RAIDS ON GORONGOSSA
Zimbabwe's Military Involvement in Mozambique1982 - 1992
by NORMAN MLAMBONorman Mlambo is a Zimbabwean PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Cape Town.
For ten years, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) were deployed in Mozambique helping that country's government in their fight against the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo). Although Zimbabwe's military involvement was formally requested by the Mozambican Government in 1985, Zimbabwean troops were already deployed along the Mutare - Beira route and along the Nyamapanda - Zobue route long before 1985. The Mozambican request therefore only served to regularise an already existing situation, and to legitimise the ZDF presence in Mozambique since 1982. Although Zimbabwe's military involvement in Mozambique between 1982 and 1992 was mainly to protect Zimbabwe's trade routes through Mozambique, that involvement ended up having far-reaching political and military implications. The political and ideological twist that the war took has been explained in terms of the Cold War in which certain governments (e.g. USA, South Africa) supported Renamo while other governments (e.g. Soviet Union, China) supported the then Marxist regimes of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. This paper will concentrate on the military operations carried out by the ZDF in Mozambique because the political and economic aspects of the war have already been covered in another paper 1 .
This paper will argue that from a military and operational perspective, the Mozambican operations overstretched the ZDF to the limit. While the Zimbabwean forces won a number of important military battles in Mozambique, they did not succeed in eliminating Renamo's threat along Zimbabwe's three main trade routes through Mozambique. The most important ZDF military successes were undermined by the inability of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FAM) to hold any of the bases captured from Renamo. Furthermore, the operations were also very expensive to the ZDF in terms of manpower, equipment and money, and there were a lot of incidents, which led to an unnecessary loss of life and equipment. The ZDF did not use proper accounting methods to evaluate the costs of the war effort, and no accurate financial records were kept detailing the amount of resources which were used. Thus, it is almost impossible to quantify the economic impact of Zimbabwe's military involvement in Mozambique during the period 1982 - 1992.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, and her imports and exports therefore depend on trade routes through neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa and Mozambique. This situation has made the quest for easy access to the sea a dominant factor in determining Zimbabwe's geo - politics for over a century. Efforts to secure the port of Beira as Rhodesia's outlet to the sea were started by Cecil John Rhodes in 1890 2 . Mozambique was then under Portuguese rule and an Anglo - Portuguese Convention of 1881 did not allow an independent Rhodesian route through Beira. However, after a lot of lobbying Rhodesia was granted "freedom of transit" through Portuguese territory, and in 1892 Cecil John Rhodes started the construction of a railway line from Beira to Salisbury (now Harare) 3 .
Rhodes also started the extension of the Cape railway line, which reached Bulawayo in November 1897 and Salisbury in 1902. These transport routes were further developed through the years not only to give Rhodesia easy access to the sea, but to serve the exploitative interests of the colonial power, Britain. The main aim was to make it easier for the colony to export raw materials to Britain, especially minerals and agricultural products.
In 1965, Ian Smith unilaterally declared Southern Rhodesia's independence from Britain (UDI), and the United Nations responded by imposing economic and other sanctions against the Smith regime. However, Mozambique, which was still under Portuguese rule, and apartheid South Africa, did not enforce these sanctions. Rhodesia preferred to use the Mozambican routes which were both shorter and much cheaper than the South African routes, and the Portuguese allowed the Rhodesians to maintain customs offices at both Beira and Lourenco Marques (now Maputo).
When it became obvious that Mozambique would soon gain its independence, there was a fear that the new Mozambican government would impose the United Nations sanctions against Rhodesia and close the country's two trading routes. This would leave only the South African routes open to Rhodesia. To reinforce the South African routes, in 1974 another railway line to Durban via Beit Bridge was constructed in only 93 days 4 . By the end of 1974 Rhodesia had a network of transport corridors to the sea as shown in table 1.
Table 1: Rhodesia�s Transport Corridors, 1974
|Route|| || |
|Harare - Beira|| || |
|Harare - Maputo via Chicualacuala|| || |
|Harare - Durban via Beit Bridge|| || |
|Harare - East London via Botswana|| || |
|Harare - Cape Town via Kimberley|| || |
When Rhodesia became independent as Zimbabwe in 1980, it was only logical that the country would move back to using the shorter and cheaper Mozambican routes. The new government decided to "disengage" from the South African trade routes by reintroducing the Beira - Mutare "corridor" for both economic and political reasons. The economic rationale for this decision becomes obvious when one compares the distances and prices of transporting various items to Zimbabwe from Beira and South African ports (see table 2)
Table 2. Comparison of Transport Costs: Durban/Beira to Zimbabwe
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|Tobacco unit trains|| || || || |
|Tobacco non-unit trains|| || || || |
|Other cargo unit trains|
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|Other cargo non-unit trains|
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One of the objectives of SADCC was "the reduction of economic dependence, particularly, but not only on South Africa". The transport and communications sector was identified as a key area in the Lusaka Declaration and therefore, a Southern African Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC) was also established to co-ordinate regional transport projects 6 . This regional transport co-ordination was necessary in view of the fact that six of the member states of SADCC are landlocked and were relying heavily on South African transport routes thus making them vulnerable to South Africa's acts of destabilisation.
Another crucial factor that influenced Zimbabwe's decision to "disengage" from South African transport routes was the apartheid regime's concerted efforts to use its economic power to try and bludgeon Zimbabwe into political and diplomatic concessions 7 . As a result of the outspoken position against apartheid and the socialist rhetoric from the Zimbabwean government, by November 1980, more than 50 000 tonnes of Zimbabwean goods were being deliberately held at South African ports. In 1981 there was a fertiliser shortage in Zimbabwe while 300 000 tonnes of the country's freight was being held in South Africa, including three shipments of fertiliser. In April the same year, the South African Railways (SAR) announced the end of its trade agreement with the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), and demanded the return of 24 diesel locomotives leased to the NRZ. A transport crisis ensued and by the end of the year, more than Z$100 million worth of exports was being held up inside Zimbabwe for lack of transport to the ports 8 .
The "maize train" was the first major freight to be re-routed via the Beira Corridor, but the line came under immediate attack from Renamo. Renamo was created by the Rhodesian Security Forces in the 1970s to destabilise the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), the military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which was fighting against the Smith regime from Mozambique. After the independence of Zimbabwe, control of Renamo was taken over by the South African Defence Force (SADF) who used it to destabilise neighbouring countries 9 . Since 1976, Renamo had managed to cripple Mozambique through acts of sabotage. In the 1980s, apartheid South Africa found another task for Renamo, that of sabotaging Zimbabwe's transport routes through Mozambique.
On 29 October 1981, the railway and road bridges over the Pungwe River were blown up together with Zimbabwe's oil pipeline, which runs under the road bridge 10 . In December 1982, the oil storage depot at Maforga was also blown up. The resulting fuel shortage in Zimbabwe was so critical that road traffic was brought to a virtual stand still. Queues of vehicles at filling stations stretched several kilometres and at one point there was only one day's supply of petrol and two days' supply of diesel for the whole country 11 . A national disaster was only averted by the clandestine movement of fuel by rail from Maputo via Komatipoort in South Africa to Beit Bridge. This line had been used as a sanctions-busting route for Rhodesia during the UDI era. When apartheid South Africa cut off that connection as well, the National Railways of Zimbabwe also blocked South African cargo to and from Zambia and Zaire. It was only then that Zimbabwean freight was released from South African ports and allowed to reach Zimbabwe.
In March 1981 South Africa gave one year's notice that it would abrogate the special bilateral trade agreement whereby Rhodesia had been allowed access at reduced duties to South Africa's protected market. The chronic state of uncertainty, which was created by that announcement, drove many South African buyers away from the Zimbabwean market even before the date of the end of the agreement 12 .
The government of Zimbabwe therefore faced real economic and political pressures for the reopening of trade routes through Mozambique. Part of the economic rationale was that, even in a post - apartheid Southern Africa, there would still be a need to move away from South Africa both to reduce transportation costs and to try and balance economic benefits within the region in accordance with the aims of SADCC.
This corridor contains four transport systems linking the Mozambican port of Beira on the Indian Ocean to the city of Mutare on the eastern border of Zimbabwe. The four systems are the railway line, the road, the oil pipeline and an electric powerline. The railway line was built by Cecil John Rhodes in 1898 and runs for 314 kilometres between Mutare and Beira. The oil pipeline from Beira to Feruka near Mutare was built by LONRHO in 1965. The pipeline runs parallel to the tarmac road that stretches from Machipanda on the Zimbabwean border to Beira. The electric powerline is a Mozambican line, which runs alongside the road from Chicamba Real Dam near Manica all the way to Beira. The rehabilitation of the Beira Corridor was SADCC's highest priority programme, with SATCC publishing a ten-year development plan in May 1985. Control of the project was vested with the Beira Corridor Authority (BCA), a Mozambican parastatal body formed in 1985. The BCA worked hand in hand with the Beira Corridor Group (BCG), a user lobby and limited liability private company based in Zimbabwe. Technical assistance was obtained mostly from the Nordic countries and donor and soft loan funding was secured for capital and manpower by March 1986. The Beira Corridor was designated a protected area by the SADCC and security was to be maintained by Mozambican and Zimbabwean security forces.
This corridor comprises a rail link from Chicualacuala on the Zimbabwe - Mozambique border to the port of Maputo. The railway line was opened in 1955 and is 534 kilometres long. A road runs alongside the railway line, but by 1990 the road was only tarred between Barragem (where it crosses the Limpopo River), and Maputo, a very short distance. By 1974, this railway line carried 34 percent of Rhodesia's total exports. At its operational peak in 1974, Maputo was the largest port in Southern Africa after Durban. At Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, there was an increase in trade, but the line was effectively closed in 1984 due to increased Renamo attacks. The rehabilitation of the Limpopo Corridor started in 1987 when the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) was contracted under a SADCC programme to replace the worn out wooden railway sleepers with concrete sleepers. The NRZ also had to replace the light 30-kilo-per-metre railway line for a 40-kilo-per-metre continuously welded line. The British Government provided the funding and a British company, Plessey, won the contract for the reinstallation of the radio and teleprinter links.
Security from Renamo attacks was to be provided by Mozambican and Zimbabwean armed forces. To this end, the British Government financed the training of five companies of Mozambican troops at Nyanga in Zimbabwe under the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT) scheme. The British also provided funding to the ZDF and to the FAM, for "non - lethal" equipment for the units guarding the Limpopo Corridor.
This corridor is a tarred 263-kilometre road running from Nyamapanda on the Zimbabwean border through the Mozambican city of Tete to Zobue on the Malawi border. After UDI in 1965, this route carried Rhodesian goods to and from Malawi, which had not applied United Nations sanctions against the Smith regime. After the independence of Mozambique in 1974, the bulk of Malawi's trade with South Africa went through Rhodesia by road via Tete. It was only in 1984 that trade via this route declined because of Renamo attacks. It was in the wake of these developments that in June 1984 the governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe formed a joint security committee 13 . The aim of the committee was to monitor operations on a day - to - day basis and to attempt to remove all security threats along the Tete Corridor. Zimbabwe's First Mechanised Battalion was ordered to move into Mozambique and they established their headquarters in Tete thereby securing the strategic bridge crossing the Zambezi River. In 1985, President Samora Machel of Mozambique formally requested the governments of Tanzania and Zimbabwe to contribute troops for "the restoration of law and order" in Mozambique. Following this request, Tanzanian troops were deployed into Mozambique in the provinces north of the Zambezi River while Zimbabwe undertook to help restore law and order in the provinces south of the Zambezi River.
The decision to send Zimbabwean troops to help restore law and order in Mozambique was partly influenced by Zimbabwe's close relationship with the Mozambican government which dates back to Frelimo's assistance during Zimbabwe's war of liberation. There was also the underlying fact that Frelimo and ZANU shared a common Marxist ideology of scientific socialism. The South Africa-backed Renamo professed to be an anti - communist movement, just like Jonas Savimbi's Unita movement, which was fighting against the Marxist MPLA government of Angola. There was thus an ideological alliance of the Maputo - Harare - Luanda axis, with support for these governments from the Soviet Union. The fact that the United States of America was providing covert and overt support to opposition movements such as Unita in Angola and Renamo in Mozambique reflected the extension of the Cold War to Southern Africa. It was Zimbabwe's involvement in this complicated situation that deteriorated into what some critics have called "Zimbabwe's Vietnam" 14 .
The first comprehensive intelligence on the importance of Renamo bases along the Gorongossa Mountains in Mozambique came from some Renamo elements that had been captured near Katiyo in north - eastern Zimbabwe. Some Renamo elements had crossed from Mozambique into Zimbabwe several times, had robbed some shops along the border and had burned down a timber factory. After several meetings with Mozambican officials it was agreed that the ZDF could pursue into Mozambique any Renamo elements that might have committed atrocities in Zimbabwe. This was the basis on which the ZDF started planning follow up operations which took them deep into Mozambique and all the way to Gorongossa. Operation Lemon. The first of these ZDF follow up operations was launched from Katiyo and Aberdeen and it was code named Operation Lemon. The operation lasted from the 5-9 December 1984. It comprised elements of 3 Brigade, the Para - Group, Special Air Service (SAS), and was supported by the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ). Bad weather conditions and the difficult mountainous terrain reduced the use of aircraft, and all the trooping had to be done by helicopters. The movement of troops on the ground was also difficult. Four contacts were made and two Renamo bases were destroyed. However, most Renamo elements in the bases managed to escape and only eight were captured. The ZDF considered this operation as a major failure and the code word Lemon was corrupted to mean any failure in all subsequent operations. From the captured Renamo elements it was learned that one of the destroyed bases held approximately 100 Renamo elements. It was further established that there were no other permanent bases in the area, only some advance posts and temporary bases used by Renamo as launching pads for food raids into Zimbabwe. It was also revealed for the first time that the main Renamo bases were at Messinse, Chito, Nyazonia, Buetoni, Gorongossa, Central Base and Cassa Banana. The captured Renamo elements also pinpointed the grid reference of Cassa Banana. They said that it was the headquarters of Renamo and that their commander, Afonso Dhlakama, stayed at that base with more than 400 Renamo elements. It was also revealed that some Zimbabweans were being trained at Cassa Banana and that this fact was a closely guarded secret. The report on Operation Lemon concluded that the only way of getting to the bottom of these claims was to attack the Renamo headquarters in the Gorongossa Mountains.
Operation Grape Fruit. The report for Operation Lemon was taken seriously by the commanders of the ZDF, and in July 1985 preparations for major offensive operations were started. Rehearsals for a FireForce operation were carried out at Inkomo Barracks near Harare. Three infantry brigades were mobilised together with the Para Group, One Commando Battalion and the AFZ. Men and equipment were moved to Chimoio in Mozambique, with a Forward Replenishment Point (FRP) being established at Grand Reef near Mutare. The Ministry of Defence set aside Z$40 million for the offensive. It was code named Operation Grapefruit, and the mission was "to annihilate the Renamo bandits and restore law and order in Manica, Tete and Sofala provinces" 15 .
Intelligence sources had indicated that Renamo's main regional base in Manica province was at Muxamba and that Cassa Banana was the national stronghold of Renamo. Both bases had to be attacked and Muxamba was targeted first, being only 70 kilometres south of Chimoio. The most important consideration however, was the hope that activities around Muxamba might divert Renamo's attention from monitoring too closely the movement of the heavily armed three Zimbabwean infantry battalions marching from Chimoio towards the Gorongossa Mountains.
Muxamba was believed to hold at least 400 Renamo elements commanded by Major General Mabachi. The attack on Muxamba was launched on the 20th of August 1985 by elements of 3 Brigade, supported by the Para Group and the AFZ. The operation went on for four days with minor problems for the ZDF. One helicopter was riddled with small arms fire but managed to get back to Chimoio.
At the end of the operation, a head count of casualties revealed 40 Renamo and 30 civilian collaborators killed in the base. Captured documents revealed that Renamo had divided Mozambique into regions. In Manica and Sofala provinces these regions extended from the coast to the Zimbabwean border. Muxamba base was confirmed as having been the headquarters of Lion Region, which extended from Machipanda to Beira, and from Espungabeira to Nova Sofala. This Lion Region as a whole held a total strength of 2 000 Renamo elements who were organised into specialist units which included 40 paratroopers and 8 amphibious elements. Most of the weaponry captured at Muxamba was fairly old and mostly from the former Eastern Block countries.
Raid on Cassa Banana. Intelligence sources had indicated that Cassa Banana, Renamo's national headquarters had a strength of 400 elements. However, the organisation maintained a string of other smaller bases along the Gorongossa Mountains, which were considered as part of the main base. This raised the total estimated strength in the area to 1 000 elements. During the night of the 27th of August 1985, three Zimbabwe infantry battalions were established in their Form Up Points (FUP) with the help of the SAS and Commando elements. At Chimoio a FireForce was being given final briefing, and five AFZ planes were given orders for a first light take off for Gorongossa on the morning of the 28th of August.
Although the Renamo elements captured at Katiyo had given a grid reference for Cassa Banana, further intelligence had cast some doubt as to which of the several Renamo bases scattered on all sides of the Gorongossa Mountains was the actual headquarters of Renamo. It was because of this uncertainty that the FireForce was divided into three sections each with one helicopter gunship, two transport helicopters and two transport aircraft with paratroopers.
Each FireForce section was detailed to attack specific suspected Renamo positions around the Gorongossa Mountains. It was during this three pronged attack that one helicopter flew overhead Cassa Banana airstrip and the pilot noticed a green pickup truck disappearing into some bushes. It was then that the pilot recognised the place as that given at the briefing as Cassa Banana. The jets from ThornHill, which were already orbiting overhead a predetermined Initial Point (IP), were then talked on to the target, and the raid on Cassa Banana began.
The aircraft attacked the target, knocking out several Anti - Aircraft gun positions. Two helicopter gunships continued to hit suspected strategic positions and managed to flash out several pockets of resistance. A third helicopter was directing the dropping of the first wave of paratroopers. When the paratroopers had entered the base, the infantry battalions, which were close by, were ordered to move in and occupy strategic positions. The FireForce then moved on to deal with the several pockets of resistance from the smaller Renamo bases all along the Gorongossa Mountains. It took the whole day to silence all of these pockets of resistance.
There is no official Zimbabwean record of the number of casualties on the first raid on Cassa Banana. However, considering the amount of effort, the numbers of troops involved on both sides, and the time it took to capture the base, there must have been a lot of deaths and injuries on both sides. The leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, is said to have been deliberately allowed to escape by motorcycle in a northerly direction. He was believed to have been picked up the same day by an unidentified aircraft from an airstrip at Maringue north of Cassa Banana.
During the raid, a large quantity of weapons and documents were captured. The documents confirmed the fact that Renamo was receiving equipment and arms from South Africa, from the United States of America, and from Portugal. It was also revealed that Renamo was training some Zimbabweans who called themselves the Zimbabwe Resistance Army. Of the arms captured at Cassa Banana, most were of Eastern Block origin. The heavy field guns had all been captured from the FAM. It appears as if the South African forces on whom Renamo relied for weapons, were simply passing on to Renamo the arms they were capturing from Angola.
4.1.1. The Impact of the First Raid on GorongossaFrom August to December 1985, the ZDF continued to consolidate its position around the Gorongossa Mountains. The AFZ maintained three helicopters in the area with one transport aircraft for resupply and casualty evacuation. During early November 1985, another clearing operation was carried out around Samacueza. This was a follow up to make sure that Renamo did not regroup after their flight from Cassa Banana, and also to show a military presence before the planned withdrawal of the ZDF from the area. On the 5th of November 1985, a small base was sighted near Samacueza and the FireForce was ordered to engage it. However, the canon of the helicopter gunship jammed on initial firing and the Renamo elements disappeared in the five minutes that it took to clear the gun from a safe distance. The search and destroy missions that followed prolonged the operations around Samacueza with grave consequences for the ZDF. Six days later, two Allouette helicopters crashed during night operations. Three crewmembers died and both helicopters were completely written off 16 .
The two attacks on Muxamba and Cassa Banana, although tactically successful, could not be regarded as a strategic victory for the ZDF for various reasons. First, while these attacks destroyed Renamo's cached logistics and temporarily disorganised their command and control system, the manpower establishments were hardly affected. Of the 1 600 Renamo elements estimated to have been in the two headquarters, 200 were reported killed. This left an estimated 1 400 still at large including the leadership. After a nine-day period of radio communication confusion, Renamo appeared to have reorganised themselves and radio signals were being sent with more clarity 17 .
All bases were instructed to cache their arms outside their resident bases to avoid a repetition of the losses incurred at Cassa Banana. Most Renamo bases in Manica and Sofala also changed their locations. However, intelligence sources in Zimbabwe were of the opinion that Renamo could not assume a truly mobile character because of the sparse nature of the rural population on which they depended.
While the idea was still that the FAM would occupy the areas attacked and neutralised by the ZDF, the ability of the Mozambicans to do so was doubtful. The raid on Cassa Banana released thousands of civilians who had been living in areas controlled by Renamo. These people desperately needed food, medical and other essential supplies. However, considering the fact that the Mozambican Government was finding it difficult to resupply their own troops with rations, medicine, clothing and ammunition, it was improbable that they could supply these civilians whom they considered to have been collaborating with the enemy. In the mean time however, the ZDF had to feed, cloth and treat these civilians to encourage them to stay within safe distances and not run away to rejoin Renamo in the bush. This was a very expensive exercise, one that the Zimbabweans could not maintain for any length of time.
Another factor, which undermined the Zimbabwean tactical successes, was that, while they had reduced Renamo's threat by a considerable degree in Manica and Sofala, Renamo operations had been going on unchecked in other provinces. The towns of Luabo, Chinde, Morrumbala, Mopeia and Caia were still under Renamo control, with Morrumbala, Caia and Mopeia having been captured by Renamo after the fall of Cassa Banana. A substantial quantity of arms and ammunition was also captured from the Mozambican forces that were stationed in these towns. The Renamo gains in ground and equipment from these latest moves could well have compensated for their losses in Sofala province. On the other hand, it can be said that the ZDF operations managed to neutralise Renamo operations in the two provinces of Manica and Sofala. Renamo movements across, in and out of areas adjacent to the Beira Corridor decreased dramatically. Movements after the raids indicated a northward flow into Zambezia and Tete provinces.
Also, Zimbabwe intelligence reports indicated that Renamo were abandoning their main base at Matenje in Tete province and were withdrawing to Malawi. Their flight from Matenje was believed to have been prompted by the advance of two FAM battalions with a Zimbabwean escort who were moving into Casula. However, this Renamo move could have been a redeployment to Zambezia, Niassa and the northern provinces. In the final analysis, the first raids on Gorongossa did not neutralise Renamo, as the Zimbabweans had believed.
Operation Octopus. After the capture of Cassa Banana by the ZDF in August 1985, thousands of Renamo elements moved north towards the Zambezi River. Strategic towns along the Zambezi River such as Caia, Mutarara and Sena were captured by Renamo with very little resistance from the FAM. Generally, the area between Cassa Banana and Tete was not easily accessible and all roads and railway lines into the area had long been made unusable. The Zambezi River is navigable all the way from the Indian Ocean to Tete and the FAM were still strategically holding the town of Marromeu near the mouth of the Zambezi. The town of Marromeu boasted the largest sugar refinery in Southern Africa, and the sugar mills were still functioning. However, it was learned that Renamo was poised to attack the town and that the surrounding population was becoming sympathetic to the Renamo cause. Based on the success of the raid on Cassa Banana, the ZDF Special Task Force (STF) commander at Chimoio, Col.Magama, planned an elaborate operation into the Marromeu area. The operation was code named Octopus. The plan was encouraged by the fact that the Zimbabwean and Mozambican commanders had made an agreement in December 1985 that the Air Forces of the two countries should operate jointly in any future anti - Renamo operation. Octopus was tipped to be the first operation to test such co-operation.
Some Zimbabwean SAS elements were moved from Chimoio to the town of Marromeu with the hope of reinforcing the FAM elements in the town. When they got near Marromeu the Zimbabweans learned that Renamo had already captured the town on the 9th January 1986. The 260 FAM elements in the area had abandoned their bases with little resistance, leaving all their stores, equipment, arms and ammunition for Renamo to take over. Renamo also took control of the only tarmac runway in the area.
When the news of the capture of Marromeu by Renamo reached the STF headquarters at Chimoio, Col. Magama flew to Beira where he received orders from the FAM General Mabote to recapture Marromeu with a joint FAM - ZDF force. A plan was quickly put into place and D-Day was set for the 24th January 1986. However, there was no detailed reconnaissance to confirm the Renamo positions plotted by the SAS from their places of hiding. There was no detailed knowledge of the deployment terrain and the SAS could not ascertain how many Renamo elements were in the area. The logistical backup, such as fuel for the helicopters, the resupply of troops and means of communication was not worked out in detail. The biggest mistake however, was the assumption that aircraft would be made available from Zimbabwe for the operation. As it turned out, the AFZ did not have a single aircraft serviceable for operations at that point in time.
On the 24th January 1986, a Casa transport aircraft on a routine resupply and troop -changeover mission landed at Chimoio from Harare. The STF Headquarters took the opportunity to use the aircraft to drop some Paras and Commandos near Marromeu. Their immediate task was to recapture and secure the runway at Marromeu for the coming operation. Two Mozambican helicopters (1x Mi 25 and 1x Mi 8) were available and it was decided that these would be used to conduct a forced reconnaissance on the town to determine the exact position of the Renamo elements. Col. Magama flew in with the Mi 25 helicopter in order to direct the operation from the air. The helicopter was shot down by Renamo while in orbit overhead the runway and it crashed into the Zambezi River. Col. Magama died on the spot including two SAS members and three Mozambican crewmembers 18 .
The Mi 8 helicopter was also shot at but the pilot managed to fly it to Inhaminga. The Zimbabwean Casa transport aircraft only managed to drop troops but could not land to recover the victims of the Mi 25 crash because the runway had not been secured. The troops on the ground could not get near the crash site either, they could only watch from a distance as Renamo elements stripped the bodies of the victims of the crash of all clothing and equipment. They also looted everything that could be removed from the helicopter and the bodies of the victims were left to float on the Zambezi River.
For two days, frantic efforts were made to scramble aircraft for a rescue operation at Marromeu 19 . However, no AFZ helicopters could be made serviceable. In the end, ZDF Headquarters in Harare sent a message to Chimoio instructing them to use Mozambican aircraft for the recapture of Marromeu. On the 26th January 1986, a FireForce section was assembled at Inhaminga under the command of Col. Dyck. It included 3 x Mi 25 helicopters, 1 x Mi 8 helicopter, 2 x Antonov transport aircraft, 2 x Dakotas, 1 x Casa 212 and elements of the Zimbabwean Para Group. There were no Zimbabwean helicopters available. The FireForce intended to attack Marromeu after a jet strike planned in detail by Col. Dyck 20 . However, the weather was so bad both in Zimbabwe and in Mozambique that the jets could not take off. By the end of the third day there was still no action and the situation on the ground at Marromeu was becoming desperate.
On the morning of the 27th January, Col.Dyck decided to use the transport aircraft at his disposal for a dawn attack on Marromeu. When the Mozambicans refused to use their aircraft at Inhaminga, he loaded paratroopers into the two Dakotas and used the Casa 212 as his command aircraft for directing troops on the ground. The Paras were dropped right overhead the runway, capturing and securing it within a matter of minutes. The Dakotas flew several waves bringing in more troops, arms and ammunition from Inhaminga and Chimoio.
With this kind of reinforcements, the troops on the ground were able to move onto the town and flash out Renamo positions. They managed at last to get to the helicopter crash site and recovered the bodies of the victims. By that afternoon the town of Marromeu had been recaptured and more aircraft could land on the runway with safety. A Casa 212 landed to pick up the victims of the Mi 25 crash.
Besides the Mi 25 victims, two more Zimbabwean soldiers died during the assault and eight were injured. They were all evacuated by air. Of the 1 300 Renamo estimated to have been in and around Marromeu, 150 were said to have been killed. The rest fled further north into Zambezia province. A large assortment of arms and ammunition were captured, among which were 2 Main Battle Tanks and 4 Anti Aircraft guns that had been captured from the FAM 21 . On the 28th January 1986, the ZDF was ordered to withdraw from both Marromeu and Inhaminga to Chimoio. The Zimbabweans were to hand over their positions to the Mozambicans. Other positions, which were also being held by the ZDF such as Fabrica, Cavalho, Canda and Cassa Banana, were also to be handed over to the FAM. The withdrawal was completed by the 31st January. By the beginning of February 1986, all Zimbabwean troops and aircraft were once again confined to the three corridors. Operation Octopus could not be sustained because of a lack of adequate air support.
Operation Zero. On the 10th February 1986, the STF Headquarters at Chimoio received an urgent signal from Villa Paiva De Andrada for air support at Cassa Banana. The message was originated by the FAM at Cassa Banana who reported that they were being attacked by a brigade size of Renamo troops. As there were no AFZ aircraft at Chimoio at the time, the message was further relayed to Beira. There was no reply from the FAM in Beira.
In the mean time, the Zimbabwean company at Villa Paiva De Andrada gathered that approximately 450 Renamo troops had recaptured Cassa Banana from the FAM, and were preparing to attack Canda and Villa Paiva De Andrada. A number of aircraft were also seen flying in and out of the area possibly resupplying Renamo. Some FAM soldiers who had fled from Cassa Banana arrived at Villa Paiva De Andrada and reported that at least ten of their number had been killed by Renamo, eight had been seriously injured and an unspecified number had been captured 22 . The FAM also confirmed that they had left behind a lot of equipment, which Renamo was obviously going to use.
At a meeting held on the 5th February 1986, the ZDF commanders resolved to recapture Cassa Banana from Renamo and to change the ZDF method of operation. It was proposed that a StrikeForce be created to operate in a mode similar to the Rhodesian lightning cross border raids of the 1970s. The first such StrikeForce operation was therefore proposed for the second recapture of Cassa Banana. It took the ZDF exactly two months to put together the StrikeForce with the capacity to recapture Cassa Banana, which for the purpose of planning was code named Delta Base. The whole operation for the recapture of Cassa Banana was code named Operation Zero.
The planned D-Day for Operation Zero was Friday the 11th April 1986. However, on that day again the weather was bad with rain and thick fog around Mutare and Chimoio and visibility down to less than one kilometre. The operation had to be postponed to the next day. On the morning of the next day, the Zimbabwean StrikeForce attacked Delta Base, quickly seizing the northern and southern parts of the base. There was a lot of fighting in the northern sector, with one Zimbabwean killed and three injured in the first few minutes of their landing. On the southern sector there was also a lot of resistance especially from Panda Hills and along the river south of the runway. These resistance points were however neutralised by aircraft bombs.
However, fighting continued in the outer areas of Cassa Banana and Panda Hills was occupied by the middle of the day. The preparation of defensive positions and the dropping of supplies and reinforcement troops continued throughout the rest of the day. At Chimoio, the two Mozambican generals were still discussing plans when Major General Gava informed them that the ZDF had recaptured Cassa Banana for the second time. The Mozambicans expressed disbelief, but at 14:00Hrs Major General Die passed on the message to Maputo that Cassa Banana had been recaptured from Renamo.
The consolidation of captured positions was also a difficult task. The ZDF Commanders had decided that the StrikeForce should pull out of Cassa Banana as soon as possible and that there position should be occupied by No 1 Artillery Regiment. It was also decided that 32 Infantry Battalion should recapture and occupy Cavalho. A jet strike hit Cavalho at 13:00Hrs on the 14th April to soften the target for 32 Infantry Battalion. However, on their long march from Villa Paiva De Andrada, the battalion exhausted their first line of ammunition on minor skirmishes with Renamo elements along the way. When a Renamo rocket knocked out one of their vehicles, the whole battalion was grounded and could not proceed. It was only the next day that two companies of 32 Infantry Battalion occupied Cavalho, and the other two companies were uplifted by helicopters for reinforcements at Cassa Banana. By 14th April, Operation Zero's mission had been successfully accomplished.
On 15th April 1986, a high powered Zimbabwean delegation led by Major General Gava was able to survey the recaptured areas by helicopter. They flew from Chimoio through Machesi, Cavalho, Fabrica, round Panda Hills and landed at Cassa Banana. The briefing that they received was that Operation Zero had gone well, with all the air and ground troops executing their tasks as ordered. It was reported that 3 Zimbabwean soldiers had died during the attack, and that 7 were injured, one of them seriously. The dead and injured had all been evacuated by air to Chimoio and to Harare. One helicopter had received a small bullet hole, but no aircrew had been injured.
Among the captured equipment were 1x Anti - Aircraft gun and ammunition (one AA gun was blown up during the raid), 1 x vehicle, 1 x anti - paratrooper grenade launcher (the latest Soviet type 1982 model), 1 x armoured car, 1 x fully functional grader, and numerous bags of mealie - meal. The number of Renamo elements killed or injured could not be ascertained. The battleground was a gruesome sight with bodies scattered all over as a result of the aircraft bombing. Two Renamo bodies were recovered and buried. But, even allowing for the fact that, as a matter of principle Renamo never left their dead behind, the kill rate of Operation Zero appeared to be small considering the effort.
5: Other Operations 1986 - 1990 23Operation Zero and the recapture of Cassa Banana was the end of the ZDF's initial involvement in Mozambique. It was also the beginning of a series of lightning strikes by the ZDF StrikeForce units comprising mostly Air Force, Para and Commando elements. These units became involved in a number of seek and destroy operations against Renamo bases all the way from Matenje in the north to Chokwe in the south of Mozambique. These operations were a direct result of the success the ZDF had recorded with the StrikeForce concept during the recapture of Cassa Banana. The ZDF Commanders were convinced that the only way that the Beira Corridor could remain safe from Renamo attacks was by destroying Renamo bases. It was concluded that the only way these bases could be destroyed was by mounting relentless strike operations wherever a concentration of Renamo troops could be detected.
However, the StrikeForce was not expected to plan and execute their special operations as an entity by themselves. They were supposed to work in support of Zimbabwean infantry and mechanised battalions, which became semi - permanently based in Mozambique along the three trade corridors. Three blanket names were adopted for these semi - permanent "routine" operations being carried out by the Zimbabwean ground forces. These were Operation Grapefruit for the Beira Corridor, Operation Cobweb for the Tete Corridor, and Operation Open Way for the Limpopo Corridor.
In support of these semi - permanent "routine" operations, more than 40 StrikeForce operations were carried out covering the length and breadth of Mozambique. The tactics employed were the same as those used on the raids on Cassa Banana, but the scale of the air effort fluctuated a lot. All in all, more than 30 000 Zimbabwean troops were involved in these routine and special operations.
Operation Ndonga Chirenje, which was conducted around Mepunga and Djambe in June 1990 was a result of a follow up of Zimbabwean dissidents belonging to the Rev. Sithole who were said to be operating with Renamo assistance from bases around Mepunga and Djambe in Mozambique. Documents captured during the operation confirmed the suspicions and three Zimbabweans were captured 24 . These were later used in the treason trials of Sithole.
6: The Air Element 25While the Commandos and the Para groups were engaged in their numerous StrikeForce operations, the infantry battalions and the mechanised group in the three corridors also required air support from the AFZ. The AFZ had to resuscitate long abandoned Forward AirFields (FAF) and mobilise the entire Supporting Services branch for the effort. Grand Reef, Buffalo Range and Kotwa Forward AirFields were brought back to life, and Tactical Command Units (TCUs) were established at Chimoio and Cassa Banana. Some wooden Temporary Field Accommodation (TFA) was constructed at Grand Reef, Buffalo Range and Chimoio while tents were erected at Kotwa and Cassa Banana. On 24th March 1986, the AFZ detached 65 supporting staff from various sections to Chimoio. The men and equipment were to be under the command of the STF Commander at Chimoio. The reasons for this AFZ deployment included the following: first, Chimoio is 314 kilometres from Harare, which was two hours flying time by Allouette helicopter. The Allouette was the workhorse of the AFZ and it could be used for a variety of roles because of its versatility. AFZ reaction time to any foreseeable emergency in Mozambique would therefore be greatly improved if they operated from Chimoio.
Second, Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands that border Mozambique are favourable for the formation of low, thick and rainy clouds that in many cases spread as far as Chimoio. It was difficult for aircraft to react to emergency calls in Mozambique even from border airfields like Kotwa, Grand Reef and Buffalo Range. The situation was compounded by the fact that the runway at Chimoio had no ground navigational beacons and that most AFZ aircraft had limited navigational instruments.
Third, the bureaucratic red tape involved in the requesting of aircraft to react to an emergency was such that in a number of cases the approval for the use of an aircraft would be given when it was already too late to attend to the emergency. In some cases soldiers who could have been saved died in the Mozambican jungle before an aircraft could be released, even though there were always some aircraft on standby in Harare. Because of all these reasons an AFZ detachment with three helicopters and a transport aircraft were semi - permanently stationed at Chimoio under the command of a Forward Field Unit (FFU) officer of the rank of Wing Commander.
The roles of these aircraft were various. The helicopters deployed troops, delivered supplies, evacuated casualties and gave close air support. They carried out search and rescue operations, visual reconnaissance, hot extraction, and also escorted trains from Beira to Mutare and back. The transport aircraft were used mainly for the dropping of troops and supplies, casualty evacuation to Harare, establishing communications with lost units, sky - shouting and the dropping of propaganda leaflets. Sometimes armed Agusta Bell 412 helicopters would escort the transport aircraft. The Agusta Bell was not used as a gunship but it fulfilled all the other roles played by the Allouette helicopter. In addition, the Bell was used to ferry Commanders and other VIPs on their routine inspections and tours of the operational areas to boost the morale of the troops.
The AFZ also experienced a lot of manpower problems in the 1980s. Most of the experienced former Rhodesian pilots had left the country after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. The few who remained had their chances spoiled by one of their own. In 1987 Flight Lieutenant Garry Kane stole an AFZ Agusta Bell 412 helicopter and in co-operation with some South African Commandos, tried to free some South African 'spies' who were being held at Harare's Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. The plot failed, but Garry Kane escaped to South Africa with his South African Commando friends. Afraid of being associated with Garry Kane, many former Rhodesian pilots who had remained behind also left the AFZ.
All AFZ squadrons were in the process of training pilots and technicians when the Mozambican campaign started. A lot of young pilots had received training in China, North Korea, Romania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Greece, Libya and the former USSR. Their methods of operation and the types of aircraft they had been trained on were so different that they all needed to be retrained on local aircraft and on local Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs). The AFZ contracted flying and technical instructors from Pakistan but, although they did their job well, they were not familiar with local SOPs and some Zimbabwean aircraft were not available in Pakistan.
The squadron of C337 Lynx aircraft was grounded until 1985 because there were no pilots who could fly the Lynx. It was only in 1987 that one pilot qualified as a captain on the C337 and joined the operations in Mozambique. The fleet of Canberra aircraft remained grounded for the duration of the operation because there were no pilots, no technicians and no navigators for the Canberra. In 1986 some American flying instructors tried to retrain Zimbabwean pilots on the Bell 205 helicopter, but the aircraft was quickly withdrawn from the Mozambican operations because there were too many accidents involving the Bell 205. Also, there was only one technician who knew how to service the Bell 205 and he had since left the AFZ and was only being contracted from a civilian company, AIRWORK, on an hourly basis.
When the squadron of 12 Agusta Bell 412 helicopters became operational in 1987, there was such a shortage of pilots that some young newly arrived Libyan - trained pilots went into operations in Mozambique without doing any ground studies on the aircraft. Their Pakistani instructors just taught them how to start and fly the helicopter and how to perform the basic operational manoeuvres. They had no idea as to how any of the systems on the aircraft worked and how to handle technical emergency situations. Some of these pilots had to do some technical lessons at Grand Reef during the night after flying the aircraft in Mozambique for operations during the day.
As mentioned earlier, the Allouette 111 helicopters were so overused that by January 1986 they were all grounded for major services. The 12 Cassa 212 transport aircraft were also new in the system and most of the technicians were not sure of some of the aircraft's operational capabilities. At one time a number of Cassa 212 aircraft experienced oil filter problems which took the technicians weeks to figure out how to repair. Such time delays in making aircraft serviceable meant that the AFZ's operational demands could not be met.
With the Agusta Bell 412, pilots overestimated the maximum all up weight of the helicopter mostly because they did not know the technical limitations of the aircraft. In some instances they would load boxes of ammunition to the roof of the cabin and try to take off, of course without success. This caused a lot of stress on the airframes of the helicopters and this was reflected by increased vibrations, which sometimes caused the windshields of the aircraft to crack. By the end of 1988 at least 10 Agusta Bell 412 helicopters had to have their windshields changed at great expense to the AFZ. The fleet of DC-47 Dakotas was eventually retired from service because of age but one Dakota had killed 17 people, the biggest number of Zimbabweans to die in one accident in Mozambique.
There were no modern maps of Mozambique available for both the ground forces and for the AFZ. For the entire period of the war, the pilots had to use photostat copies of very old maps of Mozambique, some of which were printed in the 1960s. Getting lost was common among crews because almost all the pilots reported getting lost at some point or another. There were no ground navigational radio beacons to home onto and not a single AFZ aircraft had any Global Positioning System (GPS) which would have made navigation that much easier for the Zimbabwean pilots. Instead, the pilots had to rely on low level point-to-point navigation, which was very dangerous.
The AFZ also lacked senior representation in the field and this created a lot of problems. Ground force commanders were left to make important decisions concerning the use of aircraft, in most cases on the advice of an AFZ Flight Lieutenant and in rare cases a Squadron Leader. Most of these junior AFZ officers had no direct communications with Air Force Headquarters and had to request clearances for action via their squadrons which would request the Base Commander to get clearance from Air Force Headquarters in Harare. This caused a lot of unnecessary delays. Also, these junior officers never wrote any daily reports of occurrences so that a lot of what happened to the AFZ in Mozambique was never recorded.
There were seven fatal aircraft accidents involving the AFZ in Mozambique between 1983 and 1990. These involved 4 x Allouette 111 helicopters, 1 x DC-47 Dakota, 1 x Casa 212, and 1 x Agusta Bell 412 helicopter. In these accidents, 26 Zimbabwean soldiers died and 12 were injured. All the aircraft concerned were completely written off. These aircraft were not replaced, first because insurance companies would not pay for damage resulting from an act of war, and second because the Zimbabwean Government did not have the money to buy replacement aircraft. There were also 100 minor aircraft accidents/special occurrences (SOR) in which no one died but the aircraft were seriously damaged. The Allouette 111 helicopter experienced the largest number of accidents and SOR throughout the whole period. This was mainly due to the fact that the Allouette 111 was the most active aircraft in the war, and that the Allouette crew were almost always overworked and therefore more exposed to error inducing factors. Most of the accidents and SOR were classified by Boards of Inquiry as "Crew Error - Avoidable". However, other aircraft types and their crews experienced their share of accidents at one time or another. Out of the 100 SORs, 40 were classified as crew error, 34 were due to operational hazards that were unavoidable and 26 were a result of technical faults.
Although the ZDF's operations in Mozambique were extremely costly, their effect on Zimbabwe's defence budget tended to be overshadowed by other equally important factors. In order to place this expenditure in its proper perspective, it is necessary first to examine Zimbabwe's total defence expenditure in relation to the country's Total Government Budget and Gross National Product (GNP), as shown in table 3.
Table 3. Zimbabwe�s Defence Expenditure and Armed Forces, 1981-1994
|Year||Current US$m||Constant 1994 US$m||Armed Forces||Defence/ Total Govt (%)||Defence/ GNP (%)||Armed Forces Per 1000|
|1981|| || || || || || |
|1982|| || || || || || |
|1983|| || || || || || |
|1984|| || || || || || |
|1985|| || || || || || |
|1986|| || || || || || |
|1987|| || || || || || |
|1988|| || || || || || |
|1989|| || || || || || |
|1990|| || || || || || |
|1991|| || || || || || |
|1992|| || || || || || |
|1993|| || || || || || |
|1994|| || || || || || |
In 1984 a decrease in defence expenditure was recorded when there was hope of peace due to decreased Renamo activity following the Nkomati Accord between Mozambique and South Africa. However, the Nkomati Accord was a failure and when the ZDF started raiding Renamo bases in Mozambique, Zimbabwe's defence expenditure went up again, reaching a peak in 1987 when ZDF activities in Mozambique were at their highest. In 1987 defence expenditure accounted for 7.5% of GNP, its highest level since 1981. From a peak in 1987 defence expenditure began to decline in real terms during the late 1980s and early 1990s, despite the fact that the ZDF became increasingly involved in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Rwanda, Somalia and Angola. The start of constitutional negotiations in 1990 between the African National Congress and the South African government aimed at ending apartheid, and the ending of South Africa's destabilisation tactics in the region also contributed to the declines in defence expenditure in the early 1990s.
7.2. Army Expenditure 26Between 1982 and 1984 the Zimbabwe National Army did not calculate expenditure in Mozambique. A senior officer in the Army Finance Branch explained that during those days the Army did not keep any financial statistics because they did not expect to be reimbursed by the Mozambican Government. However Army Operations Branch had their own explanation for the lack of statistics. A senior OPS officer explained that before 1985, most operational information was top secret. No one told anyone else the nature and extent of their contribution to operations. The were still many white former Rhodesian Security Forces in the ZDF and they could not be trusted with information because some of them were known to be involved in acts of sabotage against the Zimbabwean Government. The examples that the OPS officer gave included the incident on 16th August 1981 in which a series of massive explosions ripped through the armoury at Inkomo Barracks near Harare destroying Z$36 million worth of arms and ammunition. On 25th July 1982 a quarter of Zimbabwe's FGA jets, which were newly acquired from the United Kingdom, were burned to the ground in a hanger at Thorn Hill Air Base near Gweru. In both incidents, some white former Rhodesian Security Forces who were still serving in the ZDF were arrested for the crimes.
On the other hand, "integrated" former ZANLA and former ZIPRA guerrillas did not trust each other because of the "dissident" problem in Matebeleland in which some former ZIPRA guerrillas had taken to the bush in 1981 threatening to plunge the country into civil war. This situation necessitated the deployment of the Fifth Brigade into Matebeleland. The methods used by the Fifth Brigade to avert civil war received the highest level of criticism both nationally and internationally. As a result of mutual suspicions, said the OPS officer, commanders in the field whether internal or external did not make any reports whether on operational results or costs because they did not know who might get hold of such information and what they might use it for. From 1985 some internal costings were made of ZDF expenditure in Mozambique (see table 4).
Table 4. ZNA and AFZ Expenditure in Mozambique 1985 � 90
|Year|| || |
|1985|| || |
|1986|| || |
|1987|| || |
|1988|| || |
|1989|| || |
|1990|| || |
AFZ file, HQ/C2/6/1/Air, Vols.1-3, 1985-1990
- Salaries are not included.
- It must be emphasised that the figures presented are estimates only such that the actual costs have been much higher than is reflected in the Annexes.
- Information on all damaged/destroyed equipment cannot be accurately ascertained because in most cases the units did not submit the figures when the costings had been done.
- Depreciation of equipment has not been included because Logistics Branch and the respective corps have not come up with formula for calculating depreciation.
- The cost of transportation of equipment and rations to the operational areas has not been calculated again because Logistics Branch has not advised the Finance Branch of the methods by which these costs could be measured.
Unfortunately, these figures do not tell the whole story, as there is a lot of information that was not included in official calculations. These include the cost of the seven aircraft that crashed in Mozambique and were written off. Also important is the cost of recovering the wreckage of all the aircraft that were involved in accidents in Mozambique. The Zimbabweans carried every scrap of metal from crash sites for the purposes of Boards of Inquiry, which could not be carried out in operational areas. There was also the unrecorded costs of repairing all those aircraft that recorded "special occurrences" in Mozambique.
The biggest error by Air Force Headquarters was the omission of data from Thorn Hill Air Base from all their calculations. The number of flying hours and the operational costs of jet and other fighter aircraft that operated from Thorn Hill does not appear on any report sent to the Ministry of Defence for the whole period. Yet, such expensive aircraft like Hunters, Hawks, C337 and SF-260 were used in almost every FireForce or StrikeForce operation, and a good number of them were damaged. The cost of the bombs and other ammunition that these aircraft used was not calculated, nor the amount and cost of aviation fuel that these aircraft used.
While there is no evidence that the ZDF deliberately contaminated their statistics in order to misinform the general public, there is no doubt that there was gross negligence in accounting for Zimbabwe's war effort in Mozambique. It is rather paradoxical that the Government was so keen to reduce national transport costs to the point of involving its armed forces in a neighbouring country's civil war and yet the forces involved in that economic war did not take the trouble of properly accounting for their expenses and losses.
The official number of ZDF members who died and those who were injured in Mozambique as a result of direct participation in operations are presented in table 5.
Table 5: ZDF casualties in Mozambique, 1984-1990
| || |
|Year|| || || || |
|1984|| || || || |
|1985|| || || || |
|1986|| || || || |
|1987|| || || || |
|1988|| || || || |
|1989|| || || || |
|1990|| || || || |
|Total|| || || || |
"There is a war on and yes we have lost some people. But it is not really something that the nation should worry about, as the numbers are so insignificant" 27It is true that the ZDF's losses in Mozambique were relatively small, but to say that "the numbers are so insignificant" is an understatement, which shows a lack of respect for human life. Even the loss of one life should not be taken lightly. There are also some financial implications involved in the death of any soldier. First, the pensions and or compensation for those killed or injured become immediately due and payable by the Government and this amounted to millions of dollars. Second the dead and injured have to be replaced and the training of an individual for combat readiness requires a lot of resources in time, money and equipment. Peace in Mozambique was brought about not by victory from either side but by negotiation. The peace negotiations were organised by the Italian Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio, and they took place in Rome Italy between July 1990 and October 1992. By 1990 the Cold War had ended and with it ended the political standoff that had prevented the holding of talks between opposing forces in Southern Africa. The situation was well summed up by Cameron Hume:
"By the early 1990s, no external party was prepared to keep sustaining its chosen Mozambican ally; alliances were frayed (for example Zimbabwe wanted an exit from its intervention, and the Soviets and South Africans were disengaging), and donor fatigue had begun to appear; moreover, Mozambique had virtually no resources of its own to sustain the conflict. The impetus from Rome (both religious and official) found a receptive audience in Southern Africa - in part because U.S., British, and Portuguese attention was directed elsewhere" 28In November 1990, while the peace negotiations were still taking place, a partial cease-fire agreement was signed which paved the way for the withdrawal of Zimbabwean troops from Mozambique. The terms of the partial cease-fire required that Zimbabwean troops be concentrated into the Beira and Limpopo Corridors each twenty kilometres wide. Border operations were restricted to the Zimbabwe - Mozambique border and there were to be no AFZ overflights into Mozambique. Renamo promised not to attack the corridors and a Joint Verification Commission (JVC) chaired by the Italian Ambassador to Mozambique was set up to supervise the partial cease-fire 29 . The JVC comprised members from Kenya, Portugal, the United States, Zambia, the Congo, France, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. The negotiations that followed resulted in the total cease-fire agreement signed in Rome in October 1992. The Rome agreement ended the Mozambican civil war. Zimbabwe withdrew its forces from Mozambique in April 1993. The end of the Zimbabwean withdrawal from Mozambique was marked by a farewell parade at Chimoio and welcome parades at Mutare and Chiredzi that were all held on the 14th April 1993. President Joaquim Chissano officiated and gave a farewell address to the Zimbabwean troops at Chimoio, while President Robert Mugabe gave a welcome address to the troops at the Mutare parade 30 . Thereafter, a United Nations force comprising troops from Italy, Zambia and Botswana took over the guarding of the three corridors, Beira, Limpopo and Tete. Other UN forces later joined in to supervise Mozambique's first multi-party elections, which took place in 1994 and in which Renamo participated as the main opposition political party.
Although politics played a big role, the ZDF went into Mozambique mainly to protect Zimbabwe's trade routes, which were being sabotaged by Renamo. That military involvement was further justified by a formal request from the Frelimo government for a regional force that included Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwean forces and which was backed by the SADCC. The regional planners saw this as a continuing fight against the regional stranglehold by apartheid South Africa on regional trade routes for political reasons. It was also part of the Cold War between East and West in the sense that Renamo claimed to be fighting against Communism and for that reason received aid from western countries especially the United States of America. In the process of protecting their trade routes, the ZDF literally joined the Mozambican civil war on the side of the Mozambican Government and ended up involving at least 30 000 Zimbabwean troops. They conducted military operations against Renamo throughout the length and breath of Mozambique. Sometimes these operations were conducted jointly with the FAM, but in most cases the Zimbabweans acted on their own. More than 40 FireForce and StrikeForce operations were conducted including the twice recapturing of the Renamo Headquarters at Cassa Banana in the Gorongossa Mountains in 1985 and 1986.
These operations stretched the ZDF's capabilities to the limit, literally halting all other military activities in Zimbabwe including training. The ZDF put in all available equipment and manpower. The operations were also very expensive in monetary terms, although there are no accurate financial records to quantify the total expenditure. There were a lot of accidents, some of which could have been avoided with proper training and strict adherence to standard operational procedures. The Army did not bother to count the equipment that they lost during operations. The Air Force lost seven aircraft, which were completely written off, and 100 aircraft accidents were recorded. The Army recorded 296 soldiers dead and 623 injured while the AirForce recorded 24 deaths and 12 injuries. The actual casualty figures are probably higher because records were not kept for the first three years of operations.
Even with such a heavy military commitment, the ZDF failed to destroy Renamo, and the war escalated into what some critics have called "Zimbabwe's Vietnam". Central to the ZDF failure to contain Renamo was the failure by the FAM, to hold any of the bases captured by the ZDF for any length of time. This was mainly because of the FAM's low level of training, lack of motivation and lack of adequate logistical support. It is also true to say that the Mozambican civil war could not have ended sooner than it did because of its Cold War and South African connections. Both the Cold War and apartheid ended almost at the same time, and by 1990 it was possible for the warring parties to pursue a negotiated settlement to the Mozambican crisis. The Rome agreement of October 1992 made possible the withdrawal of Zimbabwean forces from Mozambique, which started in November 1990 and ended on the 14th of April 1993.
1 See Mlambo,N. The Costs of Reopening Zimbabwe�s Trade Routes through Mozambique: 1980-1990, Unpublished B.A. Hons Dissertation (University of Zimbabwe, 1991).
2 Blake,R., A History of Rhodesia (Methuen, London, 1977), p.83.
3 Griffiths, I., �The Quest for Independent Access to the Sea in Southern Africa�,
The Geographical Journal, Vol.155(3) (November 1989), p.384.
4 Hanlon,J., Beggar your neighbours: Apartheid power in Southern Africa (Catholic Institute for International Relations, James Currey and Indiana University Press, London, 1986), p.187.
5 Pangeti,E., �Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference: The Art of the Possible?�, paper presented at the Tenth International Economic History Conference, Leuven, Belgium, August 1990.
6 Nsekela,A., Southern Africa: Towards Economic Liberation (Rex Collings, London, 1981)
7 Johnson,P. and Martin,D., Apartheid Terrorism: The Destabilisation Report (The Commonwealth Secretariat, James Currey and Indiana University Press, London, 1989).
8 The Herald, 2 October 1981.
9 The Washington Times, 1 July 1986 and Africa Confidential, 9 June 1989.
10 Johnson,P. and Martin,D., Destructive Engagement: Southern Africa at War (Zimbabwe Publishing House, Harare, 1986), p.71.
11 Johnson and Martin, Destructive Engagement, p.71.
12 Hanlon, Beggar your neighbours, pp.185-192.
13 The Herald, 19 July 1984.
14 Stoneman,C. and Cliff,L., Zimbabwe: Politics, Economics and Society (Pinter Publishers, London, 1989), p.187.
15 G/2/3, Report � Operation Grapefruit, Army HQ, Harare, August 1985.
16 AFZ Board of Enquiry, December 1985.
17 MI/5/3 Perintreps, Mozambique, December 1985.
18 Report on the Attack on Marromeu, 4 February 1986.
19 HQ/C2/6/AIR, Air Force of Zimbabwe file, 1986.
20 Report on the Attack on Marromeu, 4 February 1986.
21 Report on the Attack on Marromeu.
22 Report, Operating Zero, 1986.
23 HQ/C2/6/AIR, Mozambique Operations, 1986-90
24 Report, Operation Ndonga Chirenje, June 1990.
25 HQ/C2/6/AIR, Mozambique Operations, 1986-90.
26 Fin/25/6/1, Costings: External Operations, 30 August 1990.
27 The Herald, 18 April 1988.
28 Hume,C., Ending Mozambique�s War: The role of mediation and good offices (United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington D.C., 1994), p.xi.
29 The United Nations and Mozambique 1992-1995 (UN Department of Public Information, New York, 1995).
30 A(PS)/1/1, Program of Events for the Withdrawal of Zimbabwean Troops from Mozambique, 7 April 1993.
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