rhodesian Commander of Combined Operations (analogous to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and the RhAF Director of Operations (analogous to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force) were often the passengers on Command Daks. While it put two irreplaceable leaders in harm’s way, it also gave them unprecedented ability to control operations. Operating Command Daks with these passengers became standard practice, especially during cross-border operations, given the limited range of land-based communications.37

A final tactical innovation was in the use of indigenously-built weapons systems. Given international sanctions, the Rhodesian military was forced to create whole classes of weapons themselves, all of which were built to kill as many insurgents as possible. One of these weapons was the “alpha bomb,” a completely spherical cluster munition. Upon impact, it compressed and bounced, creating an airburst effect. Canberra bombers carried up to 300 alpha bombs in hoppers allowing them to saturate areas. Another innovation was the frangible tank, nicknamed the “frantan,” an elongated (with fins), napalm-delivery system built from plastic resin. The RhAF believed this design gave the weapon a better flight profile than normal tanks and the plastic construction ensured that it shattered on impact, dispersing its payload. Another innovative weapon was the “golf bomb,” a small munition designed for small aircraft such as Lynx helicopters. It was a cylinder filled with nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel for explosive.38

COIN Lessons From the Conflict
The extreme lack of manpower and military resources forced the Rhodesians to optimize how they employed their resources at the operational and tactical levels. They also had fifteen years of confronting two very different foes during which to refine their tactics. Although this conflict took place over twenty-five years ago, we can still draw lessons from it.

The best example of innovation was the establishment of unified commands, which fused police, ground, and air commanders at local levels. While a unified command is common in COIN operations it is unusual for unified commands to exist below the operational level. For example, currently in Iraq, while Airmen are assigned to multi-national divisions, they fill specific roles in intelligence and close air support. The first place where a true joint command exists is at Multi-National Forces-Iraq. However, just as in Rhodesia, local conditions create vastly different combat environments throughout the country. For example, in Iraq in 2007, conditions in Al Anbar Province were vastly different, focused more on reconciliation, than those prevailing in other parts of the country. By creating joint commands at local levels, the Rhodesians were able to adapt their efforts to their particular adversary in their region.

Authors James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson in their book Airpower in Small Wars, identified the need for joint operations in COIN campaigns. As they stated, “We cannot emphasize enough that successful counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations are joint operations.”39 Corum and Johnson expand their model of joint operations to include police forces and civilian intelligence services as well as military and civilian civic action teams; however, they do not discuss at which level this integration should take place, probably to allow for adaptation to the specific conditions of the conflict.40

Army and Marine Corps COIN doctrine echoes the need for planning at low levels, stating, “COIN planning is often fluid and develops along short planning and execution timelines, necessitating informal and formal coordination and integration.”41 The Air Force’s irregular warfare doctrine, while acknowledging the need for integration at low levels, diverges from this idea by arguing, “IW [irregular warfare] requires a planning structure that is equally focused at the local level and attuned to the dynamic environment. Airmen appropriately positioned at the lower levels with respective input and reachback to the AOC [Air Operations Center] may allow more effective use of airpower at the tactical level freeing other assets to conduct other operational level operations.”42 Air Force doctrine assumes that a small body of planners at local levels, who are, in practice, close air support and intelligence specialists, can fully integrate airpower into COIN planning with reachback to the AOC. The Rhodesian experience does not reflect this and reinforces the need for joint planning at low levels in COIN campaigns. Their success in rapidly responding to local events is a direct result of this integration.

The second innovation worthy of praise was in the use of airpower as the dominant combat force for engagements where the insurgents vastly outnumbered Rhodesian forces. These engagements ranged from the small SAS patrols on the tops of kopjes to the large cross-border operations in Mozambique. In these scenarios, smaller Rhodesian forces were able to call in airpower on insurgent patrols to destroy larger forces while ground units provided blocking positions, keeping the insurgents in the killing zone and preserving the Rhodesian’s limited manpower.

On the surface these operations resembled the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan where tactical air control parties operating with Special Forces teams called in air strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. However, these operations were used in conjunction with irregular forces to take territory.43 The Rhodesians used these operations in an economy of force mission to disrupt the insurgents in areas which they didn’t intend to retake. In addition, these operations enabled the Rhodesians to provide combat presence over a larger ground area and provided extremely lethal killing power, which made up for the limited ground combat power. These concepts can be applied to ongoing operations in sparsely populated areas to disrupt insurgent lines of communications and sanctuaries.

While not an innovation, air mobility once again proved its value in allowing the Rhodesians to rapidly move their small ground forces around the country. Coupled with innovations such as fuel moved forward by either land convoys or airdrops, this enabled the Rhodesians to cover large areas with their small land forces. Both Air Force and Army/Marine Corps doctrine echo this requirement. Air Force doctrine states, “Rapid repositioning of small teams through the air allows for a greater chance of tactical surprise across great distances and difficult terrain. Air mobility permits leaner ground-based operations, improving force protection during transport.”44 Similar statements can be found in Army/Marine Corps doctrine: “Airlift provides a significant asymmetric advantage to COIN forces, enabling commanders to rapidly deploy, sustain and redeploy land forces… airlift bypasses weaknesses insurgents have traditionally exploited.”45

A final lesson learned from this conflict is that innovative tactics and methods should be encouraged. These innovations included remote-controlled tracking dogs, C-47s modified into national-level aerial command posts, and unique weapons systems. Each of these innovations, forced upon the Rhodesians by embargoes and lack of resources, serves as a reminder that COIN operations require outside-the-container thinking. Corum and Johnson echo this when they endorse the low-key aspect of airpower in small wars. As they point out, “Air forces with limited resources have often devised new and ingenious uses for civilian and obsolete military equipment in small wars.”46

While a little-remembered conflict, the Rhodesian Bush War remains a fascinating subject for study, due to the length of the conflict, the differing doctrines of the two insurgent groups, and the disparity in the size of the opposing forces. Throughout the COIN campaign airpower played a key role. Given the current conflict and the push in the Air Force to optimize the role of airpower in this conflict, we should incorporate the hard learned lessons of the Rhodesian military. Their conflict demonstrated that airpower can provide extremely lethal effects if integrated into joint planning at local levels. It also reinforced the need for innovation and the key role that air mobility plays in COIN operations.


1. Maj Charles M. Lohman and Maj Robert I. MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat” Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 7 June 1983, http://www.rhodesia.nl/Rhodesia%20 Tactical%20Victory.pdf.

2. Ibid.

3. Barbara Cole, The Elite: The Story of the Rhodesian Special Air Service, (Transkei, South Africa: Three Knights, 1984), 7-13.

4. Lohman and MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat.”

5. Roy Nesbit and Dudley Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force: The War from the Air in Rhodesia 1965-1980, (London, UK: Grub Street, 1998), 5-12.

6. J. R. T. Wood, “Rhodesian Insurgency,” http://www.rhodesia.nl/wood1.htm.

7. Lohman and MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat.”

8. Ibid.

9. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 29-33.

10. Lohman and MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat.”

11. Ibid.

12. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 38.

13. Lohman and MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat.”

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 55.

17. Karl P. Magyar and Constantine P. Danopoulos, eds., Prolonged Wars: A Post-Nuclear Challenge, (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 1994), 220-221.

18. Lohman and MacPherson, “Rhodesia: Tactical Victory, Strategic Defeat.”

19. Ibid.

20. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 55.

21. Ibid., 38.

22. Ibid., 76-80.

23. J. R. T. Wood, “Fire Force: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia 1962-1980,” http://www.rhodesia.nl/ firefor1. htm.

24. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 34-45.

25. Ibid.

26. Wood, “Fire Force: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia 1962-1980.”

27. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 34-45.

28. Wood, “Fire Force: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia 1962-1980.”

29. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 76-88.

30. Wood, “Fire Force: Helicopter Warfare in Rhodesia 1962-1980.”

31. Cole, The Elite, 163-169.

32. Magyar and Danopoulos, Prolonged Wars, 207-208.

33. Cole, The Elite, 169-177.

34. Nesbit and Cowderoy, Britain’s Rebel Air Force, 103-106.

35. Ibid., 44-45.

36. Ibid., 80-81.

37. Ibid., 68-70.

38. Ibid.

39. James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists, (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2003), 433.

40. Ibid.

41. Field Manual (FM) 3-24 / Marine Corps Warfighting Publication (MCWP) 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency, December 2006, E-4.

42. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 2-3, Irregular Warfare, 1 August 2007, 67.

43. Steve Call, Danger Close: Tactical Air Controllers in Afghanistan and Iraq (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2007), 16-24.

44. AFDD 2-3, Irregular Warfare, 16.

45. FM 3-24 / MCWP 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency, E-4.

46. Corum and Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars, 431-432.