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Nairobi, Kenya
I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Saturday, May 2, 2009


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By Leroy Thompson

To understand the Selous Scouts’ methods, one must first understand the Selous Scouts’ mission. The Scouts evolved to varying extents from the Tracker Combat Unit of the Rhodesian Army, the CIO (Central Intelligence Organization), and the Special Branch of the BSAP (British South Africa Police). When Major Ron Reid Daly was given the mission of forming the Scouts, Rhodesia’s borders were becoming less and less secure, as ZANLA and ZIPRA terrorists infiltrated in greater and greater numbers. Though the cover mission for the Selous Scouts remained the tracking of terrorists, in reality the unit was a pseudo-terrorist unit, using turned terrorists and Black soldiers from the Rhodesian African Rifles, as well as White soldiers in black face make-up from the Rhodesian SAS, Rhodesian Light Infantry and other units. These pseudo groups would infiltrate terrorist areas of operation, passing themselves off as terrorists and attempting to subvert the terrorist infrastructure.

In many ways, the Selous Scouts learned from US counter- insurgency successes in Vietnam, drawing on the examples of the Phoenix Program, the Kit Carson Scouts and the Road Runner Teams. Even more did they resemble the successful pseudo teams which had been active earlier in Kenya. Constantly adding turned terrorists, the Scouts kept abreast of current terrorist terminology, identification procedures, and operations; often they were better informed about terrorist procedures than the terrorists themselves.

As the Selous Scouts evolved, they undertook other missions such as cross-border raids, assassinations, snatches, raids on terrorist HQs in Botswana or elsewhere, long-range reconnaissance, and various other types of special operations. One early raid typical of this kind of Scouts’ mission was the snatch of a key ZIPRA official from Francistown, Botswana, in March 1974. These direct action operations resembled in many ways the MAC V/SOG operations in Vietnam. The number of Vietnam veterans in the Rhodesian security forces, in fact, had a substantial influence on the conduct of the war and on slang that was used. Terrorists, for example, were often called ‘gooks’.

The Scouts lured terrorists into ambushes, from which few terrorists normally walked away; captured terrorists and then turned them to serve in one of the Scout pseudo groups; or turned them over to the BSAP for interrogation. The Scouts were very successful in gathering intelligence, at least in part from captured diaries and letters. This is an important element of counter­insurgency operations. Due to the fragmented nature of their operations, guerrillas rarely have ready access to communications equipment. As a result, they may rely on written communication, leaving much open to capture. Few guerrillas are sophisticated enough to use ciphers, either, so often captured communications are ‘in the clear’. Many politically inspired guerrillas are actually encouraged to keep diaries documenting their political development, and these also frequently include valuable intelligence information. Third World insurgents are generally much less security conscious than organized military forces about documents; hence, captured written material can be an excellent intelligence source, especially for order of battle data.

The Selous Scouts’ training and operational doctrine inculcated audacity. At various times, for example, White Selous Scouts posed as the ‘prisoners’ of Black Selous Scout ‘terrorists’, and were escorted into terrorist strongholds, where White prisoners were highly prized. At the appropriate moment, the Selous Scouts turned their weapons on the terrorists, wreaking havoc from within. The classic example of audacity was the Selous Scouts raid on the large ZANLA terrorist camp at Nyadzonya Pungwe in August 1976. Using Unimogs and Ferrets painted in FRELIMO camouflage, eighty-four Selous Scouts penetrated Mozambique and drove directly into a large terrorist camp. Thousands of terrorists were in camp preparing for morning formations, when the Scouts opened up with 20mm cannons, .50 MGs, 12.7mm MGs, 7.62mm MGs and rifles. Estimates of the number of terrorists killed run as high as 1,000, all for five slightly wounded Selous Scouts. As the Scouts retreated to Rhodesia they blew up the Pungwe Bridge behind them, frustrating pursuit.

Audacity does not, of course, mean foolhardiness, but the importance of audacious small unit offensives has been proved again and again in counter­insurgency operations by the SAS in Malaya, Borneo and Oman; by Special Forces in Vietnam; and by Selous Scouts in Rhodesia. Reportedly, some of the Soviets’ best successes against Afghan guerrillas were achieved by small Spetsnaz units carrying out similar operations. Because guerrillas tend to think of themselves as the aggressors who take the war to the capitalist fat cats, they are often themselves extremely complacent in their ‘safe’ areas. By showing the terrorists that they were never safe from the ‘Skuz’apo’ (as the terrorists called the Selous Scouts) the Scouts had a psychologically debilitating effect quite out of proportion to their numbers. It was not uncommon, for example, for two groups of terrorists to begin shooting at each other out of fear that the other group was the Selous Scouts.

Various lessons can be learned from this aspect of Selous Scouts operations. First, calculated audacity will often allow a small counter-insurgency force to inflict casualties quite out of proportion to the numbers of men involved. Secondly, terrorists, who rely heavily on fear as a weapon, can themselves be rendered psychologically impotent through fear when they become the prey of an enemy who appears, hits hard, and then vanishes; who, in effect, turns their own weapons against them.

Selous Scouts relied heavily on unconventional selection and training procedures. Unconventional, but they worked and turned out some of the finest counter-insurgency warriors of all time. Selous Scouts couldn’t count on ready resupply, for example, so early on the fledgling Selous Scout had to learn to take his food how and when it came. During initial selection the Selous Scout was given one ration pack, but not told what to do with it. As the next days passed, that transpired to be the only food that would be provided. Some Scouts foraged around the training area to supplement that initial ration. Before long, an instructor shot a monkey and hung it in the middle of camp, where during the next few days of training it became riper and riper, its smell soon pervading the camp. Finally, after days of rigorous training the now ravenous trainee Selous Scouts were treated to the sight of the maggot-infested carcass being cooked to provide their first meal in days. Most managed to get it down, in the process learning that if one is hungry enough, protein can be provided from tainted meat, or even maggots. They also learned that even tainted meat is edible if thoroughly boiled, though it should not be reheated a second time. The obvious lesson here is that those being trained to survive under harsh conditions must be trained harshly.

Selous Scouts weapons training was intense and practical. Because they operated as terrorists, the Scouts were normally armed with Eastern Bloc weapons. The AK-47, RPD light machine gun and SVD sniper’s rifle were all widely used. Since the Scouts often concealed pistols about their persons, a substantial amount of handgun training was included. CZ75s and Beretta 951s were popular, as were Makarovs due to their Warsaw Pact origins.

Among the very practical training techniques used to make the Scouts proficient with their weapons was an extremely effective counter-ambush drill. Scouts were trained, when under fire from ambush, immediately to direct short bursts of fire at all likely places of concealment for ambushers within their arc of fire. The effectiveness of this maneuver could only be appreciated after seeing a well-drilled stick of Selous Scouts quickly sterilize 360 degrees of an ambush site. Fire discipline was important in this drill, but the Scouts had it. One Selous Scouts training officer also developed the technique of using mannequin targets dressed in terrorist attire and for ‘no shoots’- security forces uniforms. These mannequins incorporated a system of balloons (for head and torso), arranged so that a critical hit would cause the target to fall, while a non-critical hit had to be followed up to drop the target. The lesson to be remembered here is that military personnel likely to use their weapons in quick reaction ambush/anti-ambush situations must be trained to shoot in such circumstances. Obvious? Not to high-ranking officers in a lot of armies.

Many Selous Scouts operations were actually what might be called ‘sting’ operations. The use of European Selous Scouts ‘kidnapped’ by Black Selous Scouts ‘terrorists’ to infiltrate terrorist camps has already been mentioned. The Scouts carried out other classic stings, such as snatching high-ranking ZIPRA officers in Botswana by posing as Botswana Defense Force soldiers there to arrest them. To be accepted by terrorist groups the Scouts often staged fake attacks on farms, or fake hits on Special Branch informers to establish their credentials. So convincing were they that some Selous Scouts pseudo groups became legendary among the terrorists for their ferocity against Rhodesia. On the individual level, Selous Scouts were not above running cons such as convincing a terrorist that a command-detonated claymore mine was a radio, and sending him into a nest of terrorists to radio a message. Only pieces got through! Some of the really classic Selous Scouts’ cons must remain shrouded in secrecy, but even after Robert Mugabe assumed power and after the Selous Scouts were supposedly disbanded, a secret Scouts base continued to operate, from which much equipment and many weapons were evacuated to South Africa. Once again, the lesson to be learned from the Selous Scouts’ sting operations is that sometimes audacity is both more deadly to the enemy, and safer for the operators, than caution in unconventional warfare.

Under Chris Shollenberg, a former Rhodesian SAS officer, a reconnaissance troop was formed as part of the Selous Scouts. This recon unit proved what has been the case in virtually every war in history: small, highly-skilled recon units are among the most efficient and cost-effective intelligence tools in existence. After lying hidden near large terrorist camps for days, the Selous Scouts recon troops operated ahead of Selous Scouts raiding columns, or called in air strikes. The lesson here is simple: no matter how effective electronic intelligence devices become, LRRPs remain an extremely important element in modern warfare, especially counter-insurgency warfare.

Another important element of the Selous Scouts experience which is less obvious is the necessity for a degree of egalitarianism in small elite units. Despite the underlying racism of Rhodesia at that time, the Scouts were a racially mixed unit, each member of which had to rely on the others, and were aggressively non-racist. Black Scouts were naturally aware of their differences in color and culture, as were White Scouts, but neither was treated as superior or inferior. Because of the nature of Scouts operations, all members of the units had to trust each other implicitly, especially when the added element of turned terrorists amongst the Scouts was added. Therefore there could be no hints of racism within the Scouts. Anyone displaying such an attitude did not become or did not stay a Selous Scout.

One method of achieving the closeness and egalitarianism necessary for the Selous Scouts to function was requiring every aspirant Scout to learn the regimental songs during the final portion of the selection course. Sung a cappella, these functioned in lieu of a Selous Scouts band, but also, since the songs were traditional African songs — often terrorist songs at that, the words altered to fit the Selous Scouts - they formed a bond between Black and White.

The Selous Scouts system worked. The closeness of the members of the unit -even the tamed terrorists was tested many times but rarely found wanting. In April 1975 a turned terrorist betrayed a pseudo group, resulting in the deaths of seven of them. This event is most noteworthy because it was so unusual. The closeness of the Selous Scouts continued even after the end of the war, when the White Scouts realized the danger their Black comrades in arms would face in Zimbabwe. When the White Selous Scouts went to South Africa they took many of the Black Scouts and their families along with them, and fought to have them incorporated into No. 5 Recce Commando by their sides.

The lesson to be learned here is one that successful special operations units find obvious, but conventional military commanders can never grasp. Small, close-knit elite units function best when run in an egalitarian manner. David Stirling made this a precept of the SAS when he formed it, and it remains a key element in SAS successes today. There is a chain of command in good special operations units, but no one works hard at wielding power. Nevertheless, things get done and done right. That’s why the selection course is so important.

Another important lesson to be learned from the Selous Scouts experience can be applied to police or military covert operations. So successfully did the Selous Scouts pass themselves off as terrorists that they were frequently in more danger from Rhodesian security forces than from real terrorists. As a result, when a Selous Scouts pseudo team was working an area it was ‘frozen’ and declared off limits to any other security forces operations. This same lesson can be applied to police undercover operations or military covert, false flag, ‘sheep dip’ or deception missions.

Unfortunately, the greatest lesson to be learned from the Selous Scouts is that no matter how competent and effective a military unit is, political considerations can render it impotent. As Rhodesia became Zimbabwe, the Selous Scouts, though never defeated on the battlefield, were defeated at the bargaining table. The con men of the Selous Scouts were, in fact, conned out of existence by the British, the Americans, the UN and Robert Mugabe. Of course, throughout the history of counter-insurgency warfare, the failure to establish political goals has rendered military operations ineffective.


***Source*** This article was obtained from the book: DIRTY WARS- elite forces vs. the guerrillas. By Leroy Thompson. Printed 1988.
Scouts to the Rescue

By Jim Simpson

The Bush administration deserves credit for recognizing early on the necessity of completely eliminating the Ba’athist infrastructure in Iraq. This has become more urgent as Ba’athist holdouts and outside supporters have stepped up their terror attacks on Iraqi citizens, Coalition forces and U.N. personnel.
As I first noted last February, only by completely destroying the Ba’ath party would a peaceful, stable Iraq emerge. Despite their best efforts, the coalition has not yet found an effective way to deal with them.
I have an answer: bring back the Selous Scouts.

Of the many special forces units formed throughout history, the Scouts are perhaps one of the least known but most effective ever fielded. Named after famed Rhodesian hunter and bushman, Frederick C. Selous, the Scouts were a mixed-race unit formed by the Rhodesian government in 1973 in response to the civil war being waged by communist insurgents.
The Rhodesians ultimately failed but not due to the efforts of the Scouts. They were responsible for over 68 percent of all insurgents killed within Rhodesia during the civil war and thousands more hiding out in border states. The Scouts themselves lost under 40 men. Their very name struck terror and respect into the hearts of the enemy.
It must be acknowledged that most modern guerilla tactics, Muslim or otherwise, take their inspiration from Soviet or Chinese communist insurgency doctrine. This means a rigorous attention to internal security, with highly compartmentalized, autonomous cell structures, extensive use of codes and signals, and barbaric recruitment and enforcement mechanisms.
As a result, terrorist groups are extremely difficult to crack. No one cell knows what another is doing or even who its members are and only a few or even one member have any contact with any higher authority. Within an area, the terrorists can quickly identify and eliminate potential adversaries while subduing that part of the local population not sympathetic with terror and threats of terror.
The only way to learn anything about these cells – their structure, their members, their support network, their activities and plans – is to get inside them. Only an active member can supply such information and only he will know the elaborate identification signals with which they communicate and identify each other.
The Scouts utilized an innovative formula to break the secrecy of these cells. They perfected the “pseudo team” counter-insurgency concept, originally developed by the British in 1951 in response to the Malayan communist insurgency. Like the fabled Trojan Horse, groups of fake or “pseudo” terrorists would enter an area and attempt to gain acceptance within the actual insurgent network.
Having made contact and identified the guerilla group, the infiltrators would then call in a strike force of the highly mobile and deadly Rhodesian Light Infantry to finish them off. The Scouts would carefully arrange to be elsewhere when the attack came. In later meetings with insurgents, they might detail their harrowing escape. To avoid exposure, the Scouts would do no shooting themselves unless it was absolutely necessary. Properly conducted, the pseudo team could remain uncompromised and continue operations in the same area until the threat was completely removed.
This was an extremely risky business as it usually involved direct, unarmed contact with the enemy, followed by extensive identification rituals that included use of passwords and signals that changed on a regular basis.
The key to the Scouts’ success was the extensive reliance on turned, or “tame” insurgents. A constant inflow of these insurgent recruits kept the intelligence on guerilla security procedures up-to-date. At its zenith, turned insurgents comprised over 50 percent of the Scouts’ fighting force. The rest were the best soldiers, black and white, from various components of the Rhodesian military.
How did they recruit from this pool of seemingly fanatic, dedicated guerillas? Retired Lt. Col. Ron Reid-Daly, a former commander of the Selous Scouts and author of “Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts,” put it this way:
“It was simple and direct. He [the terrorist] had the option of being handed over to the police, after which he would be prosecuted for … offenses related to terrorism. If found guilty he would be hanged. He could, however, change sides and work with the security forces against his former comrades. After a short period of intensive contemplation, the capture elected to change sides. He was immediately given back his weapon, but unknown to him, its firing pin had been removed. The fact that he had been given a weapon astonished … him. [I]t was a shrewdly calculated move designed to sow the seeds of trust. A pseudo group always had to make a hard decision … quickly. Could they trust the ex-insurgent or not? The answer to that question…demanded a considerable amount of moral courage on the part of the team. It meant … placing their lives in the hands of a former enemy whom, having turned once, might very well turn again, and kill and betray them.”
According to Col. Reid-Daly, despite their vaunted fanaticism, insurgents were relatively easy to turn. They generally lived a tough, hand-to-mouth existence and were acutely aware that while they were putting their lives on the line every day, their leaders were often living in lush accommodations, far removed from any danger, traveling in high diplomatic circles and pilfering the money and supplies intended for them.
Many of the turned insurgents went on to become some of the Scouts’ most loyal and decorated soldiers. That the Scouts’ formula is an effective counter-insurgency technique is beyond question. Their successes speak for themselves.
Similar conditions exist in Iraq today, where many of Saddam’s loyalists fight on only for lack of other options. The “pseudo team” concept, employed so successfully by the Selous Scouts, should be considered a viable option for countering the guerilla campaign currently hobbling the introduction of democracy in Iraq.

Jim Simpson is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at



The Saints

~In memory of the fallen soldier~

The siren wails at Grand Reef base
Electric in its effect,
Troops emerge at lightning pace
Equipment and weapons checked.
With quiet precision
We take position
Ready to climb aboard,
Whether Alo or Dak
We’ll take the flak
Put the enemy to the sword.

The chopper blades begin to turn
As the pitch of the turbine changes,
The oily smell of kerosene burn
And the prospect of enemy exchanges.
The troopies emplane
We show the strain
Boys in a deadly war,
With spirit and grit
We’ll never quit
Forged by an esprit de corp.

Nap-of-the-earth we fly our course
Our airborne convoy races,
It carries forth the Fire Force
No emotion on our faces.
We know the drill
We have the skill
It’s moments ‘til we alight,
The enemy scatters
As the chopper clatters
Onto the stage of the fire-fight.

A lightning strike on an enemy redoubt
Conceals the agents of fear,
Is precisely called by a forward scout
As the flying armada gets near.
A pregnant Dakota
Disgorges its quota
And the jumpers’ ‘chutes snap open,
Our warriors elite
Will plug the retreat
When the will of the enemy’s broken.

The pilot’s headset fills with static
And the tune of the rotor blades,
AK’s firing on automatic
And the rumble of enemy grenades.
Orders yelled
As rockets propelled
Go streaking through the sky,
The battle rages
As the enemy engages
The soldiers of the RLI.

The crack and zing of flying lead
And the whiff of cordite acrid,
Assaults the senses in our head
As we drive the insurgents backward.
We count our friends
As the fury ends
It’s the soldier’s battle score,
One is taken…
And he’ll awaken…
With the other Saints of war.

Gary Albyn© 2007


Early November of 1980, Maj. Hean (OC of 2 Commando) asked Sgt. Jansen van Vuuren and myself if we were interested to go on a compressed 3-months officers course starting on the 4th of January 1980. We agreed despite the uncertain political future and worried about Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF winning the up-coming election. What gave us some absurd hope regarding Rhodesia’s future were persistent rumours that a combined Rhodesian and South African military intervention, which centred on wiping out ZANLA troops in Assembly Points, would, if necessary, prevent Mugabe from becoming Zimbabwe’s next Prime Minister. With the wisdom of hindsight, I think we quite idiotically believed the option of military intervention at the time, I guess because hope dies last. Anyway, before we could attend the course we had to pass OSB (Officers Selection Board) which took place at Llewelyn Barracks in Bulawayo from the 10th to the 15th of December 1980. OSB presented no major hurdle to us and we both passed.

However, soon after we got back to our troops at the Fireforce Base at Mount Darwin we were told that the officer’s course had been postponed by a month to the 4th of February. My diary, dated 28th of December 1980, makes it quite clear that morale was really low at that point – "ZIPRA and ZANLA commanders had arrived in Salisbury and many 2 Commando NCOs are bomb-shelling: Piet Oppermann leaves for Selous Scouts, Tony Braunswick is on possible transfer to Recce Troup (Support Commando), Brian Watson, Bruce Grimbeck and Rudi Krusberski finish their 3-year contract early and are not renewing, Earnest Patterson is on transfer to Training Troop, Paul Sellors, a Brit who only joined the RLI a few short months ago, has gone AWOL and Jansen van Vuuren (8 Troop Sgt.) and myself are soon off with no clear idea as to our future after the course".

New Year of 1979/80 was spent at Mount Darwin with Lt. Colonel Charlie Aust, last CO of the RLI, as a surprise visitor. During the night, with empty Lion and Castle bottles littering our braais, L/Cpl. Mike Shipton and I, both in advanced stages of inebriation, chucked a smoke grenade into somebody’s tent. As luck would have it, 2Lt. Dent caught us and despite our desperate pleas, made his report. So the following morning we were both marched off to some place where we copped a severe verbal hiding and, presumably because of the foreseeable end to the war, missed out on a demotion by the breadth of a hair.

On the 7th of January 1980, still based at Mount Darwin, 2 Commando received a call for assistance from 3 Commando at Grand Reef. About 300 CTs near Chipinda in the Lowveld apparently refused to move into their assembly point and required some gentle RLI-style convincing. If memory serves me correctly, four or five 2 Commando chopper sticks, including my own, flew down to help out and after an uneventful but successful op we had to base up at Grand Reef because of low cloud cover, rain and thick fog before the chopper pilots would consider taking off for Mt. Darwin.

We eventually took off on the 9th of January via New Sarum for refuelling, looking forward to decent food and some grog. But fate really had it in it for me this time. Not only should I have been on an officer’s course at this time, but after refuelling, I and my stick climbed into the wrong helicopter for the return flight, this time in the lead chopper, with almost fatal consequences. On the way out of Salisbury, our chopper’s engine, obviously tired after years of the daily grind, suddenly cut out at about 300 feet and we went down almost vertically at great speed, heavily crashing in flat grassland just past Cleveland dam where I already had mixed memories from my training period in 1977. It all happened very quickly so we had neither time for fear or to prepare for impact. It must have been a disheartening view for the ouns in the other choppers behind us. We were told afterwards that none of the other sticks, who had a bird’s eye view of our demise, had any hope of finding survivors.

What probably saved us was that the pilot managed to maintain horizontal control over the aircraft. Others in my stick were Cpl. Mike Ingram (MA3 medic), and Trps. Andre Wilsenach (gunner) and Bronkhorst. While I got trapped inside the bent metal of the chopper housing, running the risk of being roasted should the AF-gas ignite, all others were thrown out on impact. The strapped-in pilot, on duty from the South African Defence Forces, was ripped out complete with his seat and had a foot torn off in the process (stuck between the pedals). The chopper tech and troopers Wilsenach and Bronkhorst amazingly received only minor injuries. After my mates extracted me from the wreckage, Barry Hahn gave me my morphin which all stick-leaders carried around their neck and 30 minutes after impact two Bell 205s with medical personnel arrived on the scene. After a further 20 minutes the choppers landed us at Andrew Fleming hospital in Salisbury. That we had all survived was truly a miracle.

The South African chopper pilot was soon transferred to a hospital in his home country. Because of the quite severe leg injuries that Mike and I received (amongst several minor injuries to various parts of our bodies, Mike had a shattered open fracture of his tibia and fibula, and I had a shattered knee), the crash put an end to any thoughts that we might have had about a future in the military in the foreseeable future. But that didn’t stop us from insisting to be taken by ambulance to the RLI birthday parade at Cranborne Barracks on the 1st of February 1980, both sprouting beards, in wheelchairs, legs plastered up to our hips and each accompanied by a nurse from the hospital. Our mates from the Commando liberally supplied us with booze at the post-parade get-together at Cranborne before we were taken back to hospital where we both stayed on for another 3 weeks. Wheelchair racing along the hospital corridors was one of our favourite past times. High speed was accomplished by booze smuggled into the hospital by various 2 Commando guys, especially Tony Braunswick and Piet Oppermann (a late thanks should you ever read this).

I served out my contract in March 1980, on crutches, counting my lucky stars to have come out of it all comparatively unscathed physically, and spent the next weeks convalescing, frequenting the RLI haunts in town and the pub at the international airport, seeing off close mates from 2 Commando who left the country to exotic new destinations. Saying cheers wasn’t always easy under the circumstances.

From that time, I retain two clear memories above many others: one day, while hobbling through town on crutches on the way to Kingston’s Bookstore where Jeremy Hall (ex 2 Commando NCO) had briefly taken on a job, I saw young Mark Pilbeam who had lost both eyes to an AK-bullet. On his own and clutching a white stick, he tried to make his way through uniformed ZANLA and ZIPRA troops on a crowded footpath alongside Union Avenue, a lonely figure in a chaotic new world. We had all been dehumanized by years of close-up bush warfare, but I won’t ever forget that image. The second memory concerned my beautiful, young nurse Beverley Spain who had made my 8 weeks stay in Andrew Fleming hospital bearable. Not long after my release I heard that she and her family was tragically killed by armed ZANLA while travelling along the road to the border at Beitbridge. It was during that period that I made my decision to emigrate to Australia where I then lived from 1981 to 1998.


Operation NICKEL was the name given for the overall security force operation dealing with the Wankie campaign and covered the entire Rhodesia. The border control operations were called LETTUCE for the northeast half and ISOTOPE for the south west half. 1 For the names of other smaller operations please see Appendix 9.

The Rhodesian security Situation reports
What exactly happened during the conflict between the Rhodesian security forces and the ANC-ZAPU guerrillas? An archival file documenting the Situation Report (Sitrep) in Rhodesia sheds lights on the chronological order of events in Rhodesia. As the daily events of what unfolded is so important, and as researchers have not had access to this information before, I have documented it below so as to establish a bigger and more complete picture. 2 The serial number of each Situation Report has been abbreviated to Sitrep s.n. in the footnotes.

In the Sitreps codes are given for the names of places. As no key is available to the researcher, it is handicap. Nevertheless, one is able to obtain a sense of the events as they unfolded. The Western Sector is the area that the South African - bound group was moving through. The Eastern Sector is the area that the Lupane-bound group was moving through.

Monday, 7 August 3

Western Sector

One guerrilla was captured south of Wankie. Interrogation revealed that he was one of a gang of 6 consisting of 3 ANC and 3 ZAPU men. The ANC was heading for Johannesburg. 4

Friday, 11 August
Western Sector

One guerrilla was captured near Kariba. 5

Eastern Sector

One guerrilla was captured on a train. 6

Sunday, 13 August
Western Sector

Whilst following tracks of guerrillas the Rhodesian security forces were ambushed and sustained casualties – Three were killed and three wounded. The ambush took place at Tsantada and tracking had started at Pongora. 7

On a follow up at Intunehla four guerrillas were killed, one was injured who died later. Railway security guards captured one guerrilla. Interrogation revealed that the ambush on security forces on 13 August left three guerrillas dead and one wounded. Also that 30 guerrillas had crossed on border on 31 July, the majority were South African - ANC members and were headed for South Africa. 8

Eastern Sector

One guerrilla was captured trying to cross back into Zambia. Three weapons were recovered from him. 9

Wednesday, 16 August

Western Sector

Police shot one guerrilla near Figtree. 10

Eastern Sector

One guerrilla was captured. Interrogation revealed that at least nine guerrillas were returning to Zambia. 11

Thursday, 17 August
Western Sector

Locals reported the tracks of two guerrillas at MK850402. Further tracks of four guerrillas found at MK740180. The resting place was traced and a quantity of ammunition found at MK770103. Nine tracks were seen at MK840023. 12

Friday, 18 August

Western Sector 13

An engagement took place with 15 guerrillas at MJ950880. Eight guerrillas were killed, six were captured and one escaped. Large quantities of ammunition and arms were captured. 14

Tuesday, 22 August
Western Sector

At MJ740170 after engagement three guerrillas were killed and three wounded. Security forces: one lieutenant killed, one warrant officer killed. The lieutenant was killed accidentally by own troops. Tracks of 30 guerrillas were seen in area.

One guerrilla was shot at MK410110. 15

Wednesday, 23 August
Western Sector

An air strike by hunter fighters was unsuccessful. Guerrillas then attacked the security forces. Three guerrillas were killed in this engagement. One guerrilla was captured with his weapons and equipment. Security force casualties: one police officer killed, one policeman wounded, one soldier killed, one officer and six other ranks wounded.

It seemed that two Chinese men and one Chinese woman led this group of guerrillas, although it was not confirmed. 16

Thursday, 24 August
Western Sector

Three unarmed guerrillas were captured at NJ0190 - two of them were local. They belonged to the group mentioned in serial 12. Interrogation revealed the following:

A group of 70 terrorists moved in one group east of Grand Rapids on 11 August. They split into smaller groups before crossing the Zambezi River.

The guerrilla shot at Figtree had been sent ahead to contact a ZAPU member prior to the main group arriving. 17

Friday, 25 August
Western Sector

Four guerrillas were captured at QM700862. 18

Saturday, 26 August
Western Sector

One guerrilla was captured in the area mentioned above after an ambush was set.

One guerrilla was found dead at MJ742175. Guerrillas are still believed to be in the area.

Eastern Sector

Two unarmed guerrillas were captured at TR120150. 19

27 August
Western Sector

Guerrillas may have split up. Botswana police at area NH0379 arrested four guerrillas. These guerrillas confirmed as being members of the group involved in the incident on 22 Aug. 20

Gang of +- 70 crossed east of Katambora on 11 Aug 67 and split in the Wankie area. Basil February was sent ahead to rendezvous with contacts at NH850350. The ANC guerrillas would then move to the Republic of South Africa (RSA) for training.

ZAPU would train locals in the area. 21

The summary of guerrilla casualties for period beginning June to 29 August 1967 is in Rhodesia: (both sectors) killed 23, captured 43. In Botswana – captured 13.

One person died of wounds.

Two armed guerrillas spotted by civilians at NK330020. They asked directions to MJ840070. This river junction is assumed to be rendezvous for guerrillas. 22

Eastern Sector

One ZAPU guerrilla arrested at Bindura UR230860. Possibly five guerrillas remain in the area.

No date given

Western Sector

Four guerrillas arrested by Botswana police said that they had left 28 guerrillas in Rhodesia. These four were hungry and short of water. The crossing point was definitely established as 20 miles east of the termination of the Victoria Falls gorge. The guerrillas used rope on Zambian side and crossed by dugout. 23

There is no truth to the report of Radio SA of 29 August that new insurgents have been involved in bloody fighting in Rhodesia. Thus far 17 guerrillas have been caught in Botswana, most of them are ANC members.

Guerrillas are following a new pattern from Rhodesia to Botswana. Weapons are buried inside or outside Botswana. Civilian clothes are bought and attempts are made to travel to South Africa via Francistown. The Botswana Police are aware of this and active patrolling is done to track the infiltrators.

29 August
Eastern Sector

Patrol stopped while two Canberra's pattern-bombed suspected area from+- MJ280020-NJ030010. Guerrillas' tracks encircle the bombed area. A follow up is continuing.

Late 29 August Botswana Police arrested four ANC guerrillas. They are possibly from group who split at MJ915030. One ‘Coloured' named George Driver was with them.

All arms and equipment was dumped and civilian clothing was purchased on entering Botswana en route to South Africa. 24

30 August
Western Sector

Tracks were followed from NK330020. Tracks were lost when guerrillas removed boots. Police checked area NK330020 to PJ095350. On 29 August in area MJ915030 tracks of large group of guerrillas found. One set of tracks was leading towards the Botswana border while the others were going north east (approximately 20 guerrillas)

One jungle hat, packet of boxer tobacco, SOS Mag, bloodstained bandages and dressings found en route. Drag marks indicate at least one stretcher case. Found meat tins licked dry and condensed milk tubes chewed.

31 August
Western Sector

ZAPU members that were captured on 30 & 31 August claim they are part of a fanatical group determined to reach South Africa. They were approximately 20 in the group. The Tegwani River is used for direction.

Five guerrillas that were spotted in Rhodesia on 31 August have now been spotted in Botswana. 25

1 September
Western Sector

Patrols and ambushes are continuing. Locals residing at NH070855 said four guerrillas including a Chinaman on 30/31 August approached them. They asked for food and water. The local was given R10 to buy food. A rendezvous was arranged at the same place for 19h00. The guerrillas gave their destination as NH840340. An ambush was laid. There was no contact and patrols continued south. 26

2 September
Western Sector

A captured guerrilla was taken to ML297173 where he thinks he crossed although he is not sure. An ambush and sweep was made at NH070885. The sweep found an empty hideout for seven guerrillas and two sets of tracks crossing into Botswana, where the police reported on a follow up.

Four guerrillas in the area of NH1080 fired on the BSAP. Guerrillas are heading on bearing 165 mag. They are moving openly and showing signs of defiance and bravado. Jonathan Moyo was arrested at unstated place. He was positively identified as ZAPU leader and sole survivor of 24 in first action against security forces on 13 August. It is suspected that the majority of guerrillas are now in Botswana. 27

3 and 4 September

Western Sector

On 3 September 12 guerrillas crossed into Botswana where police arrested six of them while the other six are being tracked. They are possibly the rest of the gang from the Nata-Tegwani Rivers area. An armed guerrilla was captured at NK850060. The presence of Chinaman was now discounted.

On early 3 September shots was heard in area of NY130820. Locals reported tracks of five in the area. This could be five guerrillas who lost contact with first gang prior to engagement on 13 August. Tracks were heading east. Patrols continue in all areas. 28

One unarmed guerrilla captured at NH090980. He had no pack. Information received that the rest of the gang was 3 miles south east of 2 CDO RLI position. Patrol from 2 CDO and D Coy RAR sent to area. Found tracks and contacted seven guerrillas at NH080977 at 12h35. Four guerrillas were killed and one ‘White' soldier slightly wounded. Guerrillas were not yet identified. Suspect arrested at NH790560 and is being interrogated. The grassland between E Coy position and Tegwani River were burnt on 1 September.

Patrols continued, also ambushes on kraals and stores of suspected contacts and known sympathisers. Guerrillas are known to be listening to RBC/SABC news on transistors. Guerrilla tactics for ambushes include leaving trail then making hairpin turn to bush. Once security force troop in trail, guerrillas would follow up. 29

4 September
Western Sector

Three guerrillas were killed by 10 Platoon RAR at NJ200800. Rhodesian casualties: one RAR dead, one RAR wounded. Guerrillas were identified as deserters from main group three days after crossing. All were carrying AK47 rifles. Botswana Police arrested 10 more guerrillas on 4 September and are tracking another group of 10. Location of arrest is not known. There are security force patrols in game area and BSAP are patrolling Plumtree and Sipepa. They are also checking the area south of Plumtree. 30

5 and 6 September

Western Sector

On 3 and 4 September in Botswana at NH1575, nine guerrillas were found. Six were arrested and three escaped. Later a further three were arrested, of which one is believed to be local. The guerrilla casualties to date are Rhodesia: 29 killed and 15 captured and Botswana one died and 33 captured. 31

6 and 7 September

Western Sector

BSAP patrols continue in all rural areas including Plumtree. There is no trace of guerrillas. D Coy RAR is carrying out thorough search of area including old contact positions. Further weapons and packs recovered. Nothing to suspect there are guerrillas remaining in the area. Three suspected terrorists were seen on Zambian bank ML137208. Patrols and ambushes continue in all areas.

7 & 8 September

Western Sector

The crossing place the night of 31 July is definitely established at LL967118. 32

The guerrilla hat found at LL973070 on 2 September was from Nickel gang.

JOC closed 0806000 Sep 67. 33

8 September

Between 80 and 85 guerrillas entered Rhodesia. Casualties:

Killed 29, Captured 15, 22 of those killed and captured were ANC. Six are not identified. 34

Botswana casualties

Found dead 1

Captured 33

Identified as following

25 ANC



The South African reinforcements
Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Prime Minister invited the South African security forces into Rhodesia. His South African counter-part, Prime Minister John Vorster responded by sending members of the South African Police Force (SAPF) to assist Smith with the insurgency grouping, and so a land and air search was mounted for the guerrillas.

Maxey argues that whether it was the South African army or police that were sent to Rhodesia is academic as once the South African troops were in Rhodesia they functioned in the same capacity as the Rhodesian army would. In this regard selected personnel would be asked whether they would be prepared to be ‘attached to SA police for anti-guerrilla operations in any area from the Angola to Swaziland borders. On no account is mention to be made of Rhodesia'. 35

Be that as it may, the South African authorities went to great lengths to ensure that the forces in Rhodesia were South African Police and not members of the SADF. Due to diplomatic factors only police assistance was permissible. However the SAP were not trained to counter the tactics engaged by the guerrillas, and the SADF were better suited. 36

Speaking at Brakpan on 8 th September 1967, Prime Minister confirmed that the South African Police had been sent to assist the Rh.odesian security forces with the guerrillas, ‘who originally came from South Africa and were on their way back to commit terrorism'. Prime Minister Vorster placed emphasis on the fact that police had been sent and not the army and said South Africa's ‘action in Rhodesia has nothing to do with the situation (UDI) which arose about two years ago'. 37

The aircraft identified for the operation and first sent to Rhodesia were 3 Alouette IIIs, 6 Cessnas to be provided by army and 2 Dakotas. The aircraft had to be operated by SADF personnel attached to the SAP. 38

At a meeting held on 4 September 1967 Brig Dillon told Colonel van Rensburg and Commander Swart of the basis on which Rhodesia would be assisted.

These guidelines came from a meeting between General Van den Berg (SAP) and Prime Minister Vorster. 39 The resources [to be sent to Rhodesia] should be distributed over a six-month period. The Prime Minister does not want to create the impression that the Rhodesia army is being armed. Before any resources are sent the Prime Minister should be informed first. Brig Dillon is responsible for arranging the sending and receipt of security reinforcements.

Movement of supplies where possible should be done by train

The two Dakotas ready for departure should have SAP markings like SAP 200 and SAP 201 or only the numbers.

6 Cessnas will depart on 6 September.
All personnel will be clothed in SAP uniforms.
12 Panhard tanks could be needed and will only be sent on request.
Gen Van den Berg will seek approval from the Prime Minister on the needs/requests of the Rhodesians.
The Dakota that was supposed to depart on the 5 September should no longer do so.
All South African personnel should be police except where the police cannot fulfill this role. Other personnel need to operate in police uniforms.
6 doctors should be redeployed. Arrangements should be made with the Surgeon General.
The content of the letter was conveyed to different arms of the SADF.
In this section I capture the salient points of the Operations War Diary (OWD) of the Head Quarters (HQ) of the Joint Commanding Force (JCF) of the South African Defence Force.

1 September
Code name Chinaman was given to operations in support of the SAP in Rhodesia. 40

3 September
The GOC JCF advised the HQ of the Rhodesian Royal Air Force (RRAF) that 6 Cessna aircraft, which were being supplied to the RRAF, would not be available for delivery on 4 September 1967. 41

4 September

Brig. Dillon (SAP) had discussions with Col. van Rensburg of this HQ on the subject of SADF support for the SAP in Rhodesia. The GOC JCF is the coordinating authority for such support. 42

5 September

GOC JCF advised the HQ RRAF that 6 Cessnas would arrive at Thornhill at 11h30 on 6 September 67. 43 The HQ JCF received minutes of a conference held at SAAF HQ at 14h00 on 29 August. Subject assistance to Rhodesia. 44 A copy of the SAP movement table is attached for historical records. The Operation was called SUPERCHARGE. 45

6 September

A letter was received from the Commandant-General of the SADF in terms of assistance to the SAP. 46

7 September

GOC JCF advised CDFA of names of SADF personnel who were seconded to the SAP for operations in Rhodesia. These were the first SADF personnel involved and their names are included for record purposes. 47 GOC JCF instructed C Army, CAF, CLS and SG re voucher procedure to be followed when SADF equipment is supplied to SA police. 48

What, if any, lessons did the Rhodesians learn from the Wankie campaign?

On 26 September the Rhodesian security forces held a debriefing session on Operation NICKEL. 49 The purpose of the session was to understand how the security forces could improve their COIN (Counter-Insurgency) Operations. 50 The different arms of the security forces were fully represented. 51 The Chief of Staff chaired the meeting and welcomed everyone present . He said Operation NICKEL was different and introduced many new aspects therefore the debriefing would be correspondingly bigger.

Commander of 1 Brigade, Brigadier Prentice, agreed that Operation NICKEL had been an exacting operation, which was well summed up as a ‘mixture of tragedy and success'. It is impractical to cover all the events in detail, as in the 1 Brigade log alone there are 1 800 entries.

The first clash between the Rhodesian security forces and the guerrillas
The Command 1 Brigade took part in the incident, which took place at the Inyatue River on 13 August 1967. Group Captain Deall said that the Inyatue incident would have been ideal for an air strike. Captain Hoskins, agreed, but at the time the Rhodesians thought there were only five guerrillas in the area. Had he realised that there were probably at least 21 guerrillas he would have withdrawn his troops, set out stops approximately 1 000 yards away and called for an air strike.

Lieutenant Colonel Godwin, the Army representative at the JOC at that time, said orders were given to arm the Provosts that afternoon, but there had been problems in refueling. An armed helicopter was used instead. After discussions, it was agreed that though the helicopter may have caused casualties among the guerrillas, its close proximity to its own forces could have inadvertently injured them instead. The helicopter was mainly used as a communications relay station.

The skirmishes between the two opposing forces lasted between 13 August and 4 September 1967 Lieutenant Colonel Godwin gave an outline of the entire operation from the Inyatue Battle to the final contact on 4 September. After this it was assessed that all guerrillas who had crossed into Rhodesia on the night of 31 July/1 August 1967 had been accounted for either by the Rhodesian security forces or the Botswana Police. It was noted that aircraft were used extensively and that one of the Provosts completed more than 100 hours of flying.

Running short of ammunition
Brigadier Coster said it was not generally understood why Lieutenant Colonel Smith's platoon ran short of ammunition in their encounter on 22 August. Lieutenant Colonel Godwin said that at the time each rifleman carried 50 rounds of ammunition most of which were carried in two magazines. The FN rifle had been newly issued and the soldiers had been to a large extent firing on automatic. This led to a high use of ammunition and the reason for the troop's withdrawal. Since then troops have been instructed to fire the FN only on single rounds. Henceforth, only certain men such as leading scouts would be permitted to fire on automatic.

The Chief of Staff added that the MAG had formerly been considered too heavy and cumbersome to be carried on COIN operations, and for this reason the FN rifle on automatic was seen as more suitable. This had been proved wrong and the MAG had now regained popularity. Both Lieutenant Colonel Godwin and Captain Atkinson affirmed that this was the case with 1 RAR and 1 RLI and that riflemen now carried 150 rounds each.

It was recommended that the RRAF should require some form of permanent facilities at Brady Barracks both in accommodation and for communications.

Change in movement of fuel by Shell
The QMG suggested that in future all movement of fuel for RRAF be handled by Shell Company to as far forward as possible and that the Army assist in moving fuel to the more inaccessible places. There had been certain confusion during Operation NICKEL with both the Army and Shell being involved in the movement of fuel. 52

Initial interrogation of guerrillas was valuable although it did not prove valuable in all cases. The ZAPU guerrillas seemed more easily broken down. 53 The following information was gleaned from captured guerrillas.

The Nkai group (or Lupane-bound group) consisted of 23 guerrillas and were instructed to avoid contact with security forces, if at all possible. “Their aim was to establish base camps and cells for attacks on farms and European establishments in the Gwelo area. ANC members with the group were then to travel to South Africa via Matopos with ZAPU assistance”. 54 The Luthuli group consisted of 56 guerrillas whose final destination was South Africa. The intelligence report noted amongst other things the following about the group.

The group's aim was to establish a base camp in the area of the Nata/Tegwani Rivers. Local sympathisers were to be trained and armed. Government installations in the Tjolotjo area should be attacked. The details of the groups plans could not be ascertained as the leader kept them to himself and evaded capture. The group was disciplined and members were allowed to separate from the group only on the leader's instructions. Each ANC guerrilla carried 20-30 pounds, whilst the ZAPU leader carried the groups cash and each ZAPU member carried only about 2 pounds each.

The guerrillas had been instructed not to disclose the crossing point under any circumstances. All weapons carried were automatic or self-loading. The group also had machine guns, grenades and explosives. Each guerrilla carried about 300 rounds of ammunition. The Luthuli group carried a transistor radio with which they monitored new reports. They learnt about the Inyatue incident, which involved the Nkai, group. The guerrillas also carried Land Apportionment maps scale: 1: 1 000, 000 and compasses. Notwithstanding this, the smaller groups that had broken away from the Luthuli group had no idea of their whereabouts.

Game had been shot, killed and cooked during the day whilst in the Wankie national park.

The Coloured who was shot in the Figtree area on 16 August apparently had a separate mission from that of the Luthuli and Nkai groups. 55

The big group split into two on 9 August, just east of Wankie. No specific routes had been given for the destinations this was the responsibility of the leaders concerned.

As far as was known the group had contacted only two civilian sympathisers since the crossing into Rhodesia. 56 Superintendent Bester provided the following information that was obtained from the interrogation of guerrillas. The group's pattern of moving mainly at night was interrupted once Operation NICKEL commenced. Sometimes the guerrillas were forced to move during the day until they found a suitable base camp. Their formation on the move was to have the group led by two scouts, followed by a recce group of about four men, followed in turn by the remainder of the group who moved in three single files. There was a rear guard of four to five men and two scouts on the flanks.

When setting up base camp, the group split into sections and spread out in a circle. Sections were spaced about 10-15 feet apart. Members of the sections then dug shallow hollows for themselves. The whole position was an all round defence with sentries posted outside the circle. The guerrillas would lie under fallen tree trunks and thick foliage for protection from the air.

All contacts except on 23 August were spontaneous and unplanned. The incident at [the] Inyatue [River] occurred whilst the group was resting. The attack made on Platoon 13 on 23 August was most probably an attempt to gain food and water. It was prompted by the guerrillas success the previous day and the apparent lack of sentries.

There had been about 45 guerrillas at the Leasha Pan at the time the Mortar Platoon made contact with the two guerrillas who had been to the pan to ambush game. 57 Almost without exception the Rhodesian security forces had underestimated the number of guerrillas being followed. Commander 1 Brigade pointed out that it was better [in future] to overestimate the number of guerrillas being followed. 58 Before basing up the group split and the guerrillas would move at 90 degree angles. This would confuse troops following up, as there were several sets of tracks to follow.

The ANC and ZAPU guerrillas had not trained together at any point. Instead they had joined two days before the crossing of the Zambezi River.

Rhodesian forces
Lieutenant Colonel Godwin said that since the Inyatue incident the policy was to have the minimum of platoon follow up on insurgent tracks. A new follow up procedure was being evolved. Most injuries incurred by the Rhodesians were as a result of standing or running.

In terms of the air strike of 23 August it was agreed that light aircraft might be more useful and the Trojan would be more capable of firing 37-mm rockets. It was agreed that it was not a good idea for a pilot to attack possible targets ahead of the ground forces unless the ground commander so favours.

Trackers were invaluable
Trackers had proved invaluable and it was recommended that each battalion should have a pool of trackers. Police dogs had not been successful in tracking guerrillas, as they had not been trained for this kind of operation. 59

Problems around encoding Situation Reports
Some officers complained that the encoding of messages sometimes proved too time consuming. The Chief of Staff said it was agreed that only certain portions of the JOC SITREP should be encoded. Lieutenant Colonel Godwin further suggested that the nicknames for places should be standardised between the three services.

During Operation NICKEL there had been a lack of security at all levels of the three services. This had led to information getting out to the public causing ‘bad rumours'. It should be impressed on all ranks that that they should not under any circumstances discuss what took place during operations. Brigadier Prentice said that shortly after Operation NICKEL commenced there had been serious rumours in Wankie of guerrilla successes against security forces.

The Voice of America had made a false broadcast that the guerrillas had taken over the Wankie airfield and this was believed by many of the residents. It was therefore agreed that certain prominent civilians should be kept informed of operational developments, as suggested by the Provincial Commissioner, Mr Hagelthorn. 60

Flame throwers
It was suggested that each platoon have flame-throwers that would burn out the bush in which guerrillas were hidden. The fire itself would be demoralising to them. 61

The use of Napalm had not proved effective in burning out the Mopani bush in the area of the Nata River. The future use of a defoliant would be investigated further. 62

Casualty procedures
All casualties occurring on 23 August, with the exception of two, took about 20 hours to reach the CCP due to difficulty with communications. 63


BGG/210/3/11 Inligtings Rapporte Rhodesie, Volume 1

From Sitrep van Rhodesie, 25 August to 15 December, Taakmag 1, 78 . T his Situation Report was sent to the South African Defence Force from Mr Rawlins at the Rhodesian Embassy.

I have added the day of the week to the date given in the Sitreps.

Sitrep s.n.6

Sitrep s.n.7

Sitrep s.n. 7

Sitrep s.n.8

Sitrep s.n.9

Sitrep s.n.8

Sitrep s.n.10

Sitrep s.n.10

Sitrep s.n.11

This should read Eastern Sector

Sitrep s.n.12

Sitrep s.n.13

Sitrep s.n.14

Sitrep s.n.15

Sitrep s.n.16

Sitrep s.n.19

Sitrep s.n.20

Sitrep s.n.20

Sitrep s.n.21

Sitrep s.n.23

Sitrep s.n.24

Sitrep s.n.25

Sitrep s.n.26

Sitrep s.n.30

Sitrep s.n.31

Sitrep s.n.32

Sitrep s.n.33

Sitrep s.n.34

Sitrep s.n.36

Sitrep s.n.37

Sitrep s.n.39

Sitrep s.n.40

From LHM/TS/615/9/2 Appendix B, p.2

Ibid. p.4

M. Morris, South African terrorism ( Cape Town, Howard Timmins, 1971) p.42

From LHM/TS/615/9/2 Appendix B, p.3

From BGG/302/6/1 Operations War Diary, Sep 67 HQ JCF, Annexure A, See Appendix 10

Ibid. s.n.1

Ibid. s.n.3

Ibid. s.n.4

Ibid. s.n.5

Ibid. s.n.6, See Appendix B

Ibid. s.n.7, See Appendix C

Ibid. s.n.8 See Appendix D

Ibid. s.n.9 See Appendix E. ref. BGG/127/Sep/67

Ibid. s.n.10

Operation NICKEL commenced for the whole of Rhodesia August 1967, See BGG/210/3/11, Inligtings Rapporte Rhodesie, Vol 1.


See Appendix 2 for a list of those present at the meeting.

See BGG/210/3/11, Inligtings Rapporte Rhodesie, Vol. 1 , p. 2

Ibid. p.4

Ibid. p.4

Ibid. p.5

Ibid. p.6

Ibid. p.7

Ibid. p.8

Ibid. p.9

Ibid. p. 10

Ibid. p. 11

Ibid. pp. 12-14

Ibid. p. 12


The Order of Mendi for Bravery in Gold

Awarded to Benson Tsele (1932 - 1968 ) for

Profile of Benson Tsele

Benson Tsele died on 21 March 1968 in combat against the
then white supremacist Rhodesian army.

The Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) guerrilla was part of the Luthuli
Detachment, an elite group that had undergone years of
military, political and physical training to return to South Africa,
train recruits and help revive the underground structures of the
African National Congress (ANC).

This was no mean feat at a time when any political activism was
interpreted by the apartheid government as treasonous and
spelled either a lifelong sentence in apartheid jails or a death

Tsele deliberately entered military activities of the banned ANC
with a clear knowledge that there were no shades of grey; he
would either die at the hands of apartheid forces or conquer, for
a society free of racial injustices.

Tsele and his comrades had to go through Rhodesia first – a
strenuous journey littered with dangers from the ever alert
patrolling Rhodesian army – to reach South Africa. Oliver
Tambo, the exiled ANC acting president and supreme
commander-in-chief at the time, personally saw the group off as they crossed the Zambezi for the first time. About 50 or so MK
cadres mingled with roughly 30 guerrillas from the Zimbabwe
African People's Union (Zapu).

Zapu commander John Dube was in charge, with MK's Chris
Hani as commissar. Hani was to take up the command of ANC
guerrillas once the joint force split up later, with Zapu guerrillas
going further into Rhodesia and most of the ANC cadres going
south heading for a route through Botswana to South Africa.

The joint plan involved crossing the Zambezi River at three
different points, near Livingstone in the west, near Lake Kariba in
the centre, and near Feira in the east. The forces had established
bases near the Zambezi valley as part of the guerrilla assaults
they were planning to launch against Rhodesian and South
African forces, who were also working together. However, as soon
as the liberation forces entered the area, South African Buccaneer
fighter planes wasted no time in starting reconnaissance.

Tsele died on the night when he was standing in for his unit's
commander, Archie Sibeko. Writing in his memoirs, Sibeko
says he had to go to the Zambian capital of Lusaka 'to deal with
some logistical problems', when he appointed Tsele to take
over the command of the unit.

According to Sibeko, Tsele led the guerrillas into Rhodesia that
evening where they were caught up in a bitter exchange of
gunfire with the Rhodesian forces. The liberation unit suffered
serious casualties, and Tsele was killed in the ensuing battle. Yet,
Tsele died heroically, withstanding the might of the Rhodesian
army, drafted in the forefront and facing the line of fire with grit.
As the senior commissar and a stand-in for his commander at the
time, he had the option of backing off until their forces could
reach safety deep into Zambia but Tsele appreciated the reason
for his military involvement and continued.

The bullets of the Rhodesian army killed a man who had
dedicated his life to freedom from apartheid rule. However, in the
eyes of Tsele, this was a cause worth paying the supreme price
for, because there was no other way of uprooting the horrors of
racial oppression in South Africa, which saw racial segregation as
'a natural order of things', except through the barrel of a gun. To
eradicate apartheid, Tsele realised the only effective means
available, since the Government was not prepared to come to the
negotiating table, was to either succumb to the status quo or take
on the military machinery of the regime.

Born in 1932, Tsele received his secondary schooling at St.
Peter's in Rosettenvile, Johannesburg, where one of his teachers was the man who later became his supreme
commander in chief, Oliver Tambo.

Tsele went on to receive his university education at Fort Hare,
where he was active in the ANC Youth League. Upon his permanent
return to Johannesburg, he taught at Alexandra High School.

This was followed by a decade of activism, during which Tsele
joined protests and campaigns against a slew of apartheid
legislation such as the Bantu Education Act in 1954. He also
participated in the 1955 campaign for the adoption of the Freedom
Charter, the 1957 Alexandra Bus Boycott, the 1959 Potato Boycott
as well as the subsequent campaign against pass laws. The
campaigns catapulted key activists such as Tsele to the political
helm, exposing them to the system, the attendant harassment
and the possibility of death inherent in such risky political activism.

Benson Tsele was involved with the ANC's political education
unit when the liberation movement was banned. He skipped the
country in 1961, and went on to receive military training in the
former Soviet Union.

On his return he joined MK, becoming the commissar that he
was when he met his death in that notorious field.

Fireforce Vertical envelopment

Fire force: vertical envelopment during the Rhodesian War
Article Abstract:

The Rhodesian War between 1962-1980 forced the government to deploy 12- month conscripts and regular volunteers of the army, air force and police units against insurgents from two Communist-supported factions with enclaves in Zambia and Mozambique. A study of the techniques and assets used by the Rhodesian Fire Force to support vertical envelopment strategies against rebel troops highlights the advantages inherent in an air-ground task force. They also furnish valuable lessons to infantry unit commanders regarding the use of limited resources and manpower against unconventional forces in a counter-insurgency environment.

author: Custis, Jon A.
Publisher: Marine Corps Association
Publication Name: Marine Corps Gazette
Subject: Military and naval science
ISSN: 0025-3170
Year: 2000

GUKURAHUNDI -a throwback from the Rhodesian conflict

Operation Gukurahundi (The rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rain)

In 1983, the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, under the command of Lt Col Perence Shire, once known as the "Black Jesus", but currently the commander of Zimbabwe's air force, was the vanguard unit in a campaign against alleged dissidents that has also become known as the Matabeleland Massacres. At least 20,000 people were killed in the operation. The target of Gukurahundi was members of the rival liberation movement, ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo and drawn mainly from Zimbabwe's Ndebele people in the southwest of the country. There were numerous accounts of children murdered, women raped and killed, and homesteads razed. Regarding the deaths of civilians, Mugabe reportedly said in April 1983: "We eradicate them. We don't differentiate when we fight because we can't tell who is a dissident and who is not." Unlike other army units, the 5th Brigade, comprised of Shona-speaking people, reported directly to Mugabe.

On 22 December 1987 Nkomo signed a Unity Accord, merging ZAPU with ZANU-PF. Mugabe signed a host of amnesty bills pardoning all dissidents and army units, including the 5th Brigade, in 1988. During Gukurahundi, two security ministers presided over operations: Emerson Mnangagwa, known by his supporters as Ngwena (The Crocodile), is currently the rural housing minister; he was succeeded by Sydney Sekeremayi, who currently holds the minister of defence portfolio. Retired Lt Col Lionel Dyke, commander of the parachute battalion during Gukurahundi and formerly commander of the Rhodesian African Rifles, which fought against Zimbabwe's liberation movements, is alleged to have participated in several acts of torture. He now is reportedly involved in demining and security operations in such places as Lebanon and Iraq. A human rights pressure group based in The Hague, Crimes Against Humanity Zimbabwe, is campaigning for Gukurahundi to be recognised as genocide

Lionel Dyke and Gukurahundi

In my personal view it will be almost impossible to know exactly how many people were murdered at that time due to the circumstances prevailing in Zimbabwe.
I personally use this information for reference only.

Crimes Against Humanity Zimbabwe (CAHZ) - Genocide (Gukurahundi)

While there are many cases of torture, murder, dispossession or forced removal that can be laid against the Zimbabwe government, one stands out as perhaps the worst case of brutality in the modern history of Southern Africa. Gukurahundi is Shona word for "the early rain which washes away the chaff before spring.

The chaff or hundi, remains after maize has been harvested. Less than a year after he came to power, Mugabe, signed a deal with the late Kim Il Sung in which the North Korean president agreed to send officers to Zimbabwe where they would train a special brigade which Mugabe said was needed to "combat malcontents".

However, there was very little unrest in Zimbabwe and most people were relieved that the war had ended. In August 1981, 106 North Koreans arrived at Nyanga on the Mozambican border where they set up camp.

In Parliament, opposition leader, Joshua Nkomo of the mainly Ndebele ZAPU, asked why Koreans were needed to train a special force when the country already had an excellent army and police service. He suggested Mugabe would use the troops to build a one party state. Mugabe's response was that, "dissidents should watch out."

After the civil war, both Mugabe's ZANLA and Nkomo's ZIPRA had access to hidden caches of weapons, but Nkomo had also moved lorries, tanks and thousands of weapons from his former base in Zambia, almost certainly with the knowledge of then Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, and had buried these on farms owned by ZIPRA near Bulawayo.

Fiery speeches against ZIPRA and ZAPU by ZANU-PF minister, Enos Nkala, led to armed battles between ZIPRA and ZANLA in Bulawayo and the army had to be called in to put down the unrest.

More than 300 people died in the fighting. The government asked Enoch Dumbutshena, former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, to hold an inquiry into the uprising, but the findings have never been released.

Many ZIPRA soldiers who had been integrated with the national army defected after the violence, amid claims that some of their colleagues had disappeared without trace. They also alleged that ZANLA members were being favoured for promotion. Nkomo fled into exile, former ZAPU commanders Dumiso Dabengwa, Lookout Masuku were charged with treason, but although acquitted, they were detained for a further four years without trial.

Meanwhile, at Nyanga, former ZANLA soldiers continued to be trained until September 1982, when security minister, Sydney Sekeramayi announced that the new Fifth Brigade was ready for service. . Its first Commander was Colonel Perence Shiri, now head of the Zimbabwe Air Force.

Fifth Brigade was not truly part into the army, answering directly to Prime Minister Mugabe who was also minister of defence. They were despatched to Matabeleland and the Midlands province, where ZAPU dissidents had been murdering mostly white farmers. Once in the field, the new soldiers acted as judge, jury and executioner of anyone they suspected might be supporting ZAPU elements still at large.

Most of their operations were targeted at defenceless civilians, and, in April 1983 Mugabe said of the Matabele civilian population: "We eradicate them. We don't differentiate when we fight because we can't tell who is a dissident and who is not". Within weeks, Fifth Brigade had killed thousands of civilians, beaten and tortured thousands more, and burnt entire villages to the ground.

Most victims were shot or bayoneted in public executions, often after being forced to dig their own graves in front of family and friends The largest single slaughter took place on the banks of the Cewale River near Lupane, south of Victoria Falls on 5 March 1983 when killing 124 young men and women were machine-gunned : 62 died immediately, 55 died from injuries and seven survived with bullet wounds.

Another method widely used by Fifth Brigade was to lock families in their grass huts and set the thatch alight, a method used by ZANLA on Shona civilians during the civil war in villages which were believed to be helping the government.

In other places, hundreds, of civilians would be rounded up and marched at gunpoint to a school or water point. There they would be beaten, burned or raped, and forced to sing Shona songs praising Mugabe. The meetings usually ended with public executions.

The actions falls clearly into the United Nations and ICC definition of genocide. There are those, like Lt Col Lionel Dyke, commander of paratroops unit which also operated alongside Fifth Brigade, who defend Gukurahundi. According to Dyke - who features in several torture transcripts held by CAHZ, the action "brought peace very, very quickly." To make things worse for the Matabele, Mugabe had sections of the province sealed off from vehicle traffic and deliveries of food and medicine.

Crops were burned, shops and clinics closed down and a population of around three million people faced death by starvation. With his homeland under siege, Joshua Nkomo signed a "Unity Accord" on 22 of December 1987 merging ZAPU with ZANU-PF. Between April and June 1988, Mugabe signed a number of amnesty bills which pardoned all dissidents and the members of Fifth Brigade and other units which had participated in the genocide.

Gukurahundi was over, but villagers were barred from opening the mass graves and, to date, there is no clear account of what happened in Matabeleland, except that somewhere between 10 000 and 40 000 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

CAHZ is campaigning to have Gukurahundi officially recognised as Genocide and we are compiling evidence for the eventual trial of, among others:

President Robert Mugabe

Lt Col (now Air Marshal) Perence Shire

Emerson Mnangagwa (minister for security over part of the period)

Sydney Sekeremayi (minister for security over part of the period)

Lt Col Lionel Dyke (ret), commander of parachute battalion who participated in several acts of torture.

If you have any evidence against these people, we ask you to please come forward, either publicly or in confidence. Nazi war criminals were hunted into their nineties in an effort to bring some late justice to people murdered in Hitler's Germany and we intend to pursue the architects and perpetrators of Gukurahundi with the same vigour.

More on Dyke by David Coltard
The Zimbabwe Times
September 8, 2008
Geoffrey Nyarota

THE campaign pitch of President Robert Mugabe in recent elections has been consistent.Since the electorate shocked him out of deepening complacency in the aftermath of the constitutional referendum held back in February 2000 Mugabe has sought to portray himself as a patriot, while presenting his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, as nothing more than a groveling puppet of the West.

Mugabe and the former ruling Zanu-PF have paraded themselves as paragons of post-colonial political virtue, while dismissing those who oppose them as shameless sell-outs, permanently at the beck and call of a dispossessed white farming community and a Western world seeking to re-colonise Zimbabwe.

In the world of make-believe painted by Mugabe and his surrogates at Zanu-PF campaign rallies, political correctness entails having nothing or as little as possible to do with white people especially those of Zimbabwean commercial farming stock or with the representatives, even accredited diplomats, of Western nations, particularly the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia.

This essentially racist posturing was evolved and fine-tuned in the period after the 2000 referendum, when it suddenly dawned on the Zanu-PF leadership that they no longer enjoyed the fawning support and unquestioning loyalty of the Zimbabwean electorate.

Evidence abounds, however, that Mugabe’s and Zanu-PF’s racist pretensions are based on a false premise and shrouded in hypocrisy and double-speak. Zanu-PF has thus continued to delude both itself and party loyalists over the years simply because its rivals in the MDC have somehow allowed the party to get away with what essentially amounts to telling two self-serving falsehoods.

Mugabe in the early days of Zimbabwe’s independence basked in the glory of overstated Western adulation, while Zimbabwe benefited from the backing and support of a Western world anxious to support a government they somehow believed would constitute a departure from the African post-independence stereotype of corruption, economic mismanagement, lawlessness and abuse of civic rights. Aid funds poured into Africa’s newest nation while Mugabe was toasted in Western capitals. A knighthood was conferred on him by Queen Elizabeth the Second at Buckingham Palace while members of the Zanu-PF Women’s League ululated in Harare. A number of universities on both sides of the Atlantic recognised him through honorary degrees.

The first lie is that Western nations are natural enemies of Zimbabwe.

The second falsehood, more significantly, is that Zanu-PF hates while people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, Zanu-PF has built a strategic circle of its own white friends over the years. Not only does Zanu-PF have dealings and cordial relations with its white allies; the people concerned are in most cases capitalist entrepreneurs who have prospered magnificently in Zimbabwe through their association with the ruling elite. Some prosper through exploiting the very people Zanu-PF pretends to protect.

Back in 1980 Mugabe went out of his way to prove to an anxious world that he was more than willing to abide by the non-racist tenets of his party’s first election manifesto.

Zanu-PF’s election manifesto stated categorically: “Zanu wishes to give the fullest assurance to the white community, the Asian and coloured communities that a Zanu government can never in principle or in social or government practice, discriminate against them. Racism, whether practiced by whites or blacks, is anathema to the humanitarian philosophy of Zanu. It is as primitive a dogma as tribalism or regionalism.”

The Zanu-PF of today publicly castigates and demonizes opponents such as the MDC who espouse similar non-racist policies and openly engage with members of the white community, branding them as enemies of the people and as puppets of the West.

Surprisingly, supporters both in and out of the country who hailed Mugabe for his former concern for the welfare of the ordinary man and his policy of national reconciliation, still glorify him long after he abandoned both the concern and the policy and now constantly spouts racist diatribe without the mandate of the majority of his people to do so.

But then to a considerable extent Mugabe and his acolytes depend for their survival on the existence of powerful white supporters who manipulate and strategize behind the scenes.

In the eyes of Zanu-PF and some post-colonial African political opinion the grievous error that the MDC
makes is to parade its Roy Bennetts, David Coltarts, Eddie Crosses, Ian Kays and Trudy Stevensons in public; granting them a manifestly conspicuous frontline role in the fight for democratic change.

The MDC strategists perhaps never read George Orwell’s Animal Farm or took serious note of Squealer’s constant exhortation to “Tactics, comrades.” Squealer was the porcine equivalent of Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Information, Prof Jonathan Moyo. In the Zimbabwean context, Mugabe did not preach reconciliation until he had the keys to the office of the Prime Minister in hand. Yet Tsvangirai practices appeasement and magnanimity from a position of powerlessness. Maybe if he could persuade Bennett to withdraw from the front he would soon have real power to share with him.

Tactics, comrades!

While the MDC’s white supporters love to shout from public platforms, Zanu-PF’s whites are voiceless but powerful backroom strategists. Their rare forays onto newspaper front pages are often prompted merely by the pressing need to defend themselves in the face of allegations of corruption, outright fraud or other impropriety while making money for themselves and Zanu-PF.

Being dedicated capitalists, even when Mugabe was still an avowed socialist, their major preoccupation is to make as much financial hay as possible, while the Zanu-PF sun still shines. Over the past 28 years of Mugabe’s rule leading entrepreneurs such as the gregarious British businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland, the somewhat eccentric Nicholas van Hoogstraten, also British, John Arnold Bredenkamp, who constantly parries accusations of arms dealing, and Conrad Muller “Billy” Rautenbach who took care of Zanu-PF financial interests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have forged strong alliances with the Zanu-PF leadership, Mugabe himself included.

So too have emergent businessmen such as Lt. Col Lionel Dyke (Retired). He quickly rose from the relative obscurity of an officer in the Zimbabwe National Army and was thrust into the limelight by the turn of the century as a political broker.

He was assigned by two men he claimed to be his allies in Zanu-PF, Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Speaker of Parliament and retired defence forces commander Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe to broker a partnership deal between the ruling party and the MDC. Dyke said the MDC was represented by the party’s secretary general, Welshman Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi, its secretary for information and publicity.

Dyke revealed these details to me in December 2002 when I was editor of the now banned Daily News. He disclosed that he had also been assigned to secure the support of The Daily News, then the country’s largest newspaper, for the ambitious political initiative. The initiative sought to sideline both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, in favour of a new leadership. I turned Dyke’s proposal down, and blew the plot in the newspaper.

Col Dyke, one of Zanu-PF’s most trusted white allies now rakes in millions through landmine recovery operations in Zimbabwe, the Middle East, Kosovo and other trouble-spots of the world. South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki has since taken over the role of mediator in the Zimbabwean political crisis.

Dyke, who was commander of the Rhodesian African Rifles during Ian Smith’s war against the guerilla armies, was in charge of a regiment of paratroopers in 1983 to 84 during the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission’s report “Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace” says Dyke expressed support for the deployment by government of Five Brigade against civilians, saying this strategy “brought peace very, very quickly”.

Address by Morgan Tsvangirai at a meeting with MDC members of Parliament at Harvest House

Harare, Zimbabwe

18 December 2002

One Colonel Lionel Dyke and his business associates are being used to promote an agenda that seeks to legitimise the rogue regime. The names of Emmerson Mnangagwa and General Zvinavashe keep on coming up in this dirty plan which we are told was endorsed by ZANU PF, the British and the South Africans

Will Dyke ever face justice
Operation Gukurahundi (The rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rain)

In 1983, the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, under the command of Lt Col Perence Shire, once known as the "Black Jesus", but currently the commander of Zimbabwe's air force, was the vanguard unit in a campaign against alleged dissidents that has also become known as the Matabeleland Massacres. At least 20,000 people were killed in the operation. The target of Gukurahundi was members of the rival liberation movement, ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo and drawn mainly from Zimbabwe's Ndebele people in the southwest of the country. There were numerous accounts of children murdered, women raped and killed, and homesteads razed. Regarding the deaths of civilians, Mugabe reportedly said in April 1983: "We eradicate them. We don't differentiate when we fight because we can't tell who is a dissident and who is not." Unlike other army units, the 5th Brigade, comprised of Shona-speaking people, reported directly to Mugabe.

On 22 December 1987 Nkomo signed a Unity Accord, merging ZAPU with ZANU-PF. Mugabe signed a host of amnesty bills pardoning all dissidents and army units, including the 5th Brigade, in 1988. During Gukurahundi, two security ministers presided over operations: Emerson Mnangagwa, known by his supporters as Ngwena (The Crocodile), is currently the rural housing minister; he was succeeded by Sydney Sekeremayi, who currently holds the minister of defence portfolio. Retired Lt Col Lionel Dyke, commander of the parachute battalion during Gukurahundi and formerly commander of the Rhodesian African Rifles, which fought against Zimbabwe's liberation movements, is alleged to have participated in several acts of torture. He now is reportedly involved in demining and security operations in such places as Lebanon and Iraq. A human rights pressure group based in The Hague, Crimes Against Humanity Zimbabwe, is campaigning for Gukurahundi to be recognised as genocide

Rhodesian war and Anthrax

The world’s largest outbreak of human anthrax occurred in rural Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from 1978-80 when 10,738 cases were recorded and 182 people died.

The outbreak occurred in the latter phase of the Southern Rhodesian independence war that many had already concluded the white minority was losing. It was speculated at the time that the anthrax spores were spread through contaminated meat. Cattle deaths were not recorded.

In 1996 during a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing in South Africa, scientists testified that the apartheid regime had employed urban methods. The scientists admitted they had planted anthrax spores in the gum of envelopes, in cigarettes and chocolates.

Anthrax spores were also planted in Lusaka, Zambia, in the food of three Russian advisors to South Africa’s now ruling African National Congress (ANC). One of them died. Anthrax was not common in Zimbabwe before 1978. In the 29 years prior to the outbreak, only 334 human cases had been recorded in the country compared to 459 in the United States in the same period. At that time, about 7,000 cases were recorded worldwide annually.

These figures were contained in an article published in Physicians for Social Change (PSR), a quarterly journal of Medicine and Survival Inc., in December 1992 by Dr Meryl Nass, then of the Wing Memorial Hospital and University of Massachusetts in the United States of America. Dr Nass’s article, based on official Southern Rhodesian statistics, was entitled “Anthrax Epizootic in Zimbabwe, 1978-80: Due to Deliberate Spread?”

Her deliberately pointed question was ignored by official American agencies because she was a known member of the anti-war movement and because U.S. attention at the time was focused elsewhere.

However, her observations were taken up on 7 July 1993 in a lecture at the University of Zimbabwe entitled: “The use of Poison and Biological Weapons in the [Southern] Rhodesian War”. The lecture also dealt with the deliberate spread of cholera and other forms of bio-terrorism.

Five years later in July 1998, the BBC programme, “Panorama”, devoted eight minutes to the spread of anthrax and cholera in Zimbabwe in a program called “Plague Wars: The Secret Killings”. The first segment had ironically been called: “Plague Wars: Apocalypse Delayed”.

The Southern Rhodesian anthrax outbreak occurred over a two-year period and was limited in its geographical scope. It affected 17 percent of the country, often in areas where anthrax had not previously been recorded.

The anthrax outbreak was confined to Southern Rhodesia’s Tribal Trust Lands (now known as Communal Lands) where most Africans still live. In the white commercial farmlands there were only four small outbreaks and 11 cattle deaths. No human cases were recorded. Nor were any cases reported beyond the country’s borders or in tourist centres such as Victoria Falls.

In the November 1981 issue of the British journal, Nature, five scientists based at the Chemical Defense Establishment at Porton Down admitted that continued anthrax contamination on Gruinard Island off Scotland made human habitation there hazardous.

During the Second World War that the British government conducted anthrax tests on Gruinard, leaving the island off-limits to humans for 45 years after the experiments until formaldehyde treatment was used to decontaminate the soil.

Thirteen years after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, a former senior white member of the Southern Rhodesian Security Forces admitted: “It is true that anthrax was used in an experimental role … and the anthrax idea came from Army Psyops (Psychological Operations)”.

“The use of anthrax spores to kill off the cattle of tribesmen assisting the guerrillas was carried out in conjunction with psychological suggestions to the tribes-people that their cattle were sick and dying because of disease introduced into Zimbabwe from Mozambique by the infiltrating guerrillas”. Five years later, Col Lionel Dyke, who commanded the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) during the Southern Rhodesian war, admitted that anthrax had been used in the south of the country.

But he stressed that Southern Rhodesians had no capacity to produce anthrax and cholera. Instead, he insisted, his country had been used as a “laboratory” by the South African intelligence services.

The Surgeon General of the South African Defense Force (SADF) from 1988 to 1997, Lieutenant-General Niels Knobel, who had authority over biological weapons, said his country had received “tacit under-the-counter help from Britain and the United States” in obtaining anthrax and cholera. Zimbabwe’s British-born Minister of Health, Dr Timothy Stamps, was even more explicit. In the Panorama program, he said that he was almost certain that the anthrax sporess had been developed at Porton Down. The use of anthrax, he said, was the “highest form of murder”. Porton Down officials denied that they had collaborated with either the Southern Rhodesian or South African authorities. But Knobel said they had acquired the spores through “unofficial” contacts.

Just how the anthrax was introduced to Africans in Southern Rhodesia has never been investigated. Possibly it was gastrointestinal anthrax caused by eating the contaminated meat of dead stock. A high mortality rate can then follow this form of anthrax. Cutaneous anthrax that occurs mainly among certain occupational groups such as wool-handlers and tanners, seems improbable in the Zimbabwean case. Inhalation anthrax, however, is more possible – and lethal.

The university paper focused on the use of anthrax, cholera and poison by the Southern Rhodesian government of Ian Smith and its armed forces. It extensively quoted the case notes of another American doctor, Paul Epstein, dated 12 May 1978 when he was working at the hospital in Beira in Mozambique.

“On 23 April 1978 the nightmare began,” Epstein wrote. “Five Zimbabwean refugees arrived in the emergency room, bleeding from the noses. One died in the emergency room, another died on his way to the ward. The next morning a third young man was in shock.

“By the end of two weeks, 15 men had died in front of us from excessive bleeding, out of 35 who were admitted and approximately 200 who had suffered from the mysterious haemorrhages.”

After exhausting a lengthy checklist, Epstein and his team concluded: “Deliberate poisoning by agents of the Ian Smith regime became a real possibility”. Finally, a sample was sent to the World Health Organization for analysis. They found a fatal quantity of Sodium Coumadin, an anti-coagulant used to poison rats.The unnamed Southern Rhodesian Security Force member and Dyke also admitted that cholera had been extensively used on slow moving streams and stagnant water outside the country. Cholera infection, it was originally thought, did not disperse quickly in water. This view has now been proven to be incorrect. “The deliberate use of cholera as a weapon of war may throw new light on the persistent outbreaks of the disease in several southern African countries in the 1980s and early 1990s,” the Mozambique news agency (AIM) observed.

In 1992, there were 30,000 recorded cholera cases in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe that resulted in 1,400 deaths. These countries harbored Zimbabwe guerrilla bases prior to independence in 1980. (SARDC)

David Martin is the former Africa Correspondent of the London Sunday newspaper, The Observer, now resident in Zimbabwe where he has lived and worked since 1980, as a publisher and writer. He has written extensively about the 14 member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Monday, April 27, 2009


Fidel Castro's 1977 Southern Africa Tour: A Report to Honecker


Editor's Note: In early 1977, Cuban President Fidel Castro took a an extensive tour of Africa and then continued on to Europe and the USSR. During a stop in East Berlin, Castro recounted his experiences to East German Communist leader Erich Honecker. The record of those discussions was located in the archives of the former ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) by Christian F. Ostermann (CWIHP/National Security Archive).
The following excerpt--from a discussion on 3 April 1977 at the House of the SED Central Committee in East Berlin--contains Castro's impressions of the situations in several southern African countries, (e.g., Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, People's Republic of the Congo), and several guerrilla or liberation groups in the region, such as the African National Congress (ANC), then struggling for power in South Africa, and two groups fighting to rule Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African Political Union (ZAPU). Also included are Castro's assessments of individual political leaders, remarks about coordination with Moscow, and an over-all conclusion that Africa was the place to inflict a major blow against world imperialism. (For Castro's remarks at this meeting on the situation in the Horn of Africa, see the excerpts printed later in this issue of the CWIHP Bulletin.)

Transcript of Honecker-Castro, Meeting, 3 April 1977 (excerpts)

Minutes of the conversation between Comrade Erich Honecker and Comrade Fidel Castro, Sunday,
3 April 1977 between 11:00 and 13:30 and 15:45 and 18:00, House of the Central Committee, Berlin.
Participants: Comrades Hermann Axen, Werner Lamberz, Paul Verner, Paul Markowski (with Comrades Edgar Fries and Karlheinz Mobus as interpreters), Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, Osmany Cienfuegos, Raul Valdez Vivo, Jose Abrantes
[Honecker welcomes Castro, invites him to take the floor--ed.]

Fidel Castro: [sections omitted--ed.]
We visited Tanzania because of an old commitment. We have built three schools there, sent a medical brigade, and given help in other ways. Nyerere had invited us to talk about economic matters above all. The rise in oil prices had affected Tanzania tremendously. Tanzania needs 800,000 tons of oil a year. The entire harvest of peanut, sisal and cotton crops has to be used for the purchase of oil. The Chinese are still present in Tanzania. They have built a few things there, in particular the railroad. The armed units of the ZANU are trained by the Chinese. Tanzania also carries some responsibility for the split of the liberation movement of Zimbabwe into ZANU and ZAPU. In South Africa armed fighting has begun.
The ANC fighters are trained in Angola. The Chinese had also offered training here. Tanzania considers the developments in Zimbabwe in terms of prestige. [Its involvement] allows it to negotiate with Great Britain and the United States over Zimbabwe and to define a role for itself.
The ZANU has 5000 men in fighting units trained by the Chinese. The liberation fighters in Namibia are also trained in Angola, however. Cuba and the Soviet Union have both set up training camps for this purpose. The ZAPU is supported by Angola.
We flew directly from Tanzania to Mozambique. There used to be differences between us and the FRELIMO, going back to the times when FRELIMO was in Tanzania and Che Guevara had spoken to [Mozambique Liberation Front head Eduardo] Mondlane there. At the time Mondlane did not agree with Che and said so publicly. Thereafter news articles against Mondlane were published in Cuba. Later Mondlane corrected himself, but only internally and things remained somewhat up in the air. FRELIMO took good positions during the liberation struggle in Angola. But in our opinion they were not sufficiently combative. For a time FRELIMO got close to [Tanzanian President Julius] Nyerere. [Cuban Vice President] Carlos Rafael [Rodriguez] had spoken to [Mozambican President] Samora Machel in Colombo[, Sri Lanka, at the Nonaligned Summit Conference in August 1976]. After that we sent a Cuban delegation to Mozambique and I was invited to visit. FRELIMO accepted all of our suggestions for the visit. It was kept discreet, which was convenient for me. Samora Machel was really a surprise for me. I learned to know him as an intelligent revolutionary who took clear positions and had a good relationship with the masses. He really impressed me. We spoke with each other for one and a half days. We support Mozambique. Machel asked us to send 300 technicians. He was interested in Cuba's experiences, especially economic ones. Before this we did not know for sure what influence the Chinese had on him. Now he is getting closer to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. He got a loan from the Soviets for weapons of 100 million rubles. In particular, the Soviets deliver aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries. We were very pleased with our visit to Mozambique. I want to say that we consider this very important.
[Zambian President Kenneth] Kaunda also wanted me to visit him. I had been in Africa for a long time, however, and did not want to extend my stay. Besides which the imperialist penetration has advanced far in Zambia. In the Angola matter, Zambia took a very wrong position, in spite of the fact that she was not forced to do so. We had agreed with Angola not to visit Zambia. A few days before my visit to southern Africa the Katanga [Shaba] battles had begun and [People's Republic of the Congo President Marien] N'Gouabi was murdered. I had been invited to Madagascar, but did not want to stay in Africa any longer. During a press conference in Dar Es Salaam I had categorically denied that Cuba was in any way involved in the Katanga battles. I explained that the situation in Angola was different from those in Zimbabwe and Namibia. I had answered all questions in very general terms. Things are going well in Angola. They achieved good progress in their first year of independence. There's been a lot of building and they are developing health facilities. In 1976 they produced 80,000 tons of coffee. Transportation means are also being developed. Currently between 200,000 and 400,000 tons of coffee are still in warehouses. In our talks with [Angolan President Agostinho] Neto we stressed the absolute necessity of achieving a level of economic development comparable to what had existed under [Portuguese] colonialism. Over 300 Cubans are working in the health system. Fishing is recovering and the sugar plantations are almost all back in production. The reconstruction of the transport system is to be completed within 6 months. In education a lot is being done as well. The MPLA [Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola] is doing a good job with mass organizing. Women are politically very active. There are no grounds for dissatisfaction there. Angola has good hard currency earnings. Oil revenues are about 500 million dollars a year, without them having to do anything. They also generate about 300 million from coffee. Now they are setting up a Party in Angola. The fundamental decisions in domestic and foreign policy are correct. We are still concerned about one area: the development of the Army. The Defense Ministry is doing hardly anything to fight bandits in the north and south of the country. The bands are particularly active in the center of the country. With our help they could deliver heavy blows against them. The Soviet military advisors are active at the highest levels. Our advisers are active at the Brigade level and we are helping them with the training of military cadres and the fight against the bandits. The Angolan Defense Ministry underestimates the fight against the bandits [and] they are not deploying regular troops against the bandits. We understand that the Soviet military advisers are primarily requested to help them to organize the regular army and are not interested in helping in the fight against bandits. It is difficult for us to fight against the bandits on our own. Our comrades have had a lot of difficulties and have spent many bitter hours fighting them. The Cubans cannot do it alone. The state of the army unsettles us. In one region a brigade has been without a commander or chief of staff for a long time. Until now the Cuban units have been the only ones fighting the bandits. The major share must however be carried out by the Angolans themselves. The Cuban troops are above all concentrated in Cabinda and in the defense of the capital, Luanda. I spoke with Neto about the situation of the army and told him that things had to change. The Defense Minister [Cdr. Iko Teles Carreira--ed.] is a good old fighter with the MPLA, but that hasn't helped. An army general staff does not really exist. The country may have 70,000 men under arms but the army is practically not organized. The Soviet advisers are primarily concerned with planning. Neto wanted us to take the entire army in hand. In practical terms that might have been the best solution, but not politically. The Soviet Union is the chief weapons supplier and the Angolans must speak directly to the Soviets. Neto himself must solve these problems. We also cannot commit our troops to the fight against bandits because women and children are being killed in these battles and we cannot take on such a responsibility.
Neto made a very good impression. He is an outstanding personality, very clever and decisive. He is increasingly the leading figure in the Angolan leadership. There are also opportunists in Angola, however. Sometimes they try to approach us or the Soviets and to spread certain opinions. We are very clearly taking a line in favor of Agostinho Neto. There is also evidence of black racism in Angola. Some are using the hatred against the colonial masters for negative purposes. There are many mulattos and whites in Angola. Unfortunately, racist feelings are spreading very quickly. Neto has taken a balanced position here, naming both whites and mulattos as ministers. Neto is of course ready to contribute to this question decisively. He is open to suggestions and arguments. The Defense Minister is not as strong. He does not have high standards. Because of this a lot of cadres do not have the right attitudes. There are cases in which the military commanders have not visited their military district for five months. Many ministers were appointed because they were old war comrades of Neto's. A fact remains: the army and general staff are not working properly. Cadres overall are being developed well throughout Angola, but the Army is the most important. Things are going well, with the exception of the army.
We are giving Angola a great deal of military support. At the end of the liberation war, 36,000 Cuban troops and 300 tanks were deployed. The South African mercenaries were quickly demoralized. The USA talks about 12,000 Cuban soldiers. We are reducing our troop strength continuously. This year we plan to leave 15,000 men stationed there. By the end of 1978 there should be only 7,000, although it's probable that the reductions won't proceed quite as rapidly. The main force is stationed in the south. If the Cuban military were not deployed in Angola the situation would be a lot more complicated.
The number of our civilian advisers and experts will rise to 4,000 this year. Until now this aid has been provided free of charge. Starting in 1977, however, Angola is committed to paying for the living expenses of our specialists, with an additional increase in financial responsibilities scheduled for 1978. Our military aid will remain free of charge. The Soviet Union has committed itself to supplying the entire material needs of the Angolan and our units.
While in Angola I also dealt with the question of the liberation movements in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Namibia's liberation fighters are good, they are also helping Angola with the anti-bandit battles. The South African ANC is a serious organization. Its president, Oliver Tambo, is a serious politician. Three quarters of the ANC Central Committee membership is communist. They have a very clear political position with regards to Angola, the Soviet Union, and other socialist countries. The people have taken up the struggle in South Africa, in time the ANC will be a serious power.
The situation is most complicated in Zimbabwe. The ZANU have 1,000 armed fighters. The Chinese and Nyerere are influential with the ZANU. The ZAPU, however, haven't had any military forces of their own. The best man in the ZAPU, General Secretary [Jason] Moyo, was murdered [in Zambia in January 1977]. During the Angolan war of liberation, the Angolan leadership could not give its support to the liberation movement in Zimbabwe. At the time Mozambique was leaning against Tanzania and supported the ZANU. Today things are different. Angola's influence is increasing and Mozambique is growing closer and closer to Angola. The Patriotic Front in Zimbabwe is made up of both the ZANU and the ZAPU, but this is only a formality. [ZAPU leader Joshua] Nkomo is supported by Angola, the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. [ZANU leader Robert] Mugabe is supported by Tanzania and the Chinese. Now there are possibilities for depriving the Chinese and the Tanzanians of their influence in Zimbabwe. Zambia is supporting the Zimbabwean liberation movement for the prestige factor that's involved and because it wants to counteract Angola's influence with Nkomo. With the positive development of Angola and Mozambique the prospects of the liberation movement in Zimbabwe can only improve. It is possible that Angola, Mozambique and Zambia will move forward together. The ZAPU must establish its own armed forces as soon as possible. There are today 6,000 ZAPU men in Angola, and one could make an Army out of them. That would facilitate uniting the ZAPU and the ZANU. I told Neto about this and he agreed. Above all that would be a way to roll back China's influence. Nkomo also understands this. He is very intelligent and talks to Samora Machel a great deal. Unfortunately he is very fat, and so his health is not good.
I told him and others that the personal safety of all the liberation leaders was in danger. The imperialists would be moved to try and murder them all. They've already murdered N'Gouabi and Moyo. Because of this it is absolutely necessary to take steps to increase security measures for the leaders.
The liberation struggle in Africa has a great future. From a historical perspective the facts are that the imperialists cannot turn things back. The liberation struggle is the most moral thing in existence. If the socialist states take the right positions, they could gain a lot of influence. Here is where we can strike heavy blows against the imperialists. The liberation army in Katanga [Shaba] is led by a general. These people used to favor Katanga's secession from Zaire. Later they went to Angola, were trained by the Portuguese and fought against the MPLA, until they went over to Neto's side; now they could not fall out with Neto. They are good soldiers. Its military leader is a general in the gendarmerie who now wants to make a revolution in Zaire. These people are now saying that they are good Marxist-Leninists and that they no longer advocate the secession of Katanga. They went off in four different directions with four battalions. We didn't know about this, and we think that the Angolans didn't either. The frontline states were split 50/50 in favor of supporting the Katanga liberation movement. We gave them a categorical explanation that Cuba was in no way involved in this. The armed groups are marching forward. Their commander sends an open [public] daily telegram to the Angolan leadership and to the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Luanda describing his advances and asking for support. The Yankees are wavering. They know very well that there are no Cuban units involved. Carlos Rafael Rodriguez is charged with speaking to the French and Belgian ambassadors to protest against their countries' involvement and to pressure them to stop. We want them to be worried, so when they are organizing their mercenaries, and to think that our troops are very near.
Angola has a certain moral duty, and a desire, to support the Katanga liberation movement. They also desire it because the Angolan leadership is angered by [Zairian leader] Mobutu [Sese Seko]'s behavior. Angola has asked us and the Soviets to give them weapons for delivery to the Katangans. We should wait for developments, however. Mobutu is an incompetent and weak politician. It's possible that he will not survive this crisis. The frontline states are now in favor of supporting Katanga, while Angola favors direct aid. We don't want to be involved in order not to give the USA an excuse to intervene. As I mentioned we will try to put pressure on Belgium and France.
It will be a great event if Mobutu falls.
In the People's Republic of the Congo there is a confusing situation following N'Gouabi's murder. The interior and defense ministers are competing for the leadership. There are also pro-Westerners in the military council. It is practically certain that the rightists murdered N'Gouabi. But the left wing was also dissatisfied with him as well. In other words there was a relatively uncertain situation there. We sent Comrade Almeyda to the funeral, and hope that the situation will stabilize. We were also asked to send a military unit to Brazzaville. The internal problems of the country must be solved by the Congolese themselves however. We have stationed a small military unit in Pointe Noire, and another one in Cabinda.
There were several requests for military aid from various sides: [Libyan leader Moammar] Qadaffi, Mengistu, and the Congolese leaders. During our stay in Africa we sent Carlos Rafael Rodriguez to Moscow to confer with our Soviet comrades and to Havana for consultations with our leadership. In order to find the best solution we must think through this question quietly and thoroughly and consider it in terms of the overall situation of the socialist camp. Above all we must do something for Mengistu...[section on Ethiopia printed in "Horn of Africa Crisis" section--ed.] ...With regard to military aid for the PR Congo and the Libyans we have not yet come to a decision.
I had consultations with [Houari] Boumedienne in Algeria and asked for his opinion. He assured me that Algeria would never abandon Libya. Algeria is very concerned with the situation in the Mediterranean because of its security interests. It is in favor of supporting Libya, as long as military aid is confined to the socialist camp. That is not only a question between Cuba and Algeria. If we are to succeed in strengthening the revolution in Libya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, the PDRY [People's Democratic Republic of Yemen] and Angola we must have an integrated strategy for the whole African continent.
Angola is becoming closer to the socialist camp. It bought 1.5 billion rubles of weapons from the Soviets. Boumedienne thinks that [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat is totally lost to us. In Syria there is also no leftist movement any more, especially after the Syrians defeated the progressive powers and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] in Lebanon.
[Indian President] Indira Gandhi gambled away the elections.
In Africa we can inflict a severe defeat on the entire reactionary imperialist policy. We can free Africa from the influence of the USA and of the Chinese. The developments in Zaire are also very important. Libya and Algeria have large territories, Ethiopia has a great revolutionary potential. So there is a great counterweight to Sadat's betrayal in Egypt. It is even possible that Sadat will be turned around and that the imperialist influence in the Middle East can be turned back.
This must all be discussed with the Soviet Union. We follow its policies and its example.
We estimate that Libya's request is an expression of trust. One should not reject their request. Cuba cannot help it alone.
[subsequent sections omitted--ed.]
[Source: Stiftung "Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der ehemaligen DDR im Bundesarchiv" (Berlin), DY30 JIV 2/201/1292; document obtained by Christian F. Ostermann (National Security Archive); translated for Carter-Brezhnev Project by David Welch with revisions by Ostermann; copy on file at National Security Archive.]