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Back in the late 1960s I had many military friends in Rhodesia. They were at war with what they considered communist insurgents from both within their country and across the border in Zambia and Mozambique. Of course, that was the way they saw it. They were fighting to save their farms and the civilization they had built in Southern Africa. The native people saw it completely differently, as a fight to win their freedom and the right to rule their own land.
I want to give complete credit here to J. K. Cilliers and his University of South Africa Master's thesis, later published as Counter-Insurgency in Rhodesia, Croom Helm, Kent, United Kingdom, 1985. Although I used many different references, the Cilliers book was my main data source and this story could not have been written without his ground-breaking research on the subject of the Rhodesian insurgency. I also want to thank Dr. James A. Watt who was in charge of the Salvation Army Howard Hospital in Chiweshe Communal Land from 1970 to 1984. Dr. Watt saw the insurgency from the side of the farmers and the workers and his opinion of the uprising is often quite different from that of the Smith government.
A friend in Rhodesia sent this to me shortly after his nation declared its independence from the United Kingdom. It depicts Prime Minister Ian Smith and has the text:
Rhodesian Independence - 11 November 1965
The back depicts Rhodesian symbols and the message:
We stand behind you
In December 1962 the Rhodesian Front party was elected to power. The party was committed to the concept of white supremacy without the involvement of a United Kingdom that was seen as particularly liberal with the election of a Labour Party Government in 1964. The leader of the Rhodesian Front, Ian Douglas Smith, was elected Prime Minister on 14 April 1964. On Armistice Day, 11 November 1965, the British colony of Southern Rhodesia declared its independence. I recall at the time that the world waited to see what the United Kingdom would do about it. Would they accept the declaration of independence, or take some political or military action?
The British government had adopted a policy known as "No Independence before Majority African Rule" (NIBMAR). This policy dictated that those colonies with a substantial population of white settlers would not receive independence except under conditions of universal suffrage and majority rule. The timing of Smith's telegram announcing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson is significant. It was sent precisely at 11 a.m. in London on November 11, at the precise moment that the UK started its traditional one minute of silence to mark the end of World War I and honor its war dead. The message was a reminder that Southern Rhodesia had helped Britain during World War I and World War II and was owed a debt.
There is reason to believe that the British government planned and studied a possible military intervention against the Rhodesian government during the years up to 1965. By the time of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, the British had decided that a military response was out of the question. No British politician wanted to deploy British troops against white Rhodesian forces. However, there is evidence that plans were made for a "contested reinforcement," (an interesting neutral term that translates to "invasion"). There were two major problems. The first was the loyalty of white British troops that would be asked to fight and possibly kill white Rhodesian soldiers, many of whom had been trained by British instructors or served in the British military. The second and greater problem was the politician's desire for a limited, sanitary surgical strike on Rhodesia. The generals pointed out that any British invasion would be preceded by air attacks to eliminate the Royal Rhodesian Air Force. This bombing of Rhodesian airfields would lead to a loss of life, both military and civilian. There would be no return to normalcy after such an attack. It would be considered a "stab in the back" by the European Rhodesians. The political results of such an attack were considered so disastrous that no real discussion of invading Rhodesia took place after the declaration of independence.
Both leaflets and posters were prepared and distributed in Great Britain to protest the Rhodesian declaration of independence. The poster above accuses the British Government of selling out the blacks in Rhodesia and demands, "No independence before majority rule. Support the struggle of the Zimbabwe people."
The Unilateral Declaration of Independence was internationally condemned, and at the behest of Britain, Rhodesia was placed under a United Nations Security Council sanction beginning in 1965 and lasting until the restoration of British rule in December 1979. The sanctions forbade most forms of trade or financial exchange with Rhodesia. South Africa, Portugal, Israel and some Arab states did continue to trade with Rhodesia. Rhodesia maintained its loyalty to Queen Elizabeth but on March 2, 1970 formally severed links with the British Crown.
The sanctions were not effective according to Paul Moorcraft writing about Rhodesia's War of Independence in History Today, 9 September 1990. He says in part:
Sanctions failed to end the war in 'weeks rather than months', as Wilson had promised, for a number of reasons. Above all, they were applied slowly, half-heartedly and cynically. Britain, for one, kept on supplying oil to the rebels. Washington made a point of trading in strategic materials, especially chrome. The Soviet bloc accounted for more than half of Rhodesia's illicit deals, as Ken Flower, the head of Rhodesia's Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), made clear in his recent memoirs. Heavy machinery came from the East, usually in shipments brought by Yugoslavs who had no qualms about flying to Salisbury, as long as their passports were not stamped. The most important sanctions-breakers, however, were the South Africans.
Whereas in the course of human affairs history has shown that it may become necessary for a people to resolve the political affiliations which have connected them with another people and to assume amongst other nations the separate and equal status to which they are entitled:
And whereas in such event a respect for the opinions of mankind requires them to declare to other nations the causes which impel them to assume full responsibility for their own affairs:
Now therefore, we, the Government of Rhodesia, do hereby declare:
That it is an indisputable and accepted historic fact that since 1923 the Government of Rhodesia have exercised the powers of self-government and have been responsible for the progress, development and welfare of their people;
That the people of Rhodesia having demonstrated their loyalty to the Crown and to their kith and kin in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through two world wars, and having been prepared to shed their blood and give of their substance in what they believed to be the mutual interests of freedom-loving people, now see all that they have cherished about to be shattered on the rocks of expediency;
That the people of Rhodesia have witnessed a process which is destructive of those very precepts upon which civilization in a primitive country has been built, they have seen the principles of Western democracy, responsible government and moral standards crumble elsewhere, nevertheless they have remained steadfast;
That the people of Rhodesia fully support the requests of their government for sovereign independence but have witnessed the consistent refusal of the Government of the United Kingdom to accede to their entreaties;
That the government of the United Kingdom have thus demonstrated that they are not prepared to grant sovereign independence to Rhodesia on terms acceptable to the people of Rhodesia, thereby persisting in maintaining an unwarrantable jurisdiction over Rhodesia, obstructing laws and treaties with other states and the conduct of affairs with other nations and refusing assent to laws necessary for the public good, all this to the detriment of the future peace, prosperity and good government of Rhodesia;
That the Government of Rhodesia have for a long period patiently and in good faith negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom for the removal of the remaining limitations placed upon them and for the grant of sovereign independence;
That in the belief that procrastination and delay strike at and injure the very life of the nation, the Government of Rhodesia consider it essential that Rhodesia should attain, without delay, sovereign independence, the justice of which is beyond question;
Now therefore, we the Government of Rhodesia, in humble submission to Almighty God who controls the destinies of nations, conscious that the people of Rhodesia have always shown unswerving loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty the Queen and earnestly praying that we and the people of Rhodesia will not be hindered in our determination to continue exercising our undoubted right to demonstrate the same loyalty and devotion, and seeking to promote the common good so that the dignity and freedom of all men may be assured, do, by this proclamation, adopt enact and give to the people of Rhodesia the constitution annexed hereto;
God Save The Queen
Given under Our Hand at Salisbury this eleventh day of November in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty five.
Signed by the Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers.
The Rhodesian government also prepared a 4-page booklet with the national seal and the date "11 November 1965" on the cover, a photograph of the signing of the proclamation on the inside cover, a two-page address to the nation by Smith and the actual proclamation on the final page.
About the same time, in late October, 1965 a pamphlet entitled Rhodesia's Case for Independence was widely distributed for the enlightenment of people overseas. Pamphlets were posted from Rhodesia to Britain appealing to British people to support Rhodesians in their hour of need. Leaflets were prepared that alleged British Government and BBC involvement in seditious broadcasts beamed to Rhodesia by Zambian radio. In February 1966, the Rhodesians opened an Information Office in Washington. Car stickers appeared in Rhodesia bearing the slogan "Support Rhodesia." On 11 November, the day of Independence, censorship of the press was introduced.
A number of patriotic organizations were encouraged to write to friends overseas and explain Rhodesia's position. They included the Rhodesian Front party and the Candour League.
The Daily Mail of 1 January 1996 reported that Harold Wilson considered dropping leaflets over Rhodesia with a message from the Queen to persuade the country not to rebel against Britain:
It was one of the most extravagant measures contemplated after Ian Smith's racist regime issued its Unilateral Declaration of Independence on 11 November 1965. The move was branded as "treason" by Harold Wilson, whose Government swiftly responded with economic sanctions.
The idea of a leaflet drop aimed at the colony's 200,000 whites came from the Governor of Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, whose authority was ignored after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. But Wilson turned down the plan, saying it would not be "proper" for him to advise the Queen to intervene and that the leaflet drop would be "quite a formidable undertaking."
But less than a fortnight later, the Prime Minister was under pressure from his own Foreign Secretary to take far more drastic action. The Government, said Michael Stewart, could either wash its hands of Rhodesia altogether and let the United Nations sort it out, or send in troops. The consequences of abandoning Rhodesia would be disastrous, he warned.
The Afro-Asian world as a whole would be embittered by the spectacle of a Western country leaving four million colored people to "the tender mercies of 200,000 white overlords."
Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith believed that his Rhodesian Front Party could hold power by force for the white minority group it represented. Fifteen years later on 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe emerged as an independent country under majority rule with international recognition. Curiously, I was familiar with the name Zimbabwe because I had been schooled in the ancient heritage of the country. My Nigerian instructor would grow hushed and almost reverent when he spoke of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe where the ancient iron smelting furnaces were located. Zimbabwe was once the center of the Munhumutapa Empire, a great trading dynasty and producer of gold, sometimes believed to be the home of the legendary King Solomon's mines. So, although at the time most of the world knew little about Rhodesia, thinking it almost a "suburb" of South Africa, I was quite familiar with it.
I don't want to go too deeply into the battle to drive out Prime Minister Smith and his Rhodesian Front Party. There are numerous military books that tell that story. We will mention it briefly and then move on to our main area of interest, the psychological operations (PSYOP) of the insurgency.
We do know that recruitment and training of the Black Nationalist army went into high gear about 1963. Both the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) were created and this led directly to combat with the white controlled Rhodesian Security Forces. War was waged for 15 years with the Black Nationalist armies slowly beating back the much better equipped armed forces of Rhodesia. The British had won wars against native insurgents in Kenya and Malaya in recent years and the Rhodesians had every reason to believe that they could do the same thing using similar tactics. It was not to be. The tactics that had worked earlier for the British did not work against the insurgents in Rhodesia.
The first leader of the Rhodesian nationalist movement was Joshua Nqabuko Nyangolo Nkomo. He had been elected president of the newly formed African National Congress on 1 September 1957.
The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) of ZANU and the Zimbabwe People's Liberation Army (ZIPRA) of ZAPU based their campaigns on their interpretations of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory of bloody revolution. ZIPRA took advice from their Soviet instructors and trained in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Algeria, Bulgaria, North Korea, and Zaire. ZANLA had Chinese instructors and trained in China, Ghana, and Egypt. Later in the war, both ZANLA and ZIPRA fighters would receive training from a variety of foreign militaries in Zambia and Mozambique. Although it is not often mentioned, we should note that besides their Russian and Chinese instructors, there was another difference between the two main guerrilla groups. ZANU were mainly Shona, who might be considered the "original" inhabitants, after they had dispossessed the Bushmen. ZAPU were mainly Ndebele, remnants of Mzilikazi's Zulus who entered what became Matabeleland about 1838. ZANLA was Shona, and ZIPRA was Ndebele. It was not just the form of Communism that split the two groups; they also were separated along tribal lines.
The problem of the coming insurgency was recognized by the United States as early as 1967 when the Rand Corporation prepared a report for the United States Air Force entitled Insurgency as a Strategic Problem. At that time the Air Force was mainly interested on how African problems might affect the Vietnam War. Rand does not seem to consider Rhodesia to be in major danger. It appears they underestimated the problem. In a chapter entitled "Potential Crises Areas Today - Africa," they say:
Nationalist and populist uprisings and disturbances are indicators of possible "subversive insurgency" in parts of sub-equatorial Africa; the Portuguese colonies, Rhodesia and the South African Union. While only the Portuguese colonies represent "alien rule" of the classic type, Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa also may be placed in the same general category. Whether "subversive insurgency" will actually materialize in these countries is contingent upon the armed strength of the potentially insurgent groups in relation to that of the incumbent or racial-minority regimes. At present, the ascendancy of the latter does not seem to be in immediate danger, but a crisis may break out sooner or later.
Brian Crozier discussed Rhodesia and its Communist support in a March 1971 paper entitled Communist-Led Insurgencies in the 1970s, at the National Strategy Information Center in New York City. Four years had passed and it was now clear that Rhodesia was in the throes of an insurgency.
Despite the competition from China and autonomous African subversive centers, the Soviet effort in aid of insurgent movement is by far the most effective in the area. This is true of MPLA in Angola, FRELIMO in Mozambique, ZAPU in Rhodesia (which is far more effective than the Chinese financed ZANU) and the ANC in South Africa.
The main areas of insurgency during the 1970s will be Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia, The effectiveness of the movement involved will continue to be limited, both by the inadequate fighting abilities of the African tribes concerned, and by the efficiency of the Rhodesian fighting forces and of the Portuguese Army. I expect the challenge to grow in Rhodesia and diminish in the Portuguese colonies.
The first military engagement recognized officially by Rhodesia occurred on 28 April 1966 between Security Forces and seven ZANLA insurgents near Sinoia. That day is now commemorated in Zimbabwe as Chimurenga Day - the start of the war. During August 1967 a combined force of 90 insurgents entered Rhodesia near the Victoria Falls. Early in 1968 a second force of 123 insurgents crossed the Zambezi River from Zambia. In July 1968 another 91 insurgents crossed the border. Rhodesian forces attacked and killed most of the guerrillas in these early attacks, but the handwriting was already on the wall. It was clear that they would continue to come in ever greater numbers. Many of these guerrillas were South African. As a result, South Africa sent military and police forces into Rhodesia to help with its insurgency. There was little fighting in 1969 as both ZANU and ZAPU realized that their attacks were failing and decided to reexamine their tactics. At this stage of the insurrection the Rhodesians were confident that they would be able to hold on to their independent status. There was illegal trade with other nations, immigrants were coming to what they perceived as a white-dominated nation, and the military appeared to be in command along the borders.
The South Africans first intervened in 1967, when they sent approximately 2,000 members of the South African Police (SAP) to help guard the northern border with Zambia...In 1975 he [South African Prime Minister Vorster] recalled the police but left his pilots and helicopters on loan…Vorster resumed military aid. More pilots and equipment were loaned, particularly aircraft such as Alouettes and Canberras which, because they were in both Rhodesian and South African arsenals, could be passed off as Rhodesian weapons.
By 1971, ZANU had determined that a more "Communist-like" revolution was needed, with emphasis more on the political education of the workers and peasants and less on armed strife. Financial and material support was needed from the masses as well as willing troops for the guerrilla army. Noel Mukona, the head of ZANLA, said:
We worked underground, training, stocking equipment and regrouping inside the country. Special Branch could not find out what was going on and that we were preparing for a continuation of the struggle. Much contact was maintained with the local population to review the terrain...
In the United States and much of the West, many liberals and the press saw the conflict as another case of the white man attempting to hold the black man in slavery, but among many Americans who went to Rhodesia to fight, that was not the case.
Captain Joseph Columbus Smith, (Ret.), 1st Battalion, Rhodesian African Rifles told me:
I'm an American who joined the Rhodesian African Rifles to help out in what I saw as a fight against Communism. My African soldiers and I spent most of our time patrolling the Tribal Trust Lands looking for Communist Terrorists. We never saw this as a racial issue. It was an East vs. West Cold War Chapter. We always considered it an anti-communist campaign and never saw it any other way! A very few Americans arrived in Rhodesia with a racial agenda. Haters! The minute the Rhodesian authorities found out they had what they called a "racialist" on their hands they deported him-immediately! Usually lost on The West is that more than half of the Rhodesian troops were black and Anti-Communist! It was a privilege to command them.
The African National Council was formed 16 October 1971, led by Bishop Abel Muzurewa. This council tried to work within the government to make changes in the way the majority population was treated.
Dr. Watt remembers 1971:
The students realized something else was happening, and some fanned out over the reserve, coming back with a cryptic message to those they trusted; "Vaenzi Vauya," ("the visitors/strangers have come"). There were insurgents in the Banji (hills) to the extreme north, ("marijuana" in Shona), meeting with villagers, explaining their objectives and recruiting people for training. From what I gathered, they were being received politely, as is tradition, but life was not so bad that the locals saw much need to go with them.
On 21 December 1972, ZANLA insurgents attacked a white homestead, marking the opening of a new military campaign. The extent of the insurgent penetration during 1972 was widespread. The war for Rhodesia had now entered a new phase. The people had been propagandized by the guerrillas and were no longer willing to give information to government troops.
Dr. Watt recalls:
There was an attack on a farm just north of Chiweshe. The government's response was quick and brutal. Chiweshe was sealed off with road blocks, and schools, hospitals, clinics, churches, stores and grinding mills were closed. Security forces went systematically through all the villages, demanding to know where the terrorists were. Our mission was closed, except for the hospital. I took the lieutenant in charge on a tour of the sick, mentioned the Geneva Convention (former Southern Rhodesia was a signatory) and said very calmly that we would continue to treat the sick. He left us alone. Our elementary school was taken over as a military base and truckloads of mainly women (most of the men worked in Harare) were brought in and beaten on the soles and buttocks, some of them treated later at the hospital. I asked some women privately what they had told the security forces. They said there were no insurgents in the area (they were still in the north) - they had tried to figure out what the forces wanted to hear, and say it, just to stop the beating.
The Rhodesian answered with a Joint Operation Centre (JOC), code-named Hurricane to counter the internal threat. It formalized the systems approach that had already been used to fight the insurgents in the sixties. It could call upon the Army, Air Force and British South Africa Police. The priorities were the necessity of stemming the flow of insurgents from Mozambique and population control. They wanted the ability to plan:
Large external operations to turn off the tap; a cordon sanitaire with warning devices, patrolled and backed by a 20 kilometer wide no-go area; population control consisting of Protected Villages, food control, curfews and (eventually) martial law, and massive psychological action.
The object was to use minefields and patrols to channel insurgents into designated areas from which the local population had been removed. They could then be tracked and killed before they reached populated areas. However, these areas first had to be emptied of people who might give aid and comfort to the enemy. The local population would be placed in Protected and Consolidated Villages to stop the interaction between the local population and the insurgents.
The first Operation Hurricane "no-go" area was along the Mozambique border in May 1973. Other "no-go" areas were extended along vast stretches of Rhodesian border in an attempt to establish depopulated "free-fire" zones for Security Force operations. This concept that anyone seen moving in an area is considered a terrorist and can be killed was tried in some areas of Vietnam and was not particularly successful there either.
Dr. Watt recalls 1973.
People started to starve, as they relied on the grinding mills to render their maize to flour. Several brave local white farmers started grinding maize for the people, against orders. A Rhodesian general told me that they would only appreciate what the white government was doing for them by having it taken away. A Canadian immigrant farm lady, on reading the headline "9,000 beaten in Chiweshe," said to me, "Africans are like children. They only listen to you when you beat them." The insurgents gained a new name, "Vakomana Vedu," ("Our boys"), as some of the local youth had now joined them.
In 1973, Chiweshe was slowly reopened, mainly due to pressure from churches. Closing the churches had been a bad move by a government that wanted to appear "Christian." Communal fines were instituted. Officially, those guilty of "harboring terrorists" would have their cattle seized. We saw the Cold Storage Commission trucks rumble into the reserve, and heard of the staff picking the fattest of the cattle to be taken away. Among the farmers, cattle were often the family's pets, their bank account for the children's education and marriage. At this point, we realized that the government had lost the war.
In a document entitled "The Value of Protected and Consolidated Villages" the perceived problems are listed:
Protected villages have not been completely successful because we have not gone all the way; we have not detained the troublemakers; we do not completely control the movements of the inhabitants by day and night; we do not control agricultural activity and our protective measures are limited. The same applies even more so to consolidated villages.
The rebel attacks grew in 1973. The government did not recognize the danger. Provincial Commissioners still imposed collective punishment on tribal communities assisting the insurgent forces. In one case, the resettlement of nearly 200 members of the local population was punishment for assisting terrorists. 750,000 blacks were eventually resettled in over 200 Protected Villages. These tactics made the insurgents stronger and helped their numbers grow. An example of the kind of punishment follows:
Restrictions will be posed upon all of you and your Tribal Trust Land and Purchase Land:
1. Human curfew from last light to 12 o'clock daily.
2. Cattle, yoked oxen, goats and sheep curfew from last light to 12 o'clock daily.
3. No vehicles, including bicycles and buses to run either in the Tribal Trust Land or the African Purchase Land.
4. No person will either go on or near any high ground or they will be shot.
5. All dogs to be tied up 24 hours each day or they will be shot.
6. Cattle, sheep and goats, after 12 o'clock, are only to be herded by adults.
7. No juveniles (to the age of 16 years) will be allowed out of the kraal area at any time either day or night, or they will be shot.
8. No schools will be open.
9. All stores and grinding mills will be closed.
Dr. Watt has his own opinion of the protective villages:
Then came the protected villages. The whites, to this day, believe the government propaganda, that the people were given brick houses with running water, schools and clinics. In reality, the government provided nothing except the fence and transport. People were dropped on the dirt inside the fence in the coldest time of year (August, 1974) without so much as a stick or a piece of string with which to build a shelter. For the first month, there was continuous wailing as funerals took place, mainly of the elderly, disabled and newborn, who died of exposure.
We went through the keeps in 1974 in a mobile clinic treating people. One of the nurses with me took a picture. We had to be very careful not to be seen with a camera, as one of the first pieces of legislation at the time of the closures and the keeps was a ban on photography. At a time when the government had done a TV documentary showing the brick houses with running water they had provided for the people in the keeps, you can see what this elderly lady survived in -- four walls of grass without a roof.
At the time of the move, only three of the 21 keeps had a source of clean water. Children had to draw water from the nearest river. None of the 21 keeps had toilets. Buckets were used during the night and dumped over the fence in the morning. It would be over three years before these basic necessities would be in place throughout Chiweshe. 48,000 were said to have been moved, but there were almost no young men and few young women in the keeps. Many by this time (including Vice President Joyce Mujuru, who absconded from my wife's class) had crossed the border to join up. Oddly, the same families sent their youth into the Rhodesian forces and police. This was not because they supported Ian Smith, but the practical double effect of having a guaranteed income while knowing their boys would watch out for each other. The bad reputation the African Rifles had for being poor shots may have something to do with this. I would wave to an African-European pair of troops on patrol; the white would salute, while behind his back the African would give me the "Black Power" fist.
During 1974 the Rhodesian Minister of Defense announced that the Government would double the number of people in the military and a second battalion of the Rhodesian African Rifles would be raised to augment the Army. In addition, rewards of $300 to $5,000 for information leading to the death or capture of a senior insurgent leader or to the recovery of insurgent weaponry was offered. It should be noted that ZANLA was being supplied with weapons by the People's Republic of China, while the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army, also known as "ZPRA" or "ZIPRA," was armed by the USSR.
USMC Major Timothy M. Bairstow discusses Rhodesian military strength in his Master of Military Art and Science Thesis: Border interdiction in counterinsurgency: a look at Algeria, Rhodesia and Iraq. Some of his comments are:
Rhodesian security forces were significantly constrained by a lack of materiel and manpower. The Rhodesian air force consisted of only 168 aircraft, of which 77 were helicopters and 25 were ground attack jets. It was manned by only 1,300 personnel. The ground forces, when totaled, equated to less than a division in size. Conventional forces consisted of the Rhodesian Light Infantry Regiment of 1,000 men, the Rhodesian Rifles with 2,800 men, two batteries of artillery, an armored car regiment, and Grey's Scouts (a battalion of horse-mounted infantry). Special Forces, consisting of the Special Air Service and the Selous Scouts, added the equivalent of another battalion...Rhodesian police, known as the British South African (sic) Police (despite being neither British nor South African) also participated in the counterinsurgency campaign...the Rhodesian security forces could mobilize no more than 60,000 men, and only for a short duration.
Even worse for the Rhodesians, in 1974, Portugal decided to give up its colonial empire. The knowledge that Mozambique would soon be free caused many Rhodesian blacks to follow what they called "freedom trail" into the guerrilla training camps. In May 1974, construction began on the first border minefield obstacle (Cordon Sanitaire). It was planned to establish an impassable obstacle to prevent all cross-border movement. Of course, there is no way to build such an obstacle. It was so vast that it could not be maintained or patrolled, and very likely all it did was to supply the insurgents with explosives for their own road mines.
As in Vietnam, the contested areas and minefields were treated with a defoliant. Instead of the "Agent Orange" used by the Americans, the Rhodesians used HYVAR-X which totally destroyed all vegetation. American veterans are suffering from Agent Orange contamination 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War. I have no knowledge of similar problems in Zimbabwe. The Army Corps of Engineers laid the minefield while the Signal Corps installed and maintained the alarm system. A civilian firm called Agricura was contracted for the defoliation.
There were constitutional talks in 1975. Political detainees had initially been released as a sign of good faith but this quickly stopped when it became apparent that neither ZANLA nor ZPRA was observing the negotiated ceasefire. Even worse, the ceasefire and the release of African leaders had the effect of convincing the local population that the guerillas had won a victory. Prime Minister Smith's reluctance to press ahead with any meaningful agreement with the nationalist forces now led to the withdrawal of some 2,000 South African Policemen from Rhodesia. With the arrest and renewed detention of the Reverend Sithole in early March, talks with the Rhodesian government temporarily collapsed. As a result of South African pressure, Sithole was released during April and at the same time Robert Mugabe escaped into neighboring Mozambique. On 17 September 1975, Security Force Headquarters in Harare announced that 651 insurgents had been killed since December 1972. Security Forces lost 73 members.
A final round of talks between Prime Minister Ian Smith and ZAPU Joshua Nkomo commenced in December 1975. It was becoming increasingly apparent that ZAPU would soon have to choose between a political settlement and full-scale war. Rhodesia was still on a war footing and the white population refused to believe that the nationalists could in any way pose a real threat to the government.
Continued attacks in 1976 led to a greater call-up of whites to the military and service tours extended from 12 to 18 months. For the first time there was an increase in "white flight" from the country and the morale of the white population began to falter. It became clear that the rebels would have to be attacked in their protected bases across the border. As a result, the Selous Scouts were ordered attack the Nyadzonia training base in Mozambique on 8 August 1976. Later, these cross-border attacks would occur in Zambia, Angola and Botswana ending as a limited interdiction campaign during 1979.
Readers who want to know more about the Selous Scouts are encouraged to read Lieutenant Colonel Ron Reid Daly's complete history of the organization entitled Selous Scouts - Top Secret War, Galago, London and Johannesburg, 1982. Daly mentions just about every operation that the Scouts took part in, from their start in 1974 to their final breakup at the end of the war in 1980. He mentions the origin of the "pseudo" operations, the sending of white and black Rhodesian troops behind the lines to act as terrorists. He discusses the African tradition, going back to Shaka Zulu who once sent 500 of his best warriors into a 20,000-man Ndwandwe army camp late at night dressed like the enemy to cause turmoil and confusion. He discusses the lack of PSYOP at the start of the war:
The area was clearly intimidated at the least, or subverted at the worst. It was evidently the time, as the British had done in Malaya, to put in a psychological warfare team to re-establish the balance...but then and as the war was to remain until the war was nearly ended there was no such thing. Rhodesians prided themselves on being rugged individualists...not for them that psychology nonsense.
He talks about the value of captured documents and although he doesn't use the current term "Disinformation," he does say:
Letters in particular were of high practical use to use, for it was a relatively simple matter for the Special Branch to forge letters of introduction which we could use to gain entry into an area. They were also valuable as bait for luring terrorist groups into ambushes, or to spread alarm and despondency by complaining bitterly of the high state of efficiency of the Security Forces.
By late March 1977 the Rhodesian government admitted that the insurgency had developed into a full scale revolutionary onslaught. This was confirmed by the formation of Combined Operations Headquarters (COMOPS). On 3 April the new commander COMOPS , Lieutenant-General Peter Walls announced the start of a fresh "hearts and minds" campaign among the black population.
An untitled Rhodesian military document explains:
After some two years of operations, what has been known variously as Sensor, Psyac, Psyops, etc., has been formed as an Army Unit. With effect from 01 July 1977 the unit to be known as the 1 POU standing for 1 Psychological Operations Unit.
G Branch, Army headquarters has asked 1 POU for proposals regarding embellishments and these are now submitted for comment and approval.
Signed: (A.B.C.H. Dalton)
OC 1 POU
10 October 1977
The document continues:
The Psychological Operations Unit was established as part of the Corps of Infantry on 1 July 1977 and is headquartered at Old Cranborne Barracks, Salisbury.
The main emphases of 1 POU operations against the terrorists structured toward psychological confusion of the enemy with the objective of so undermining his morale that he becomes unwilling to fight and is encouraged to defect from the forces of communism.
1 POU's establishment indicates timely recognition of the fact that conflict in Africa is primarily a battle for men's minds.
The Rhodesia Political Department of the British Commonwealth Relations Office wrote a paper entitled "Rhodesia: The Regime's Propaganda Machine and its Operations" dated 16 March, 1966. I have edited the comments for brevity:
In May, 1964 (Before Independence) the Rhodesian Government appointed a South African propaganda specialist, Ivor Benson, as a special adviser attached to their Ministry of Information. It was Benson's task to build up an effective propaganda machine: and in it he had the active encouragement and support of P K van der Byl, who had been appointed to the newly-created post of Parliamentary Secretary for Information in March, 1964. Specific measures included the following:
The Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation, a statutory body, was subjected to close Government control. In December, 1964 there was instituted a regular weekly radio commentary (prepared by the Ministry of Information) which by the technique of selective and slanted reporting attempted to build up a black picture of the independent African states to the north, combined with an image of Rhodesia, South Africa and the adjacent Portuguese territories as havens of good government and fair play. At the end of 1964 Rhodesia Television, an independent commercial concern, was taken over by the Government.
Faced with a daily national press that was unsympathetic to them, Rhodesian Front politicians consistently endeavoured to discredit it. In addition, both the Rhodesian Front and the Ministry endeavoured to promote the establishment of a right wing periodical. One virulent fortnightly ("Newsfront") lasted a few months and then collapsed.
The new Rhodesian government apparently carefully monitored radio and television broadcasts. Dennis Hoines was a producer and director with Rhodesia Television, producing the evening news and a current affairs program called The Tenth Hour. It was a live program dedicated to freely discussing all sides of any question. The last program ever broadcast ran on 27 January 1969 and was entitled, "Rhodesians, who are we, where are we going? Where should we be going?" There were six panelists representing both the "Right" and "Left" political parties. On the fateful night of the final program the show was running late and the managing Director called the studio and basically said that it was going well and to let the panelists continue to speak. The free discussion continued for another 40 minutes. The following day, all Hell broke loose. Dennis told me:
I was called into a meeting convened by the company secretary and some "gentlemen" in black suits and white shirts that I was not introduced to! They wanted to know what the "agenda" was behind the program. I explained the concept of "ventilating" issues. They grilled me on my political beliefs as well as other issues. The following day I was no longer the producer of current affairs. Our program's host was also banned from appearing on Rhodesia TV as well as on radio. I was assigned to "light entertainment" but after a few months resigned. My 12 year career in broadcasting was over.
It is interesting in hindsight to view the Rhodesian conflict. I held the view then, as I do now, that Rhodesia had a great opportunity to create a country that would have been the perfect model of racial harmony in Africa. When I first entered Rhodesia there was a tremendous amount of goodwill between blacks and whites. And I suppose it is an oversimplification to say, that had the country been left alone without outside interference it may well have stood a chance. It is a pity that a man with a limited vision like Harold Wilson was in power in the UK at the time.
He had the power to pull the rug from under the Chinese and Russians, give Rhodesia limited independence with a pathway to eventual majority rule. The proposed 1961 constitution guaranteed this. Initially accepted by Joshua Nkomo at the Victoria Falls conference, it was subsequently rejected by him. This, in my view, was the gravest mistake in Rhodesian politics. It was the catalyst that divided both black and white and set the scene for the ensuing disaster. The country has been largely destroyed because of this folly.
Daly tells of meeting Major Tony Datton (Sic), a businessman with a marketing background who was considered too radical by both the Army and the Special Branch. He says that one high-ranking person called the Major a Communist. Later, everyone wanted to jump on the PSYOP bandwagon, but it was a case of too little and too late. The new team was short of money and manpower. Daly offered some of his African troops to look over the propaganda and make sure that it was culturally correct for the African reader. Some of Reid's comments about the meeting are:
Belatedly, a psyac team, a psychological warfare team came into being, but it was hamstrung by an official policy totally out of step with the true state of things, and it achieved very little. With the work he put in, he deserved more success than he actually achieved, but with the niggardly resources dolled out to him, the results were not really surprising.
Whenever he had a new brainwave, he would hop in his car and drive to Inkomo where I would lay on a mixed team of "Tame" terrorists and Selous Scout soldiers who would, with an extremely critical eye, soon sort the wheat from the chaff.
I want to mention the standard because it was a masterpiece of psychological warfare, using various symbols that all had a strong and positive meaning to Africans. They had no interest in the silks and colors of the usual regimental flag, so a lot of time and study was put into getting the standard just right. It was an attempt to meld the two races fighting side-by-side. The pike was an old and honored European weapon, the silver Osprey for speed and courage, the horns of a bull for strength held in place by elephant hide both denoted strength to the Africans. A zebra skin would represent the black and white races and beneath the words "Pamwe Chete." Two wildebeest tails hung from the tips of the bull horns, traditionally used by witch doctors to banish evil spirits. Daly tells of bringing his standard out in front of bewildered generals who apparently were not pleased with what appeared to be a very unmilitary regimental standard.
The troops then sang a Shona funeral song, selected to honor the brave fighters who should have been killed on many dangerous missions:
Come all you soldiers of the Selousi...Selous Scouts;
We search for the men who rebel against our country;
We live in the bush;
We live like homeless ones;
We seek the enemy;
Who wish to destroy our country...Rhodesia.
In general, however, psychological operations in Rhodesia proved a failure. They were aimed at convincing the blacks to support the white regime instead of attempting to change white racial views as a prelude to any such support. Meanwhile, the insurgents were thought to have about 5,216 troops within Rhodesia. The year 1977 ended in a spectacular way for the insurgent forces with a bold although unsuccessful attack on Grand Reef Air Base on 18 December.
Prime Minister Smith finally recognized the need for a political settlement rather than armed victory, but he tried to deal with more reasonable Black Nationalist figures. Since the nationalists now followed the way of the gun, the Reverend Sithole had lost all effective control over both ZANU and ZANLA, as well as any backing he might have had from members of the Frontline states. Bishop Muzorewa had also been left without any external support.
Prime Minister Smith called for internal talks on 3 January 1978. The Patriotic Front sought desperately to stop Smith's projected settlement with moderate black leaders. The threat of losing the international initiative led to attempts by both Nkomo and Mugabe to solidify their power. On 15 February an eight point agreement was reached as a basis for a majority rule government. The British were skeptical, the Americans condemned the talks and they were rejected by the Patriotic Front. However, Smith had reached an agreement with the moderate leaders, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole. A Transitional Government would rule the country until majority rule was instituted on 31 December 1978. A full scale safe return program, including an amnesty offer, was announced on 20 January to be repeated on 2 May. Both proved futile gestures.
The insurgents kept fighting and in 1979 Rhodesia placed nearly 90% of the nation under full martial law. Call-ups for whites were extended to all men aged between 50 and 59, each of whom had to serve 42 days of the year. It was like the last days of WWII when Hitler called up children and old men to defend Germany. Meanwhile, on 12 February, a Rhodesia Viscount was brought down by SA-7 missile resulting in the death of 59 people on board.
When the final results of the election were announced on 24 April Bishop Muzorewa's United African National Council had taken 67% of the total vote, the Reverend Sithole's ZANU 16.5% and Chief Chirau's ZUPO, 6%. An astounding 64.45% of the voting population had cast their votes. At one minute past midnight on 1 June, the Republic of Rhodesia ceased to exist as the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia Constitution came into effect, to last a total of 195 days.
THE PEOPLE WANT PEACE
The Rhodesian Government printed a number of leaflets as a part of a "consolidation" campaign to unite the people behind the new black government. One such product depicts Bishop Muzorewa and the title:
THE PEOPLE WANT PEACE
The story of how the Rhodesian government got behind and supported Bishop Muzorewa is told in part by Henrik Ellert in: War - History of Guerrilla warfare & counter-insurgency in Rhodesia 1960-1980, Mambo Press, 1989. He says in regard to what Americans would call "Black operations":
By April 1978 it was apparent that neither Sithole nor Muzorewa stood any chance of mustering guerrilla support... After some weeks Macguinness [Commander of the Rhodesian Special Branch] produced a top-secret plan code-named Operation Favour. In it he outlined his ideas for the creation of frozen areas, which would be cleared of regular security forces, so that groups of Selous Scouts posing as guerrillas could be substituted.
These fake guerrillas would convince villagers that they were ZANLA forces who had heeded the cease-fire call issued by the Internal Settlement partners and Bishop Muzorewa in particular. Special Branch officers attached to the Operation Favour 're-elect the Bishop' campaign went on a spending spree unprecedented in the long history of the British South Africa Police. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were paid out in cash for the purchase of vehicles and services. The 1st Psychological Operations Unit, under Major Tony Dalton, spearheaded a publicity campaign and recommended an advertising budget that provided a bonanza for the lucky PR agency retained to promote Bishop Muzorewa and the United African National Council. For several months, until the elections, Muzorewa's portrait and party slogans were everywhere and, to the Rhodesians, it seemed successful... When the results came through on Sunday 3 March 1980, it was clear that ZANU-PF was in the lead. The Bishop was shocked and puzzled and so, indeed, were most of the White community in Rhodesia.
There is no definite evidence of these contingency plans... But some Special Branch officers were privy to an incredible plan apparently masterminded by some senior SB officers and 1st Psychological Operations men. This was said to have involved the forging of a duplicate set of ballot papers, suitably marked to reflect a majority win in favor of the United African National Council.
[After the loss of the election] Members of the Operation Favour team quietly shrank away, slipping into the mainstream of normal duties. The Auxiliaries were disarmed and demobilized. In some instances, liaison officers and small groups of Auxiliaries went to South Africa. Any cash left in the Operation Favour operational 'kitty' was apportioned out and paid to the Auxiliaries in the form of a final bonsella or gratuity payment. Members of the Scouts and the RLI, which were immediately disbanded, were allocated payments from funds in the Operation Favour coffers. Golden handshakes varied from $2,000 per man increasing with rank held. In a final summing up of Operation Favour, a SB officer who had been involved in the beginning commented wistfully that the expenditure of nearly $10 million had perfected the ultimate 'PSYOP' job. Not on the Africans but on the Rhodesians themselves.
A second Rhodesian government leaflet depicts two photographs of crops. In the top photograph farmers stand by an abundant field and the text is, "The prosperity peace brings - a good harvest." The second photo shows a farmer by a barren field and the text, "War brings famine - no food for the people." In small print at the bottom of each leaflet is the comment "inserted on behalf of the Government." This implies that the propaganda might have been placed into envelopes and mailed. These "inserted" leaflets are larger than usual at about 8 x 10-inches in size with English-language text on the front and Shona text on the back.
A third Rhodesian Government poster simply shows a stylized dove of peace and once again bears the title "THE PEOPLE WANT PEACE" and the tag line "That is what the people want." The text tells the people that the government is willing to negotiate to bring blacks into a position of authority and asks them to do everything possible to end the war. As before, the front of the leaflet is in English and the back is in Shona.
Another government leaflet is printed partially in a bright orange to make it more visible in the countryside. The title is "COME HOME - YOUR LAND AWAITS YOU." The leaflet has a long propaganda message asking the natives in the bush to return to their farms and homes. It tells them of all the benefits that await them and has a questionnaire asking for their name, age, previous occupation and interests. Some of the message is:
My brothers and sisters, come home. We need you. Zimbabwe needs you. Come home and help us build a great and peaceful nation. A land for us and our children And the children of our children.
I speak to you as a man of God. I give you my solemn word of honor that you will be greeted in peace and joy. Come home my fellow men and women of Zimbabwe. Come home to peace.
Bishop Abel Muzorewa
Unfortunately, peace was not to be. The Chinese and Soviets that had assisted and funded the guerrilla groups and some of the insurgent leaders disavowed this compromise and demanded a complete and total victory. Bishop Muzorewa was not "black enough" or radical enough for them. As a result, the guerrilla war continued after his election.
The insurgents continued to infiltrate the new nation even though that was supposed to end with the peace agreement. By 6 January 1980 their number rose to 15,730 insurgents. Days later this number rose to about 22,000. With both sides becoming increasingly exhausted by the war, both physically and financially, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia government agreed to a peace conference in London, which eventually led to a cease-fire and elections. These elections were not well controlled and observed and to the shock of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia's whites and many of its blacks, the Marxist Robert Mugabe was elected Prime Minister on 4 March and his party won 57 of the 80 black seats in Parliament. It was a rout. When John Meiring, a member of Ian Smith's Psychological Operations Unit, heard the news, one compatriot wrote:
His ass fell on the ground with a thud that could be heard round the room. I mean, I knew there'd be guys who'd vote for Mugabe but not f---ing 90 percent of the black electorate! I went straight to the bar and had a double.
American Captain Joe Smith was also dumbfounded. He told me:
Months had passed since our first wide open "majority rule" election and the Western World refused to recognize that election despite the fact that international observers had declared that election to be fair and open to all. I voted for Muzorewa in April of 1979. Six months later there was still no international recognition. This was the only real experiment in democracy on the African continent and the way the rest of the world demurred just brings tears of rage and frustration to my eyes.
It was President Jimmy Carter and his United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young who bullied the British and others not to recognize this election. All of us in Rhodesia were crazy with frustration. We had done it all right. We were on-sides with the concept of majority rule. But never on-sides with the notion of a self declared Marxist taking over. Since before 1976 Robert Mugabe had insisted he was in favor of a one-party Marxist state. Carter and Young wanted Mugabe to win from the start, but he had boycotted our April 1979 election and said: "I will take Zimbabwe through the barrel of a gun!"
But Carter had a solution. Hold a second election and bully Mugabe into running for office. Twenty-eight years later, Carter's "Man in Harare" still rules. Yeah, I'm still white hot angry about it.
On 18 April 1980, Zimbabwe became independent with Robert Mugabe, a self-avowed Marxist as its premier. Like the Americans in Vietnam, Rhodesia had never lost a single battle. But, like the Americans, that fact was irrelevant. The Rhodesians lost the war.
One of Mugabe's first acts was to order the immediate disbanding of the Selous Scouts; Mugabe also threatened to bring its members to trial as war criminals. During the transition period under British protection, most of the unit's members left Zimbabwe.
This poster illustrates the belated efforts made by the Rhodesian authorities to unite African and European opinion against the terrorist threat. Two soldiers - one black, the other white - are shown standing against a plain, mustard-colored backdrop. Above and behind them are two Alouette helicopters, from the nearest of which more soldiers are deploying. The slogan "Shoulder to Shoulder" appears bottom right.
Another poster made by the Rhodesian authorities to unite African and European opinion against the terrorist threat. Two soldiers - one black, the other white - are shown on patrol together.
Rhodesian Psychological Operations were designed to create dissension, disorganization, low morale, subversion, sabotage, and defection within insurgent military forces. For the civilian population, PSYOP objectives were to gain, preserve, and strengthen civilian support for the government, both internally and externally. PSYOP involved the planned use of communications through words, symbols and actions to influence the behavior of selected target audiences in order to promote the achievement of national objectives.
The Illustrated History of South Africa, Reader's Digest Press, Cape Town, 3ed. 1992, gives examples of some of these communication campaigns:
The Rhodesian propaganda war started in the early 1970s. Books, cartoons, jokes, radio and TV programs extolling the invincibility of the white army and deriding the terrorists were part of daily life. Africans were saturated with blood-curdling leaflets and films warning them of the horrors that would be-visited on them by "communists, Marxist-Leninists and criminal terrorists."
The Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) broadcast program in English and Shona detailing the barbarisms committed by terrorists, offering rewards for reporting their presence and protection by the Rhodesian army. Ironically, the only people who listened to these broadcasts were whites. The African people listened to Radio Mozambique and the Voice of Zimbabwe - one of the most popular programs was the regular talk show by Mugabe. As a Patriotic Front supporter said after the election: "Every kid had Mugabe fever. Everybody could see that Comrade Mugabe was talking sense." A well-known black RBC broadcaster, Ben Musoni, later remembered: "...the whole country was behind the freedom fighters."
We mention cartoons above. Dennis Hoines told me about a pro-Rhodesia cartoon he prepared as a copywriter/creative director for the public relations agency de Villiers and Schoenfeldt. He was briefed by the Department of Information to create an advertising campaign to boost the morale of the Rhodesian people and stop them from leaving the country. It was an impossible task. He told me that he came up with numerous campaigns:
Given the success British humor had in maintaining moral during WWII, we decided to opt for the same strategy. Rhodesia was famous for their Ridgeback Dogs. We invented a cartoon character who was your typical beer swilling, barbecuing, sports-loving Rhodesian bloke in a floppy bush hat and called him "Ridgeback." His wife was "Backchat." The Minister of defense was "Fightback." His Aussie friend was "Outback" and his returning Rhodesian buddy was "Welcomeback." Topics ranged from comparing the Vietnam War and Northern Ireland with the conflict in Rhodesia to cold miserable UK weather with sunny Rhodesia, sports, the lack of whisky, the shortage of petrol and Rhodesian ingenuity in surviving sanctions.
We also created humorous two-minute TV commercials called the "Ridgeback Report." Concurrent with this was a campaign to create "goodwill amongst white and black." The concept was "You don't have to love your neighbor, just understand him." Print advertising showed two babies, moments old. The headline was: "One of these boys will grow up to be a boy." The copy explained the indignity of an adult black male still being called a garden boy, cook boy, etc. Another commercial depicted a mixed race group of boys and girls in the water having fun. Once again, the title and voice over: "You don't have to love your neighbor, just understand him."
As the war deepened and tourism declined we created a leaflet that was sent to travel agents in South Africa the main source of tourism. The front cover carried the words: "The Rhodesian tourist industry is in ruins." Inside it read: "...and in waterfalls, lakes, rivers, dams, game parks, golf, fishing..." and of course showed stunning pictures of tourist destinations.
None of this material was ever published. The in-fighting at the Department of Information was such that they could never make a decision. The situation then, in 1975 and 1976 was such that everyone was scared of upsetting those "at the top."
The British Commonwealth Relations Office paper adds:
Before independence, Rhodesian propaganda was, both internally and externally, devoted primarily to the presentation of Rhodesia's case for independence. Rhodesia was depicted as a haven of responsible government where every person, regardless of race, had a fair deal and where not only the Europeans but the majority of Africans supported the Government and its policies. The few recalcitrant thugs who opposed them were the puppets of international Communism.
Since independence, the propaganda barrage has been directed, with ever increasing viciousness, on the British Government in general and the British Prime Minister in particular...For over three years the philosophy has been assiduously developed that Rhodesians must stand together and that anyone who opposes the Government is to all intents and purposes a traitor to his country. It is combined with an animosity towards Wilson and the British Government that is reflected in the "I hate Wilson" window stickers recently distributed in Rhodesia.
The propaganda campaign has also set out to discredit the BBC, depicting it as a propaganda organ exploited by the British Government without any regard for objectivity or respect for the facts.
The Rhodesian government printed a number of propaganda foreign air letters with text in English, German, French and Spanish. It is believed that they issued freely at local post offices for their citizens to send to friends and relatives all over the world to explain the case for Rhodesian independence. The propaganda message also re-enforced the pro-independence feeling of some Rhodesian Whites and even motivated new white settlers.
The 1966 British Commonwealth Relations Office document adds:
Apart from normal information pamphlets about Rhodesia, some special material was produced, primarily for consumption overseas (and particularly in Britain). For example, specially printed air-letters were distributed to householders in European areas throughout Rhodesia, which they could post to friends and contacts abroad. They would generally contain a printed propaganda message, and leave space for the sender to add some personal greetings. One issue in mid-1965, extolling the delights of (European) life in Rhodesia, formed part of an immigration drive.
Researcher Lee Richards has found several preprinted Rhodesian propaganda air letters in the British Archives. One is unaddressed, the second to a member of the British House of Commons. Each bears a long propaganda message on the inside. The message is far too long to print here but the opening paragraphs of two of the messages are:
One of the accusations you have no doubt heard about Rhodesia is that it is a "police state." I hope that you take this with a pinch of salt. Please remember that it is an accusation which, because it is based on impressions rather than a set of rules, is easy to make against almost any country. People can interpret it in many different ways and often do, depending on the country involved...
It seems that though people in Britain have been preoccupied with economic considerations, they have not taken into account the effects on themselves of their government's policy of sanctions against Rhodesia. Strange, isn't it, when the two are so closely related? I often wonder if people in Britain realize just how much sanctions are costing their country. Few seem to have any idea, either of the extent of the bill or of its impact on their economy. Yet sanctions have many aspects, and all of them are expensive...
German researcher Wolfgang Baldus discovered a 29 April 1976 propaganda air letter with the pre-printed message:
No doubt you are worried about the situation in Rhodesia, particularly in view of all the sensation headlines and horrific articles which appear in the press. The psychological war being waged against Rhodesia through many of the news media of the world has escalated to such proportions of misrepresentation that many observers outside this country find it difficult to separate fact from fiction...
In the written letter to Oswego, New York, the Rhodesian writer states that his life is fairly peaceful except that he had to do regular stints of 15-day police duties patrolling a desolate piece of land called "the hot area."
Another air letter used in 1966 has the opening paragraph:
What is particularly heartening these days is to see so many letters of support from overseas. It is a great pity, though, that even those who are sympathetic should be uninformed about our affairs. Where the African is concerned, particularly, people seem to know very little of what is being done. And yet, we are doing so much...
It seems that though people…
This Unused propaganda air letter mentions sanctions and the British dealings with Zambia. Some of the text is:
It seems that though people in Britain have been preoccupied with economic considerations, they have not taken into account the effect on themselves of their government's policies of sanctions against Rhodesia. Strange, isn't it, when the two are so closely related. I often wonder if people in Britain realize just how much sanctions are costing their country…
What is more interesting is the official Rhodesian printed page that came with the letter to explain its use and why it was needed.
The propaganda product above seems to be a marriage of an air letter and a pamphlet. The Rhodesians have printed a 4-page booklet citing the merits of their case for independence on an air letter preprinted "Air Mail" and "Second Class Air Mail" and all the sender had to do was place a stamp and address on the publication and put it into a mailbox. The item above was sent to the Secretary of the Phoenix Works in Stalybridge, Cheshire, England. The long printed message states that other African countries have been granted their independence and questions why Britain has refused the same right to Rhodesia.
Another interesting air letter contains a propaganda message encouraging people to immigrate to Rhodesia. It says in part:
Have you thought about coming to live in Rhodesia? We think you'd love it here... Then there's the space. Space for everyone... Oh, and on the subject of security in Rhodesia. Don't believe too many of the stories you hear about us in the papers and on television. Most of it is just sensationalism and biased reporting. Actually, Rhodesia is one of the quietest and safest places you could live in the world today...
The air letter came with a printed note for the buyer that said in part:
SPEND SIXPENCE FOR YOUR COUNTRY
This letter is to tell you how, for as little as six pence, you can do a great deal for your country…You must know people like yourself overseas who would love the life we lead here…You can help to get them here by spending sixpence on a stamp and sending the enclosed air letter to them….
We have already mentioned that in February 1966, the Rhodesian government expanded its efforts in the United States by opening an Information Office in Washington DC. After both the United Nations and the U.S. government placed sanctions on Rhodesia, the Rhodesian Information Office continued to operate with support from front groups including "The Friends of Rhodesia" and the "American Rhodesian Association." There was also pro-Rhodesia mail sent from inside the United States. One letter in my possession is dated "September 1968" and prepared by the "American Friends of Rhodesia," headquartered in Nashua, New Hampshire. The letter, signed, "For God and Country," by "Secretary Dick Wardwell Jr." says in part:
Word has reached us that the United Nations will again "discuss" the Rhodesian situation during the current session. It is to be remembered that the strengthened economic sanctions voted in 23 May 1968 empowered U Thant to "authorize" ARMED ACTION in event the increased sanctions failed to bring the heroic Rhodesian people to their knees. The brave anti-Communist people of Rhodesia have not bowed and will not bow to the Communist internationalists....
Enclosed with this newsletter are 5 picture postcards. We urge each member to send cards to as many British offices as possible... Additional cards are available from this office at costs (5 cents each to cover costs and postage)....
The American Friends of Rhodesia also prepared a postcard entitled "British Standards of Justice" that depicts The Women's Monument or Vrouemonument in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It was built to commemorate the suffering of some 27,000 Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps during the Boer War. Some of the text on the postcard is:
Monument to honor the 26,370 women and children of Boer soldiers killed by the British.
The British raided farms belonging to Boer soldiers while the men were away at war. Houses were burned and cattle killed and women and children were placed in concentration camps. They were given no solid food, only barley soup made from rotten meat so that 26,370 perished by disease and starvation... History books relate how British General Tarleton and other generals in the American Revolution made a practice of mutilating captured American soldiers... These are the people who are trying to destroy the Rhodesians now.
This postcard seems more anti-British than pro-Rhodesian. The talk of British torture of American colonials two centuries earlier is odd, but New Hampshire is an eastern state, one of the thirteen original colonies, and they were a hotbed of revolution during the American War of Independence. Perhaps they just wanted to get a dig in at an old enemy.
General Banastre "Butcher" Tarleton is probably best known from the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot where he kills unarmed American prisoners-of-war and sets fire to a Church full of unarmed civilians. Gibson killed Tarleton in the movie, but in real life the British officer returned to England as a military hero, was eventually promoted to full general, and was a member of the House of Parliament, and appointed a baronet and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
This Rhodesian propaganda postcard reminds the British that the Rhodesians were their brothers in arms during wartime and thousands died to help protect the Commonwealth. To attack Rhodesia would be the worst kind of betrayal to an old friend.
Robin Wright wrote about Rhodesian printed propaganda after a 1976 visit to Salisbury. She tells of propaganda gummed labels in a sedate bar on Salisbury's main avenue. The stickers were part of a massive propaganda campaign to boost morale. They were found in bright colors like Turquoise and chartreuse. The stickers were on the dark wood walls, tables, bar stools and cash register. The titles of the labels are all in capitals, and each label bears an additional message in a smaller font at the bottom or far right. Other known titles are:
SPEAK NOW AND WE'LL KNOW NO PEACE. Think about national security, don't talk about it.
WHAT YOU'VE JUST SAID MAY BLOW UP A TRUCK. Think about national security, don't talk about it.
IS YOUR CONVERSATION KILLING? Think about national security, don't talk about it.
AN OPEN MOUTH MAKES A BIG TARGET. Think about national security, don't talk about it.
The Rhodesian government also printed a propaganda air letter for distribution to relatives and friends abroad. Some of the text is:
No doubt you are worried about the situation in Rhodesia, particularly in view of all the sensational headlines and horrific articles which appear in the press. The psychological war being waged against Rhodesia through many of the news media has escalated to such proportions of misrepresentation that many observers outside this country find it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Scores of journalists from all over the world have descended upon Rhodesia and, believe it or not, are hard put to find enough to do or see. There are no massacres and bloodbaths, there are no massive terrorist force build-ups, there is no panic or hysteria, and there are no queues of people leaving the country...
As always, the best methods of communicating the government's message was face-to-face communication, radio, loudspeakers and printed material. Their leaflets were mass-produced for distribution by hand and from the air in the African Tribal Trust Lands during the late 70s. Many feature a crude line drawing conveying a simple message, which is then expanded in the text (written in both English and Shona). It is important to note that while the insurgents called themselves patriots and nationalists, the Rhodesians called them communists and terrorists. The same tack had been taken in South Africa where the African National Congress was regularly attacked as communist thugs by the white apartheid government. This helped to depersonify the enemy and the threat of a communist takeover might help to strengthen loyalty to the government both within and outside of Rhodesia. This tactic did not work in South Africa, and it failed in Rhodesia too.
In 1973, the Rhodesians considered building a local black militia that would enable the rural population to defend themselves against insurgent attacks. The concept was unpopular with both the military and the politicians. Nobody wanted to arm the black population and the regular army refused to take them seriously as a legitimate fighting force.
In early 1978, the idea of a local militia to provide village protection was revisited. Under "Operation Favour," these forces were first called the Interim Government Forces. The Selous Scouts trained and introduced 42 blacks into Msana Tribal Trust Land. By March 1978, the Trust Land was being protected by about 90 men. The program was built up and by the end of the year 2000 men were living in the local villages as part of the tribal structure.
On 4 November 1978, Lieutenant-General Peter Walls (Combined Operations Headquarters) claimed that:
The Government has persuaded more than 2,000 Patriotic Front terrorists to join its side and they are now fighting under the control of the Rhodesian Security Forces.
This was psychological disinformation since only 50 terrorists had come over using the amnesty offer. This propaganda campaign was probably aimed at international recognition, hinting that the terrorists were surrendering in droves. In fact, the local population and the insurgents certainly knew the truth. They were still fighting in the field.
In April 1979, the 1st Psychological Operations Unit recommended that the Auxiliary force be renamed Pfumo re Vanhu (Spear of the People) in Shona. General Walls ordered the Selous Scouts to undertake the training, administration and feeding of any insurgents who defected and were prepared to join the Auxiliary forces. After the elections, enthusiasm for Operation Favour waned. The Auxiliary were reduced from its maximum of 16,000 members and those that were kept on were given a standard operating procedure. Some of the more important tasks were:
1. Encouraging Communist Trained Terrorists to accept the Amnesty offer.
2. Protecting the local population by retaining a constant presence in areas in which they are deployed.
3. Assisting Security Forces in preventing terrorists from re-establishing their domination over areas from which they have been driven
4. Establishing a pro-Government system for gathering intelligence.
5. Protecting villages.
Captain Joe Smith added:
Toward the end of the war our Company got the task of training a sort of paramilitary group called Pfumo Revanhu (Spear of the People). Suddenly all these young African guys showed up and Company Sergeant Major J. Chitereka (A great African First Sergeant) and I sat down at a picnic table and wrote the training syllabus from scratch in about two hours. There was a lot of great singing around the campfire at night. It was part of the syllabus! We wanted to boost their morale and give them a big dose of nationalism. I don't remember much about the training syllabus but it was a much abbreviated basic training as I recall. Everything was crammed into six or eight weeks as opposed to the nine months African soldiers normally got at Balla Balla to become Rhodesian African Rifles soldiers. I'm sure we put in several hours of "square bashing" which is the British term for drill. It is the base of all discipline. There would have been a good deal of physical fitness and rifle range training. The recruits were sent to us without a plan for even a minimum basic training, hence the 1SG and I sitting side by side on picnic table drawing up a training program while our new "recruits" were in a sort of holding pattern, but not for long! I was awarded a brown t-shirt with "Pfumo Revanhu" across the chest. I think this was my earned merit badge.
The Auxiliaries did a reasonably good job considering that many were poorly trained, some were conscripts, and others were urban blacks who suddenly found themselves posted to a rural kraal. The Army never accepted them. The Auxiliaries did free some regular troops to fight along the border and over the border in the nations helping the insurgents, but with better training and acceptance they could have done much more.
Pfumo reVanhu was an auxiliary force created by the Rhodesian Security Forces in the late 1970s during the guerilla war in that country. The growing lack of (white) manpower gave rise to the idea of creating an auxiliary force, or militia, composed of local Africans to guard their own areas and villages. Officially entitled "Security Force Auxiliaries", they soon became known by their Shona nickname, Pfumo reVanhu which means "Spear of the People". Initially the men were not even issued with a uniform but later they used a distinctive brown uniform.
The above booklet was issued to the Pfumo re Vanhu forces. It contains low key propaganda concerning the need for unity among the Rhodesian African peoples against the Communists. In reading the book from the front to the middle it is written in English. If you turn the book upside down, which would have you reading from the back to the middle, it is written in the African Ndeble language.
The above leaflet depicts a former detachment commander of Zanla who rallied to the Pfumo reVanhu, The leaflet text in part is:
I resigned from Zanla's War. Now I am working for
peace with the people and the Pfumo re Vanhu.
Detachment Commander of Zanla.
I am [name blacked out], a detachment commander since 1972. Last year I was sent to Zimbabwe on operations against the interim government forces.
I found the people happy and contented. I learned that the forces were the future of the people (Pfumo re Vanhu). I learned the people supported the electorate.
I could not go against the wishes of the people, for the liberation of the masses is what I always believed to be my mission. Now peace is what the people want.
And so I joined the forces of the people and I carry my weapon to help bring peace to Zimbabwe.
Join me my brothers the reward is great.
Forward with peace for the people, that is what the people want.
In regard to the program former Rhodesian Special Forces Sergeant Dann Bennett said:
In the months prior to the election that brought Mugabe to power; I was serving in Group IV of the Rhodesian Special Forces. This was the unit that ran the Pfumo re Vanhu (Spear of the People) force. This was a huge nation-wide operation. We had undeniable success and at least one spectacular failure when two of the Pfumo re Vanhu Detachments went bad and became lawless bandits. These Detachments were quickly attacked by air strikes and a fire force ground attack afterwards. Subsequent Detachments had greater emphasis on discipline, uniformity, a standardized training regimen, and a Liaison Officer to keep tabs on it all.
I was assigned as the Liaison Officer of the Weya Tribal Trust Land Detachment in the Makoni District. The Tribal Trust Lands belong exclusively to the various tribes, not unlike a U.S. "Indian" Reservation. These areas were administrated by the Internal Affairs Department. Many of them were not under the control of the civil administration due to terrorist activity. The Pfumo re Vanhu Detachments were very successful in taking back the tribal areas, opening schools, clinics, cattle dips, and performing other useful services for the people.
If the program had been implemented two years earlier; it could have changed the outcome of the war, or at the very least bought several more years for the new Muzorewa Government.
In 2015, Robert Allport, author of Flags and Symbols of Rhodesia 1890-1980 wrote to tell me that he had found a strange Pfumo Re Vanhu flag. Instead of the usual brown flag with their badge in the center and the name Pfumo Re Vanhu, the new unknown banner apparently made in Rhodesia by Smith & Gourock, is almost identical but has the motto Umkonto We Sizwe beneath the Pfumo badge. That translates to "Spear of the Nation" or "Spear of the People" and originates from South Africa, where the ANC used it as the name of their armed wing. Allport wonders if this was an attempt to create an Ndebele branch of Pfumo. In Ndebele, it should more accurately be rendered as Umkonto We Bantu, which makes the flag even more mystifying! Readers with comments are encouraged to write to the author.
Some Rhodesian aerial leaflet drops mentioned in the winter 1965 and spring 1996 issues of the Falling Leaf, the journal of the PSYWAR Society are:
A leaflet that says that "ZAPU" is dead and that the government and people can now move forward together.
One leaflet shows pictures of pro-government activities in schools, homes and agriculture. A week later another leaflet mentioned "the government's progressive policy for education and Agriculture."
A total of 20,000 leaflets were dropped in 1960 over Salisbury, Bulawayo and Gwelo by the Rhodesian Air Force. They informed township people that Territorial troops were going to protect respectable citizens from lawless members of the community, and added for the benefit of the colored people that the troops were there to make friends.
An all-English pictorial leaflet was dropped in 1960 which invited recruits to join the African police reserve.
On 24 July 1961 aircraft swooped over Bulawayo dropping government leaflets urging Africans to ignore an anonymous strike call. The strike, which was said to be an almost total failure, took place 48 hours before the proposed referendum on the new Constitutional proposals for the Territory.
Surrender leaflets to the fanatical Lumpa Church sect, led by Prophetess Alice Lenshina were dropped in 1964. The fanatical religious cult had declared war on the government. She surrendered on 13 August, after 557 of her estimated 25,000 followers were killed in bitter clashes. She asked her followers to cease fighting in a leaflet and in a speech broadcast over the radio.
In 1964 the Rhodesian Air Force dropped 750,000 leaflets, three political and one inviting recruits to African Police reserve.
A 4-page leaflet was dropped over parts of the Zambesi Valley in 1968 over African nationalist guerrilla camps.
During 1973 the Rhodesians were still dropping warning and threatening tracts illustrating gruesome pictures over guerrilla hideouts in the country.
Bairstow mentions an interesting use of the loudspeaker by the Rhodesian Air Force:
In December of 1968, Rhodesian intelligence received indications that ZAPU insurgents were preparing to cross the Zambesi in a fresh invasion of the Rhodesian interior. Acting on the information, Rhodesian planes equipped with loudspeakers flew over the Zambesi, broadcasting an "invitation" from the Rhodesian Army to the insurgents. The effect remains unknown, but there was no known incursion after the broadcasts.
A Rhodesian Air Force website mentions another leaflet operation:
Operation Chestnut started on the 20 February 1970 when a ZIPRA guerrilla was captured at Dett siding in the Wankie area. He was one of a group of seven. Army patrols were carried out to the south-west of Dahlia to try to locate the remaining six terrorists. No 4 Squadron set up a FAF a Dahlia from where Air Lieutenant Ed Paintin carried out armed reconnaissance flights and leaflet drops.
The Rhodesians attempted to remove the insurgents from their support system by the use of Protected Villages. The objective is to deny the insurgent forces access to the population and its resources, cutting off money, material and manpower. The Rhodesian Security Forces also used resettlement, food control, no-go areas and curfews. All of these had worked for the British in earlier insurgencies but would fail the Americans in Vietnam.
The National Psychological Warfare Committee (Psywar Committee) was formed under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister in 1972. The Psywar Committee included Commanders of the Army and Air Force, Director of the Central Intelligence Organization, Minister or Secretary of Information and Commissioner of Police. There was some conflict, as there always is with a new concept, and the Ministry of Information viewed this newcomer as an unwelcome intruder.
At first there was no PSYOP unit within the Security Forces. The initial idea came from an ex-regular officer, Ian Sheppard. He approached his brigade commander with the idea of starting a PSYOP organization. A unit called "The Sheppard Group" was formed, but did not have any great success. They printed and disseminated some leaflets, but since the unit was just an informal group without structure or budget, it could not obtain facilities or equipment to produce such material. The group was on the verge of collapse when the government came up with the idea of Protected and Consolidated Villages. Now there was a need to convince the local population of the need to live in these villages protected by the military. Soldiers with backgrounds in psychological operations and civic actions were transferred to the unit. These Civil Action Teams (CAT) took part in the planning and operation of the Protected Villages from 1976-1978.
Another Sheppard operation was the publication of anti-terrorist books. Minister of Information P.K. van der Byl did not take kindly to this interference in his department's domain. The Sheppard group was summoned for an interview. The Anatomy of Terror was published in its original form on 21 May 1974. The book explains in the introduction:
Outright torture has long been a weapon of the Communist-trained thugs who, for the past 15 years, have been trying to force their philosophies on an unwilling and peace-loving, indigenous population.
If, as they say, the people are on their side, why is it necessary for them to resort to such barbarism in order to convince them? Perhaps this publication will serve to prove the caliber of men who masquerade as liberators of a so-called oppressed community.
Another book printed on cheap pulp paper is Bloody Love, the tragic story of Chikombe Mazvidza, an African who had his ears, lips and flesh from his nose to his chin cut off by guerrillas when he refused to give them food during a raid in the northeast operational zone. The pamphlet goes into some detail:
Then as a final token of that love which is only given to great liberators, they forced his wife to roast the flesh on an open fire and eat it.
A similar publication, Harvest of Fear, was also published subsequently. Following this incident, the Commander of the Army was told not to get involved in areas in which other ministries were already engaged. His attitude toward psychological operations was well summarized a statement he made:
I wanted to step up the use of the bayonet. That's the most effective propaganda - the bayonet.
This 30-page booklet was printed by the Rhodesian government in August 1979 and mentioned numerous attacks and covered the torture and death of the victims in great detail. It says for instance:
In January 1979, terrorists murdered a family of four - including an expectant mother and her two children, aged five and two - then burnt down their farmhouse...
Although the core of the group still consisted of only six members, a large number of experts were used on a part-time basis to aid in the preparation of about thirty-eight themes that were forwarded for approval. These included papers on: the provision of communal tobacco sheds in Chiweshe Tribal Trust Land, a national pension plan for black farm laborers, rabbit farms, family unit farms, a bakery for Chiweshe Tribal Trust Land, use of members of the Territorial Army to train local blacks in farming and other techniques and crafts, and a Radio Chiweshe.
All the proposed projects failed due to lack of interest and funds. Since neither the Psywar Committee nor the Sheppard group had any access to funds for financing such schemes on their own these had to be obtained directly from the Treasury, Department of Internal Affairs or the Army. None was willing to provide funds.
The Sheppard group also suffered from the general belief by the government that black people only respected force and that any attempt at "winning their hearts and minds" did not take the simplistic black African mind into account.
Dr. Watt discusses his views of the propaganda books and torture:
I agree that most whites had a very low estimate of the African psyche, not surprising as every immigrant (including myself) was given a book called "The Man and His Ways." The gist of this book was that as long as the African had his tobacco, his beer and his woman, he was happy. The people who produced these ridiculous publications had, indeed, no idea of what was going on the ground.
The guerrillas committed atrocities in our area, cutting off the lips of a supposed informer with a pair of pliers and bayoneting another. Photographers recorded the first lady, but did not know of another patient, just a few beds away in Karanda Hospital, who had his fingers shot off one-by-one by the troops. There were atrocities on both sides. Had the troops been under better discipline, had they not been given blanket amnesty by Ian Smith, they might have been seen in a better light.
Torture by anti-insurgency forces continued at the police camp (Chombira) and near the police station (Concession). This consisted of electrical shocks, beatings and partial drowning in a 44-gallon drum of water followed by resuscitation. One headman who survived this was also flown over his village, suspended by a rope tied to his legs. The object, in the words of a member of the forces, was to show that "the terrorists may be tough, but we can be tougher."
The three young men depicted in this 1973 government leaflet were shot and refused burial, a horrific desecration in the Shona culture. The message on the backof the leaflet mentions that the closure of schools, clinics, stores, grinding mills and beer halls is so that the troops and police can do a good job catching the terrorists and those who help them, and saying that if people give information to the police, the schools and stores will reopen. The psychological effect of the posters coming at this time was, however, to elicit disgust with the government and sympathy for those who had died fighting it.
The local people's response to the psychological warfare campaign was quite the opposite of that intended. A cartoon of a woman about to be raped (disgusting in the eyes of the villagers) brought memories of the raping by security forces. Pictures of rotting, unburied guerrilla bodies brought sympathy. Talk of "mad-dog communists" (the workers had never heard of communists before -- the subject was forbidden in schools) who wanted to beat and enslave them only made them think of government torture and being locked up in "protected villages." When a government has compassion, truth and justice on its side, there is no need for "psychological warfare".
When Lieutenant-General Hickman took over as Army Chief of Staff early in 1977 the first steps were taken to formalize psychological operations and civil action in the Rhodesian Army. The First Psychological Operations Unit, (1 POU), was formed on 1 July 1977 with Captain Dalton as commanding officer. It was able to obtain its own printing facilities, loud-speaker (sky-shout) aircraft, vehicles, and other equipment. The unit was stationed at the Old Cranborne Barracks in Harare.
The badge is a modernized stylization of the ancient Greek letter "Psi." The Shona motto Tiri Tosi can be literally translated as "We are Together." The true significance of the motto lies in reference to unity of mind, spirit and purpose rather than a simple physical co-operation. In regard to the emblem a military document states in part:
The Greek letter Psi (pronounced "sigh") is the second to last letter of their alphabet.
The Greek letter Psi is used to represent the subject of psychology. The prefix psycho, meaning of the soul or mind, is derived from the Greek.
A modernized graphic interpretation of the letter Psi has been chosen as the unit's emblem. This design can be used in a number of ways:
a) On stationery.
b) As a badge.
c) As a stable belt buckle.
It can be adopted for use in one or two colors.
Blue was found to be the most acceptable color. It is also a color accepted and liked by the average African.
The proposed color scheme and emblem design was shown to the commander of C Squadron, Special Air Service who has no objections to it.
The emblem reflected the unit's area of psychological operations but lacked identification and emotional appeal. Thus a motto was recommended.
It needs to be enhanced by a motto which would fulfill the following criteria:
a) Of Rhodesian origin.
b) Involve both white and black soldiers.
c) Reflect the unit's main aim: to gain support of the mass population.
d) Assist the Unit's multi-racial character and modus operandi.
The Shona phrase "TIRI TOSE" is proposed. Literally translated it means "we are together." However, its colloquial use provides it with a much wider range of connotations.
a) We are of one mind.
b) Our wills are as one.
c) We cannot be divided or parted.
It is also used in a more aggressive context: there is no escape. As an example, if a child tries to run away from its father to avoid punishment, the father will run after him calling "tiri tose." In this context, the meaning is "you cannot get away...I will stay with you until I catch you." The proposed motto therefore reflects unity of purpose, a willingness to come together through communication and understanding, as well as a determination to succeed.
The sky blue and royal blue colors represents the mind's conscious and subconscious levels, while the white represents the understanding achieved through communication.
A publicity brochure printed by the 1st Psychological Operations Unit depicts several soldiers in full gear; soldiers talking to natives while leaflets are dropped in the background from an aircraft; and a military the instructor teaching a group of natives about the failures of Bolshevism. The text says in part:
The Psychological Operations Unit was established as part of the Corps on Infantry on July 1, 1977 and is headquartered at old Cranborne Barracks, Salibury.
The main emphasis of 1 P.O.U. operations against the terrorists is structured toward psychological confusion of the enemy with the objective of so undermining his morale that he becomes unwilling to fight and is encouraged to defect from the forces of communism. This role is aptly symbolized in the unit's badge, motto and colors.
The badge is a modern stylization of the ancient Greek letter "psi" and the Shona motto "Tiri Tosi" may be literally translated as "we are together," although its true significance lies in reference to unity of mind, spirit and purpose rather than simple physical co-operation.
1 P.O.U.'s establishment indicates timely recognition of the fact that conflict in Africa is primarily a battle for men's minds.
Sergeant Nick Daws tells about his tour with the 1st Psychological Operations Unit in Rhodesia:
National service was compulsory for all white males in Rhodesia over the age of 17 from the early 1970's onwards, initially for a 9 month period but ultimately ending up at 2 years by the end of the war. I secured a deferral to go to the University of South Africa, but returned after graduation with a degree in psychology to commence my national service in February 1977. By this stage the war had expanded from a localized area of operational activity in the northeast of Rhodesia to full scale incursions by large groups of insurgents from Zambia and Mozambique.
It was at this time that there was a belated recognition that the sheer number of insurgents could not be contained by the thinly stretched resources of the Rhodesian Army. Neutralizing the threat would require a concerted effort to take the psychological high ground amongst the civilian population in the rural areas. This led to the formation of the PSYOP unit, initially called "Sensor," ultimately the 1st Psychological Operations Unit.
After my 4 months of basic training, I was posted to the newly formed 1POU Headquarters at Cranborne Barracks, Harare. It was completely under-resourced for the task at hand. The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army and the Zimbabwe People's Liberation Army had thoroughly permeated all levels of village life through a combination of brutal intimidation, exploitation of land distribution grievances and most importantly, co-opting spirit mediums to support their cause of Chimurenga.
The 1POU was under the energetic command of Major Tony Dalton, who was quite prepared to use unorthodox methods. He had the support of Colonel Ron Reid Daly, commander of the Selous Scouts. However, the rest of the army establishment was still skeptical of anything other than direct military action. Rounding up the rural population into "protected villages" made the task of 1POU more difficult.
Initially I was working with a small team of civilians drawn from advertising and marketing backgrounds doing "call-ups," plus a couple of ZANLA insurgents who had come over to the Government. "Call-ups" refer to the duties expected of white civilian males once they had completed national service. By the time I was in the army, it was 6 weeks in, 6 weeks out, until the age of about 45. This made life extremely schizophrenic; the effect on many young white males was severe, trying to balance normality for 6 weeks with intense stress for another 6 weeks, repeated over and over.
We produced some leaflets and posters taking information from the situation reports that arrived daily. We built a picture of the level of intimidation and tactics being used in different localities and devised counter-propaganda. The atrocities that were perpetrated on the local populace, especially by ZANLA, were unspeakable, and provided a focus for a lot of the material disseminated by the 1POU.
The terrorist intimidation was successful in coercing the locals into feeding, sheltering and informing the insurgents, but the real "hearts and minds" war was decided by 2 issues; the ownership of the land and the influence of the spirit mediums that play an absolutely integral role in the lives of rural Africans. From a white perspective, we failed to identify the importance of these factors, assuming that the terrorist tactics and future political leadership were the priority issues among the people.
One of the stranger results of our artwork was the current flag of Zimbabwe. It was designed by a couple of guys on call up from advertising agencies. We made it for Bishop Muzorewa to use when elected as President. This didn't happen due to Mugabe's terrorizing the rural areas and rigging the vote. After he took power the flag was submitted to Mugabe and approved...I doubt if he knows of its origins!
A Rhodesian African Rifles bush camp, 1977
(Photograph courtesy of Nick Daws)
We began to achieve more success when we got the all black Rhodesian African Rifles to start implementing some of the campaigns in the bush. They understood the psyche of the local civilian Africans caught up in the war far better than the whites, despite their tribal differences. Moreover, they also saw it as an opportunity to dispel the terrorist-promoted notion that they were traitors to the nationalist cause.
I was tasked to go out with these groups of Rhodesian African Rifles soldiers on PSYOP missions, disseminating and gathering information. Towards the end of my national service, there was a "contact" on just about every occasion, plus the ever present threat of hitting a land mine. I was lucky enough to come through my tour unscathed. The day after I finished my tour of duty in mid-1979 I was on a plane to London, never to return to the country as Rhodesia, but I have been back a couple of times since it became Zimbabwe.
Sergeant Daws mentions intimidation by the terrorists. We should mention that it was not only the terrorists that practiced psychological intimidation. Former Field Reservist Edward Hamer of the Police Anti-Terrorist Unit (PATU) tells of a psychological operation meant to prove to the locals that the terrorists were not in total control of the villages:
I was with PATU Matabeleland and on one occasion we were attached to the PSYOP unit with the mission of creeping into a remote village in a region the terrorists thought they controlled and making such a racket that it would wake everyone up. The idea behind it was to let the villagers know that the Rhodesians were still in absolute control and could come and go wherever they wished. I don't know how successful the mission was. It was a long walk, and we made a lot of noise, but I don't know if the locals were impressed. I remember that we only did it once.
Dann Bennett, A former Rhodesian Special Forces trooper recounts that while working for the Burma Valley Area Coordinating Committee he brought in a PSYOP team for face-to-face communication with the black workforce:
The team addressed the farm laborers. They listened to grievances and explained what the Government was doing and why they were doing it. The workers seemed to be very receptive, and thankful that the Government cared enough to send someone to listen and talk to them. The information from the team helped the farmers understand the perceptions of their own labor and a few were quite surprised at what they heard. The PSYOP team also trained two of the local Guard Force soldiers to deliver the Government message and communicate with the farm laborers effectively. The program was a success, and we were able to obtain useful information from the workers who now felt friendlier toward the government.
The Area Coordinating Committee was a "Grange" type organization whose focus was on local area self defense. It interfaced with regional and national defense efforts such as the rural police, guard forces, and through the regional Joint Operational Command Army and police Support Unit. The "useful information" was often a general situation report of mujiba (unarmed terrorist workers) activity or reports of movements and sightings of unidentified strangers in the area. Sometimes when visiting labor compounds (a village of huts with a fence around it), while drinking mealie beer and socializing, residents would often give names of local supporters of the "Terrs," and movements of armed groups.
The Rhodesian government finally recognized the need for a central body capable of initiating and co-coordinating all aspects of psychological operations and civic actions in 1979, a Directorate of Psychological Warfare was established. Major-General Rawlins, previously commander of Guard Force, was appointed director. The 1st Psychological Operations Unit was placed under the operational command of this directorate. Attached were Captain Dalton as officer commanding of the 1st Psychological Operation Unit and John Lewis as Director of the Branch of Special Duties (BOSD).
This leaflet depicts insurgent leaders Robert Mugabe and Josiah Tongogara. Some of the text is:
How the communist masters tricked the ZANU and ZANLA leaders into becoming their slaves.
When majority rule was agreed in 1976, the evil communists became very worried. They were afraid the fighting would stop and this would ruin their plans for taking Rhodesia away from the people. But very cleverly the communist found a way to trap Mugabe and Tongogara and force the ZANLA forces to keep fighting. The evil communist demanded that the ZANU/ZANLU leaders pay for all the weapons the communists had supplied since the war started.
...Now you know the truth. The ZANLA forces are sent to their death for nothing but to keep the leaders safe and alive in Mozambique.
A second leaflet using the same theme, that the war goes on only because the two leaders owe money to the communists, depicts them sitting in front of a communist leader (cleverly depicted as a white man) and being lectured like school children. Part of the text is:
Leaders of ZANU and ZANLA, I have been told that you believe that all our communist arms and ammunition have been supplied to you free of charge. If you believe this then you are fools. We have kept a very careful check on everything we have given you and you know owe us so much that it is impossible for you to pay. Now we have you trapped. Either you work for us communists or you die.
Note: Josiah Tongogara was the commander of the ZANLA military forces. He might have been the first leader of the new independent Zimbabwe, but was mysteriously killed in an automobile crash opening the door for Robert Mugabe to take power.
This leaflet depicts happy black and white Rhodesians working together to rebuild their nation. It was dropped 20 September 1962 over townships in South Rhodesia. The text in three languages says:
The Government and the people can now go forward together.
How you can help Government and Yourself
A second leaflet from the same series once again tells the people that the ZAPU movement is dead and finished. Some of the text is:
How you can help Government and Yourself
Government forces are in your district to stop intimidation and crime. ZAPU is dead and finished. For their lies, attacks on people, schools and churches, they have been cut off by the law.
You as a private person can arrest anybody committing a crime in your presence. You can arrest those who start fights. Take such people to your Headman, Chief or hand them over to Government forces...
During the Vietnam War the Viet Cong often prepared small slogan leaflets with just a few lines of propaganda. The following two leaflets are of that type. Each has a short all-text message in three languages.
Mimeographed papers titled "Makoni Gendanzare Military News" were dropped from a light plane as it circled over Makoni Tribal trust Land in Eastern Rhodesia on 7 June 1977. Typed in English, the single sheets carried a crude threat to all persons in the area which read in part:
WARNING TO ALL
Sympathizers and feeders of terrorists.
Recruiters for terrorist training.
There are still a few people who continue to help the terrorists and a few even try to do their evil work for them. These people are counted as terrorists and will be killed by the Security Forces.
Thames TV of London reported on 20 June 1979 that the Rhodesian Air Force had dropped leaflets warning the natives not to help the guerrilla terrorists to rustle castle from farmers and warned that nine years in jail, flogging, and the confiscation of property were punishment for this offense.
The Sunday Mail of Salisbury Rhodesia reported on 18 March 1979 that a direct amnesty was offered to all terrorists in a leaflet entitled "TO ALL ZIPRA FORCES." 1,500,000 leaflets were prepared bearing the photographs and signatures of Prime Minister Ian Smith, the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Chief Jeremiah Chirau and General Walls. The terrorists were promised food, clothing, the right to vote, and medical care if they return in peace. They also have the opportunity of a job if they wish to join the auxiliary forces.
TO ALL ZIPRA FORCES
We depict above a second leaflet bearing the same title, but with the photograph and signature of Lieutenant General G. P. Walls, the Commander of Combined Operations. The leaflet guarantees good treatment, food, clothing and medical care to any ZIPRA member who returns to the government before the national election in April 1979. The front of this particular leaflet is in English; the back in the Nguni language.
Propaganda was also prepared for Zanla. This one is printed in English on one side and the Nguni language on the other. The text is almost identical to the Zipra leaflet above and promises amnesty to any Zanla soldier who returns to the government before the national election. Like the Zipra leaflet above, it bears the photographs and signatures of Prime Minister Ian Smith, the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Chief Jeremiah Chirau and General Walls.
Government documents state that the non-English side of this leaflet and the one below is in Nguni. In fact, that is not so much a language as a broad description of all the Bantu languages spoken in Southern Africa. It is sometimes argued that use of Nguni as a generic label suggests a historical monolithic unity of the peoples in question, where in fact they were quite separate and different. Rhodesians speak about 16 different languages. English, Shona and Ndebele are the most widely spoken languages in the country. Approximately 70% of the population is Shona and about 20% of the population is Ndebele.
In 1979 it became clear that the war was lost and that Mugabe would easily win election. The 1st Psychological Operations Unit launched a massive campaign codenamed "Operation Welfare" to discredit ZANU. There were unsigned pamphlets, bombs, newspaper reports, and even totally false newspaper issues of the black newspaper Moto. Two assassination attempts failed, newspaper advertisements portrayed Mugabe as a power-mad communist dictator, a "black Hitler," a monster and mass-murderer. At the same time the electorate was continually assured that it was impossible for Mugabe to win. The PSYOP Unit had discovered "Black Operations."
Black operations are mentioned in the 1966 British Commonwealth Relations Office document:
Benson (the South African propaganda specialist) ostensibly resigned from his existing Government appointment. He is understood subsequently to have been engaged on organising "black propaganda". A notable example of Rhodesian involvement in such activity is their attempt to influence voters in the Hull by-election campaign in January, 1966. Pamphlets purporting to come from the (non-existent) "Tudor Rose Society for the Protection of the British Way of Life" but in fact prepared by the Rhodesians, were posted in England to electors. The Rhodesians were also no doubt responsible for a short 'pirate' radio broadcast in England in early February by "Radio Free Rhodesia"; this reproduced a Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation news commentary. Some RAF personnel in Zambia received copies of a circular letter purporting to come from an organisation called "the British Forces Friends of Rhodesia Association" and headed by a secret group of senior British officers. This urged them to defy any orders they might be given to go into action against their "kith and kin in Rhodesia."
One of the more interesting black operations possibly took place within Rhodesia. The new nation had issued a 2 shillings 6 pence postage stamp in honor of their independence on 8 December 1965. Someone, probably loyalists to the Crown, printed a parody stamp with the added text "ILLEGAL" printed vertically at the far left. The word is difficult to see, but the result is that the text now reads "Illegal Independence - 11 November 1965." At the far right the word "DUE" has been placed after "POSTAGE" making the text "POSTAGE DUE." Since the official government stamp was supposed to pay the cost of postage, the addition of the "postage due" comment indicated that the stamp, like the government that issued it, was illegal and neither the stamp nor the government had any value. There is some question about who actually printed this stamp. Although it appeared in Rhodesia and many envelopes were mailed from Rhodesia franked with the forgery, other sources like R. C. Smith's Rhodesia, a Postal History, Salisbury, 1982 states:
A replica of the 2/6d stamp was printed, probably in the U.K. with the word "illegal" added before the word "Independence" and "Due" inserted after the word "postage."
Smith thinks that the stamps were printed in the U.K. Starting about 2002 they were regularly offered by stamp dealers in Britain so he could be correct. Do we have any other clues that point to the U.K? In the 1967 issue of his postal history Smith says:
[The British] saw fit to produce a special program for the BBC to de-rate the value of the 2/6d Independence stamp. This was broadcast over the Francistown Relay station, which had become known in Rhodesia as "Lord Paw Paw," after the notorious broadcaster Joyce, who broadcast to Britain from Nazi Germany in a similar strain, when Rhodesians were fighting for the "Mother Country."
This propaganda stamp was printed in a souvenir sheet of 9 with the stamps in the upper portion of the sheet and the text "Rhodesia Loyalists / 22/6" centered in the remaining space in violet capital letters beneath the stamps. (The "22/6" is the total value of the nine stamps: 22 shillings 6 pence.) The rubber stamp appears in various positions below the forgeries so it is likely that it was stamped by hand after the sheets were printed. The quality of the printing of the parodies is excellent, and the stamps appear to have been printed from modified original plates.
The stamps are alleged to have been delivered in an envelope with an attached message on the back:
Please use the stamps on your mail but do not disclose your source.
The envelope above bears an illegal independent Rhodesia stamp and was therefore delivered as a "postage due" with the fee collected from the recipient. The British post office placed a gummed label on the envelope that reads:
SOUTHERN RHODESIAN STAMPS
The Government has announced that stamps issued in Rhodesia of the kind used on this postal packet have no legal basis. The packet is accordingly surcharged.
Researcher Wolfgang Baldus found the envelope above mailed by a German in Salisbury to his friend in Sennestadt, Germany. The cover is cancelled 13 July 1968, two years after independence was declared. The cover passed through the regular mail and is exceedingly rare.
There are other "postage due" rubber stamps on envelopes bearing the forgeries with the text, "Invalid Stamps Used." At the same time, a small sticker has been found with some forgery sheets with the message, "Please use the stamps on your mail but do not disclose your source." This was a very interesting black operation by either the British or pro-British Rhodesian loyalists.
This is one of many patriotic propaganda labels placed on mail sent from Rhodesia to other nations. The stamp thanks South Africa for its support in supplying fuel to the new independent government.
Pro-independence groups in South Africa and Great Britain also prepared labels in support of Rhodesia. The full-color label above depicting a Rhodesian flag and the words "GOOD LUCK RHODESIA" was produced by a right-wing political party in the United Kingdom about 1965. It was sold in a plastic wrapper with the text:
HELP THE RHODESIANS BY DISPLAYING THIS FLAG IN YOUR CAR OR HOUSE WINDOW.
There were rumors that the British helped one side or the other in an attempt to topple Smith. It is also believed that some of the Rhodesian operations were meant to drive a wedge between the two rival black guerrilla movements. There is a rumor that Special Branch exploited the rivalry between these two movements by using spies and agents in both organizations along with disinformation tactics.
Another black operation was the attempt to assassinate key nationalist leaders. This was codenamed Operation Bouncer. In spite of repeated attempts it failed to remove leaders such as Mugabe, Nkomo, Nhongo and Dubengwa. Rex Nhongo was wounded during one attempt, while Dumisa Dubengwa escaped death by a few minutes on another occasion.
There were rumored to be even worse operations. According to an article in the New York Amsterdam News dated 31 July 1993, a Rhodesian ex-officer claimed that Ian Smith's government used chemical weapons in Rhodesian war. We must point out that this is a black newspaper and an article about white troops using germ warfare on black civilians 13 years after the end of the war is quite suspect. I personally think the story is bogus, very much like the various Communist propaganda disinformation tales of Americans using germ warfare in Vietnam. Readers should keep in mind that this is just a rumor with no substantiation and no one has come forward to second the story.
Anthrax and cholera, both banned biological warfare weapons, were used by the Rhodesian authorities during the liberation struggle, a former member of the Rhodesian forces has admitted. Anthrax spoor was used in an experimental role in the Gutu, Chilimanzi, Masvingo and Mberengwa areas, and the anthrax idea came from army Psyops [Psychological Operations] the former Rhodesian officer says.
The Rhodesians also involved themselves in "Pseudo Operations." The British had used their own people in both Malaya and Kenya to pretend to be insurgents and move about in guerrilla territory. They would identify enemy bands and ultimately ambush or capture them. The Rhodesians called these Pseudo Operations. The main proponent of these operations was the Selous Scouts, comprised of intelligence experts from the police and military, soldiers, and terrorist guerrillas who had defected.
An all-black pseudo team was formed on 26 January 1973. The team was made up of six men, two African Detective Constables and four former insurgents. The lack of white leadership and expertise in the team was identified as the major problem. A few weeks later the Army commenced with two pseudo teams of its own. By January 1974 an entire troop of pseudo operators was ready. In February a second troop became operational and a third during March. All three troops operated against ZANLA. Pseudo team members also deployed deep into Mozambique and Zambia on reconnaissance missions.
Some pseudo operations were conducted to sow distrust between members of the local population and the insurgents. The teams might steal from the locals or offend local customs. They might call in air attacks or actually stage mock attacks on kraals to foster hatred or distrust of the genuine insurgent forces. One of their more effective operations was to attack groups from competing guerrilla organizations, effectively starting a civil war within the insurgents.
This band of scout trackers eventually became a force of close to 1000 operators. They used stealth and subterfuge to obtain current intelligence on insurgent routes, feeding and staging areas, arms caches, base camps, and support networks. The use of the turned or captured terrorist guerrillas gave the team the ability to act and operate as a terrorist cell. The pseudo operations by the Selous Scouts were so successful that by the end of the war they were credited with 70% of all terrorist killed or captured.
The Pseudo gangs and Selous Scouts are mentioned in the 2005 Lawrence E. Cline monograph Pseudo Operations and Counterinsurgency: Lessons from Other Countries:
The original impetus for pseudo operations came from regional joint operations centers rather than intelligence or police headquarters. The main driving force was due to the intelligence problems: Field units simply were not receiving the intelligence they required to respond to the insurgents. Police made an early attempt to use pseudo operations in October 1966, but the effort was stillborn. The first formal pseudo team was formed in January 1973 as an all-African team, with two African policemen and four "turned" insurgents. The early teams did succeed in bringing in some valuable intelligence, but their overall impact was slight.
In November 1973, Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) R. H. Reid-Daly was tasked with forming the Selous Scouts as a pseudo-guerrilla force. Its original membership came largely from army trackers, and its cover throughout most of its existence was as a tracking unit. The original strength of Selous Scouts was about 120, with all officers being white and with the highest rank initially available for Africans being color sergeant. One major recruiting incentive for African volunteers was that their pay was nearly doubled from their normal army salaries due to special bonuses. Additionally, somewhere around 800 turned insurgents eventually were recruited, whose salaries were paid by Special Branch. Ultimately, the unit reached a strength of somewhere around 1,500.
The best recruiting method was to send another former insurgent to visit him in the hospital and have a long conversation, dwelling in particular upon the hardships the insurgents were experiencing in the bush. The process of turning insurgents was eased considerably by the knowledge that they could be hanged as violators of the Law and Order Maintenance Act. He would then be examined thoroughly by members of the Selous Scouts to ensure his loyalty, not to the government of Rhodesia, but to the members of the unit itself. The insurgent also would be offered a cash lump sum for joining the Selous Scouts (together with receiving the same salary as a soldier, with the funds being paid by Special Branch), and if possible, his family would be moved to the Selous Scouts base, where they received free rations, housing, education, and medical care.
Money Counts. In most cases of successful use of pseudo operations, money in one form or another has been a key component of the campaign. Cash rewards both for civilians to turn in insurgents and for insurgents to surrender have provided the basis for the respective governments to seize the guerrillas. This, of course, is the first step in being able to "turn" them. Rewards for turning in guerrillas, usually "dead or alive" were used in Malaya, the Philippines, Kenya, and Rhodesia. In a number of cases, reward money was sufficiently ample that guerrilla leaders would turn in their own troops. In some cases, both cash rewards and relocation were offered to surrendered guerrillas.
Despite hundreds of thousands of leaflets and millions of Rhodesian dollars spent on the Bishop's campaign, it was the ZANU campaign that proved victorious.
Why was the Unit so out of touch with the populace? The 1st Psychological Operation Unit was formalized so late in the insurgency that it was unable to obtain either the funds or the equipment necessary to execute their task before 1977. Commanders and troops at lower level were not interested in either psychological operations or civic action. They just wanted dead bodies. Rhodesian Psychological Operations was out of touch with rural realities.
One major theme was building up the Security Force Auxiliaries both internally and externally.
A second theme involved the training of "envoys," the Security Force equivalent to political commissars. Envoy training commenced in 1978 and included Police, Internal Affairs and Security Force Auxiliaries.
A third theme was disinformation operations, especially during the build-up to the April 1980 elections.
A very popular theme that has worked for hundreds of years in warfare is the offering of rewards for weapons and information. The Rhodesians instituted reward offers at a relatively early stage of the war. The Psywar Committee approved a poster and leaflet outlining the system. These were distributed at intervals, with the first 900,000 leaflets and 2,000 posters distributed during April and May 1974. One leaflet read as follows:
The Government will pay substantial rewards to anyone who volunteers secret information which leads to the death or capture of terrorists or their supporters and the capture of their weapons.
The names of anyone giving information will remain secret.
The amounts of the rewards offered by Government are:
Five thousand dollars for a- senior terrorist leader.
Two thousand five hundred dollars for a terrorist group leader.
One thousand dollars for a terrorist.
One thousand dollars for each terrorist vehicle mine.
One thousand dollars for each terrorist heavy weapon of war.
Five hundred dollars for each terrorist machine gun.
Three hundred dollars for each terrorist light personal weapon.
Three hundred dollars for each full box of terrorist ammunition.
Three hundred dollars for each full box of terrorist grenades.
Three hundred dollars for each full box of terrorist anti-personnel mines.
The rewards will not be payable to a civil servant who is engaged on duties concerned with anti-terrorist activities or to a member of the Security Forces, unless he obtained the information while he was off-duty.
Later a pictorial depiction of weaponry found replaced the earlier verbal description. In a final refinement two pictures were shown. Tribesmen were encouraged to co-operate either by the promise of reward or the threat of punishment.
Another very popular theme that has been used throughout history is the safe conduct or amnesty offer. The safe conduct pass offers a safe return to insurgent forces after which the normal legal process continues. Amnesty offers a safe return as well as a guarantee against any possible prosecution that might arise from insurgent participation. Both were instituted in Rhodesia, although that of amnesty remained a politically controversial issue for a number of years. This is always the case. In general, the citizens are unhappy when a terrorist is welcomed back to the community with open arms, cash and in some cases property. Safe Return on a national basis was delayed until the 1974 South African and Zambian detente initiative, which was considered the ideal opportunity.
On 11 December 1973, Prime Minister Smith announced that the war was over. Leaflets were printed and distributed to the effect that insurgents should either leave the country in a northerly direction, or hide their weapons and report to Security Forces. The Psywar Committee later agreed that leaflets offering safe return should be printed and made available to local commanders for use in support of successful military operations as the opportunity arose.
The first national offer of safe return was made between December 1977 and January 1978. It was an attempt to capitalize on the successes achieved by the food control campaign (Operation Turkey) and resettlement programs in the South-east. Intelligence reports indicated that ZANLA morale in the area was on the verge of collapse because of their inability to obtain either food from the local population or water from points outside Protected Villages. Two leaflets were prepared. The first described the strength of the Security Forces and the weaknesses of the insurgent forces; the second consisted of a safe return offer. By January more than 1,000,000 such leaflets had been distributed. The results were disappointing.
In preparation for the April 1979 black majority elections, a direct amnesty offer was contained in 1,500,000 leaflets distributed from mid-March 1979 onwards. The offer was signed by the four members of the Council as well as by the Commander, COMOPS:
Any member of the ZANLA/ZPRA forces who returns home in peace before the election will be well treated. They will be fed, clothed and given proper medical treatment. They will be integrated with the Interim Government Auxiliaries under the command of Combined Operations and will be armed for this purpose. On no account will those returning members of the ZANLA/ZPRA forces be stopped from voting in the election in April, should they wish to do so.
1,150,000 leaflets were printed in Shona (the major African language spoken by nearly 80 percent of people in Zimbabwe) and 350,000 in Sindibele. About 50 insurgents availed themselves of this offer. An Amnesty Directorate was also set up on 7 June 1979 to make phone calls across the country about the offer of amnesty. Meanwhile, the 1st Psychological Operations Unit was involved in a number of localized attempts at safe return.
When an insurgent was captured, leaflets with a picture and a message from the victim would be printed and distributed in the area where the remainder of the insurgent group was thought to be. This method was also used utilizing the aerial sky-shout equipment with the added advantage of broadcasting a personal message from the captured insurgent which could be recognized as such. The program was never really successful but it was thought that the limited number of insurgents who did surrender made the offers of safe return cost-effective in terms of the intelligence thus gained.
Small teams of mixed black and white Security Force members sometimes moved clandestinely into an area and subsequently made unexpected nightly visits to kraals. All inhabitants of the kraal were called to these meetings which were crucial to the strategy. The meetings discussed:
Step 1: An explanation was given providing the reason for the visit, viz the maintenance of a Security Force presence and concern for the local population.
Step 2: Warnings regarding the negative effects of the insurgent presence, namely curfews, food control, no-go areas, etc.
Step 3: Localized propaganda emphasizing the hardships caused by the presence of insurgents, as against the harmony before their arrival.
Step 4: A comparison between the Security Forces and the insurgents, specifically regarding the material aid and services that could be/were provided by government.
Step 5: A "message to terrorists" using local inhabitants as a communication medium to notify the cadres in the field of insurgent casualties and Security Force victories.
Step 6: The offer to all present to pose questions and raise problems. Those issues that could not be explained or answered satisfactorily by the team were passed on to the local District Commissioner.
Step 7: The conclusion of the meeting with the singing of songs.
From mid 1975 onwards, the forerunners of the 1st Psychological Operations Unit attempted to sell PSYOP to the military by means of Interface Operations. As officially formulated, the aim of Interface was thus twofold: to kill and capture terrorists and to win over the local population.
During 1978 the 1st Psychological Operations Unit started to accept regular black soldiers. The number obtained eventually totaled 300 men.
On 28 January 1977, Government introduced an amendment to the Emergency Powers Regulations whereby control of food supplies was instituted in certain areas. This became Operation Turkey. Intelligence reports indicated that ZANLA forces in the Hurricane operational area were increasingly able to obtain food from labor compounds on white commercial farms. The only way that members of the local population could be prevented from visiting nearby towns and from buying unlimited amounts of food, was by total and detailed movement control of the local population. A prerequisite for any such control was an inviolable identification system. The single method of identification within rural areas was the situpa or registration card. These cards were carried only by adult black males. As a means of positive identification they were useless because the situpa contained no photograph, fingerprint or description of the bearer.
Food control measures instituted in farming areas adjacent to Protected Villages were largely unsuccessful.
Operation Split-shot was executed by the 1st Psychological Operations Unit on a larger scale than most similar attempts. At the time it also attracted both local and international attention. From April 1977 onwards, the operation entailed the distribution of a series of one page leaflets. Typically a leaflet contained a drawing and English text on the one side with the same text in Shona and Sindibele on the reverse side. The central theme depicted was that insurgents were communist terrorists trained in Mozambique who brought only terror and death. The pamphlets were distributed largely by Security Forces in Protected Villages, at schools, and posted in shops and public buildings in the rural areas. In some areas insurgent reaction was violent, entailing crude counter-propaganda slogans, but in most areas little visible reaction was elicited. This was a relatively crude and unsuccessful propaganda attempt.
Cilliers depicts three of the Split-shot leaflets in his book.
The first depicts an insurgent leader beating a volunteer. Some of the text is:
Terror and death is the way of the communist camp instructors in Mocambique.
See the recruit in a communist training camp in Mocambique. He is being beaten by one of the communist camp instructors. All he did was to ask for the education he was promised in Mocambique. Now he is being beaten until he almost dies. Other recruits are beaten because they become so hungry they forget their fear and ask for meahe meal.
A second Split-shot leaflet depicts women holding their dead children. Some of the text is:
Terror and death is the way of the communist terrorists in Rhodesia.
See how the landmines of the mad dog communist terrorists kill and injure innocent people. See how they damage vehicles. The communist terrorists know that the security forces have special vehicles and are not killed by landmines. So when the communist terrorists put landmines in the roads they know that they will kill only defenseless men, women and children.
There is a second version of this landmine leaflet that depicts the same vignette but the text is changed slightly. It would appear that this leaflet was dropped later in the war because instead of calling the government Rhodesia, it now uses the term Zimbabwe. It also mentions Mugabe by name, something not done in the earlier version.
A third leaflet depicts an armed fighter. Some of the text is:
Do not let the communist terrorist's spokesman deceive you with more lies and smooth talk.
See the spokesman for the mad dog communist terrorist gang. How many promises have such people made to you? How many of these promises have they kept? The communist terrorist told you long ago that they would soon rule Rhodesia. This has not happened. They have burned down stores and promised to return and build better stores. This they have never done. They have said that they have a special muti which makes them invisible. Yet the security forces kill hundreds of communist terrorists every month.
A fourth "split-shot" leaflet depicts an old woman being kicked and beaten by communist cadre. The text is in part:
Terror and death is the way of the communist terrorists in Rhodesia.
See the mad dog communist terrorists kicking and beating the old woman. They do this because she has begged them not to take her daughters to the communist Mozambique training camps. The communist terrorists enjoy kicking and beating innocent people because this is what they were taught to do by the communist training instructors in Mozambique. The communist terrorists are now the murdering mad dogs of ZANU/ZANLA...
Another leaflet from the same series depicts two armed terrorists kidnapping seven young children from their school. Some of the text is:
Terror and death is the way of the communist terrorist in Rhodesia
See the mad dog Communist terrorists forcing the children to leave their school. They are taking the children to a Communist training camp in Mocambique. There the children will be starved. If they ask for food they will be beaten. If they ask if they can return home they will be taken away by the evil camp instructors and they will never be seen again by their friends or family. Those children who survive the starvation and beatings will be turned into the murderous mad dog communist terrorists of ZANU/ZANLA. They will return to spread terror amongst the people. Anyone who helps the communist terrorists is helping to bring terror and death to the people. Terror and death is the way of the communist terrorist.
Another similar leaflet depicts a terrorist standing over a young recruit that he has just shot. Some of the text is:
Terror and death is the way of the communist camp instructors in Mocambique
See the recruit being killed. He is being killed by one of the evil communist camp instructors in Mocambique. When he arrived at the communist training camp the recruit found that the promises made to him were all lies and he asked to go back to Rhodesia where he could live in peace. The communist camp instructor is killing him because he is afraid that the recruit might escape and tell the people of Rhodesia about the evil ways that are forced on recruits in the communist training camps in Mocambique. The recruit did not want such ways forced on him. But he was deceived. Too late he found out that terror and death is the way of the communist camp instructors.
Another leaflet from the same series bears the title: Terror and death is the way of the communist camp instructors in Mocambique and shows a terrorist armed with an AK-47 drinking from a bottle and stirring a pot of food. Four hungry children are shown in the background. The obvious intent of this leaflet is to imply that while the terrorists eat well, the children that have been abducted are starving.
The problem was that the operation had been based on false intelligence. A senior member of the 1st Psychological Operations Unit stated during an interview that the unit:
Was being fed information to the effect that the terrorist was unwillingly abducted from Rhodesia, forced to undergo training in Mozambique, been given dreadfully bad training, fed badly, beaten into submission, maltreated, forced back into the country...whilst the vast majority of insurgent trainees in fact left Rhodesia voluntarily to undergo training and returned of their own accord. Both the insurgents and the rural black population in effect knew that the message conveyed was false.
This 1974 leaflet depicts an African woman crying in front of a medical clinic. She has been dishonored and told that she has a venereal disease.
Some of the text is:
The communist terrorists bring nothing but sickness and death to the people
See the woman crying. She has just learned that the communist terrorists have infected her with V.D. The mad dog communist terrorists of ZANU/ZANLA have infected many women in Rhodesia with this terrible sickness. The children of such women will be born blind of crippled...
A second 1974 leaflet depicts Communist terrorists about to rape an African woman while her child looks on and cries.
Some of the text is:
Terror and death is the way of the communist terrorists in Rhodesia.
See the communist terrorists about to rape the young woman. The child is crying because he knows from his mother's screams that she is being hurt. The communist terrorists will probably leave the woman with V.D. which they caught in Mozambique communist training camps...
The use of ghosts and spirits was also considered fair play for the propagandists.
Spirit mediums continued to play an integral role in the tribal way of life. When the military discovered that many of the spirit mediums were with the insurgents they retaliated by air-dropping a series of pamphlets purporting to come from local spirit mediums advising the local population against aid to insurgents. The text of one such leaflet is:
Mhondoro, your tribal spirit, has sent a message to say that your ancestral spirits are very dissatisfied with you. Besides, Chiwawa (an important spirit) has abandoned the man whom he used as his medium because this man has helped the terrorists.
As a result of this, there has been no rain, your crops have died and there could be great famine. It is only the Government which can help you, but you have to realize your obligation to help the Government also.
Military Psychological Operations regarding the influence of spirit mediums was relatively limited. The obvious agency for these operations was the Department of Internal Affairs. The Rhodesian 1st Psychological Operations Unit used a girl claiming to be possessed by the "head" of Nehanda (the high God of the Shona tribe) together with a medium claiming to be possessed by the spirit of Chaminuka (known as "the Prophet of Zimbabwe").
During the existence of the Sheppard group Internal Affairs had also used a tame lion and hyena to indicate to the local population that these spiritually powerful animals were on the side of the government. Two films were also made to illustrate this, and subsequently shown countrywide by the Mobile Cinema Teams. A further refinement was added using ground-shout Loudspeaker equipment. With the active involvement of Selous Scouts in the area, false spoor of hyena and lion were laid, while the sounds of a laughing hyena and roaring lion were broadcast by means of ground-shout. Both animals are highly esteemed in spiritual matters and purported to have magical charms. Leaflets were subsequently distributed stating that the spirits were offended at the insurgent presence.
Whites officers in the Department of Information composed these messages in all seriousness, convinced they would influence the "simple tribesmen." The Africans were not impressed. As one told his captors:
We have never had instructions from spirit mediums in a helicopter. We have never had a typewritten message from a spirit. When did a spirit have a typewriter?
At the same time, Combined Operations found that showing footage of "kills." Including mounds of dead guerrilla bodies, had a "good effect" on white morale. In general, the showing of bodies is considered bad propaganda because often, instead of scaring the enemy, it just makes him more dedicated to seek revenge and is seen as butchery by the populace. The PSYOP specialist has to be careful that he is not playing to his friends instead of attacking the morale of the enemy. This refusal to comprehend the needs and aims of the Zimbabwean guerrillas led indirectly to the downfall of white Rhodesia.
An American veteran of the Vietnam War in the Rhodesian army summed it up:
We thought we'd win because we were superior in firepower, and training. We thought they were bad soldiers. But they won. It doesn't matter how and it doesn't have to be militarily. The Rhodesian High Command really didn't understand counter-insurgency warfare. You've got to look at it in terms of the people supporting the gooks. It does no good to justify it in your own terms. That's just self-righteous. And that's really what the Smith government was doing all along - looking at the African as a household pet. But he's like white people and you've got to look at his motivation. That's where the white government failed - in never really understanding the enemy or how to fight him.
This leaflet at first glance appears to be from the ANC fighting in South Africa. However, it is clear that the leaflet is from combined forces fighting both in South Africa and Rhodesia. The text is rather long so we just show the message on the front of the leaflet
WE ARE AT WAR!
AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
June 26 1968
June 26 is our National Freedom day. A day on Which we re-dedicate Ourselves to the struggle For freedom in South Africa
June 26, 1968, is the firstJune 26 since we embarked on guerilla struggle, to overthrow racism and fascism in the Southern Africa
June 26, 1968, is the first June 26 since the death of our beloved leader, Chief Albert Luthuli
Our Chief stated in 1964: "...No one can blame brave and just men for seeking justice by the use of violent methods"
Today, the Freedom Fighters of the African National Congress the Zimbabwe African People's Union are locked in battle against the Voters-Smith forces in Rhodesia. We salute the brave and skilled sons of South Africa and Zimbabwe for inflicting heavy blows on the enemy in Wankie Gatooma, Tjolotjo, Umvukwes, Bindura, Mazoe, Sonia, Karoi, Miami, Matabeleland, and near Salisburg
Our Freedom Fighters- members of Umkhonto we Sizwe - are not ordinary soldiers. They are brave and dedicated men whom the ANC sent abroad to learn the techniques of war another use of modern arms. It was in their first contact with the South African soldiers in the Kopjes of the Tjiltjo - Cavunajena area that they displayed this marvelous skill of fighting. In this battle, the South African soldiers suffered severe casualties and, in addition, two aircraft were shot down. Only five Freedom fighters lost their lives.
TORTURE AND KILLING
Threatened by the increasing striking force of the Freedom Fighters in the hills, valleys and mountains of Rhodesia, the Vorster-Smith regimes have resorted to lies, torture killing of civilians and hiring of spies.
Last year, their radio and newspapers were telling the people that they have smashed the "terrorists". In March this year, fighting was taking place in various parts of Rhodesia. The Vorster-Smith regimes were forced t swallow their lies. Jan Smith had to call for more South African soldiers and arm. The Vorster had to supply them today, thousands of South African white soldiers are fighting in Rhodesia and they now make up a third of the Rhodesian military forces.
Rhodesia concentrated on three primary elements of counter-insurgency; environmental improvement, resources control and operations aimed at the physical elimination of the insurgent forces. The Rhodesian authorities placed greatest emphasis on the last of these. The major counter-insurgency effort was aimed at obtaining maximum insurgent fatalities. The least attention was given to environmental improvement. Rhodesia went through the motions of a vast number of psychological operations, population and resource control measures, but with few concrete results to show for it all. The Rhodesians were never able to convince the population that they were winning the war.
When attempts were made to focus attention on the lessons that had been learnt in other insurgencies, the response, more often than not, was that those wars had not been fought in the unsophisticated African environment. The vast majority of whites did in fact believe that the black African only understood and respected force.
In Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia 1970-1980, Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock state:
The official estimates put the number of war-related deaths on Rhodesian soil between December, 1972 and December, 1979 at more than twenty thousand: 468 white civilians, 1,361 members of the Security Forces (about half of them white), 10,450 "terrorists," and 7,790 black civilians.
A number of officers who attained key positions within the Rhodesian Security Forces had served in Malaya during the Emergency. When insurgency reared its head in Rhodesia, the isolated terrorism did not seem to constitute a comparable revolutionary threat. In the following years they realized that the threat was essentially the same. The majority of whites refused to believe that "their" black populace was capable of a general nationalism and political awareness.
In a booklet entitled Rhodesia Accuses, A.J.A. Peck says:
Strange that the United States should spend American blood and money like water in Vietnam in order to deter Communism from spreading a few hundred miles further; but that, due to some strange ethical kink, that same United States should be seeking to clear out of Africa those very people and governments that could effectively and forever bar the advance of Communism in that continent!
And like many Americans who note that they won every major battle fought in Vietnam, Prime Minister Ian Smith, declared:
We were never beaten by our enemies, we were betrayed by our friends.
Ian Smith, Rhodesia's last white prime minister died in a Cape Town, South Africa, clinic after a stroke on 20 November 2007 at the age of 88. Smith was unrepentant to the end and said in his autobiography, The Great Betrayal that he did not attend the 1980 celebrations marking Zimbabwe's independence from Britain because:
The thought of being confronted by a scene where they (the British politicians) would be wringing their hands in apparent pleasure, and fawning around a bunch of communist terrorists who had come into their position through intimidation, corruption and a blatantly dishonest election, was a situation against which my whole system would revolt.
Although I have purposely not mentioned any news stories that occurred after the Rhodesia insurgency, I should point out that in 2009 several factors seem to point to the possible end of the Mugabe reign. Zimbabwe faced one of the worst inflations in history at 231 million percent in the country. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was forced to introduce a new family of trillion Zim-dollar banknotes in denominations of 100 trillion, 50 trillion, 20 trillion and 10 trillion. At the same time, cholera, caused by contaminated food or water, seemed to be spreading unchecked in the nation with 2,200 cases reported by January. Will the other nations of Africa finally step in and dispose of the old dictator?
This article is just a brief look at the propaganda used during the Rhodesian insurgency. I welcome comments from readers. The author can be contacted here.