Small Wars Journal

Drawing Lessons from Zimbabwe's War of Liberation

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 4:01am

Drawing Lessons from Zimbabwe's War of Liberation: Efficacious Use of Propaganda and Violence

Jephias Andrew Dzimbanhete


The article seeks to examine aspects of Zimbabwe's liberation war from which today's politics can draw lessons. The aspects are propaganda and violence that were deployed by the Rhodesian Front-led government and the liberation movements. The basis of colonial propaganda during the war of independence was the misconception that the rural people were passive, unsophisticated and gullible. On the other hand the liberation movements, who were cognisant of the significant role of the subaltern group, the peasants, with whom they collaborated, did not propagate delusive propaganda. The liberation forces deployed propaganda that was bound up with the fight for freedom. The white minority regime unleashed indiscriminate violence against the civilian population. The intention was to glean information about the freedom fighters and punish the rural population for cooperating with the liberation fighters. Such random violence rebounded and did not produce the desired results. The liberation forces used violence against members of the rural population who collaborated with the Rhodesian regime and security forces. Guerrilla violence was selective and generally did not alienate the liberation guerrilla fighters from the rural populace. This article derives from the author's doctoral study on the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s guerrilla war.*


Zimbabwe attained its independence in 1980 after a war that pitted the colonial forces of Rhodesia against the Zimbabwean liberation guerrilla forces. The war assumed a guerrilla warfare character and drew the warring parties into a contest that was both military and political. The goal of either side in the political rivalry was to control the African population that resided in the countryside which was the war's theatre of operation. The Rhodesian security forces needed to win the ‘hearts and minds' of the rural populace so that they could secure information about the activities of the nationalist guerrilla forces. The colonial forces thus desired the co-operation of the rural African people in their agenda of fighting what they labeled ‘terrorism'. On the other hand it was imperative for the liberation forces to secure political control of the rural population. This entailed securing their sympathy and support. The profit of political control of the rural population for the liberation fighters was the availability of food, clothing, intelligence and other logistical support. Controlling access to the civilian population was the key to defeating one's opponent in the liberation war. The contending forces got embroiled in a situation that demanded the deployment of propaganda and violence to achieve the goal of exerting political control over the civilian population. I do not however intend to catalogue lessons that could be drawn from the Zimbabwe's war of liberation war in the manner of saying lesson number 1, lesson 2 and so on. I simply examine and revisit the nature of war-time violence and propaganda and present a critical expose which has been lacking in much of the documented narratives of the war of national liberation. In this article I subscribe to Sturges's definition of propaganda. He writes that propaganda is the practice of distributing material that is untrue or if it is true, it is actually not relevant and applicable. The aim of propaganda is to confuse and deceive those that receive it.[1]

Wartime Propaganda

Propaganda dissemination by the war's rival players involved a process of projecting information about oneself in a positive manner and of the adversary in a negative style. For the contesting players propaganda thus served as either an instrument of offence or defence. Whilst the Rhodesian colonial regime was able to mobilise massive propaganda machinery the Zimbabwean liberation movement had to make do with an inferior but effective propaganda apparatus.

The Propaganda Tool of the Rhodesian Government

The colonial government churned out propaganda which largely demonised the liberation fighters. The intention was to alienate the liberation fighters from the rural populace and to elicit the loyalty of the residents of the rural areas, the war's theatre of operation. The basis of this propaganda was that the rural population was unsophisticated, gullible and passive. Such colonial stereotype and bigotry found expression in intimations of the following nature: ‘The typical ZANLA fighter was unsophisticated, but the impoverished peasants among whom he operated were usually illiterate and even more unsophisticated'.[2] Newspapers and magazines which included The Rhodesian Herald, The Sunday Mail, The African Times, The Bulawayo Chronicle, The Police Outpost, The Parrot and others were awash with reports on the glowing and successful military successes of the Rhodesian army forces. These reports compiled by white Rhodesian journalists exaggerated the numbers of liberation fighters that were killed in encounters between the warring parties and also understated the figures of the Rhodesian soldiers who died in the same encounters. The hope was that the black population of Rhodesia, especially those who resided in the rural areas, would realise that it was futile to back a losing side. This would drive them away from co-operating with the liberation fighters. The rural populace were also bombarded with war communiqués that came through the radio services of the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation (RBC). These communiqués not only inflated the number of the freedom fighters that the Rhodesian armed forces killed but also understated the figures of members of the Rhodesian forces who died at the hands of the nationalist fighters.

The same propaganda machinery of the Rhodesian regime demonised the liberation fighters and stressed the cruelty and brutality of the freedom fighters. Besides exaggerating guerrilla violence this propaganda fingered the liberation fighters for atrocities they probably did not commit. Instead the Rhodesian Selous Scouts, a pseudo-guerrilla unit of the colonial armed forces, committed atrocities disguised as the liberation guerrilla fighters. These atrocities included the murder of missionaries at rural mission stations and use of chemical weapons. Writing in 2006, Parker, a former Rhodesian serviceman, revealed that the Selous Scouts were responsible for the murder of Father Killian Huesser, a Roman Catholic priest based at Berejena Mission in February 1980.[3] The Rhodesian media had rushed to blame the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), one of the two liberation armies of Zimbabwe's war of independence. The cold-blooded murder of seven white missionaries at St. Pauls' Musami on 7 February 1977 was also blamed on the liberation fighters. Writing in 1999, Reid-Daly echoed Rhodesian regime propaganda when he indicated that the white missionaries at Musami Catholic Mission were slaughtered without mercy by Robert Mugabe's ZANLA forces.[4] The balance of probability points to the Rhodesian Selous Scouts as being responsible for the murder. It was very likely that the Rhodesian Selous Scouts were responsible for the murder of white missionaries at rural outposts and rural African businessmen.[5] The Rhodesian regime made capital of these murders and used them as propaganda material to discredit the forces of liberation. This was in the vain hope that this would erode the support that the rural population rendered to the liberation forces. The Rhodesian Ministry of Information produced, and distributed pamphlets that told gory stories of guerrilla violence on the civilian population. The African people were however not turned away from the liberation fighters but instead they became glued to the nationalist guerrilla fighters and the cause for freedom.

The weakness of Rhodesian propaganda was it lacked essential preoccupation with the truth. The rural population who were the target of the propaganda was aware of its factual deficiency and found it ludicrous. For example part of the Rhodesian propaganda that reached the African people insinuated that the freedom fighters willy-nilly raped married women. But peasants never experienced these scenarios in the war zones. The Rhodesian regime also propagated that the armed wings of the liberation movements were ‘terrorists' who murdered civilians indiscriminately and for no reason. The rural people witnessed a totally different picture. The nature of Rhodesian propaganda stemmed from the faulty colonial view that the African mind was a container that could be emptied and refilled. Contrary to this view, the rural African people were awake to the fact that the atrocities that were attributed to the freedom fighters by Rhodesian propaganda were committed by Rhodesian army units especially the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.

Overall the propaganda that was disseminated by the Rhodesian authorities failed to produce the desired results. The target of this propaganda (misinformation), the rural population, unfortunately, was not moved. The rural people remained committed to the forces of liberation and the cause of freedom. In reality what the rural African population persistently encountered were atrocities committed by the Rhodesian security forces. Insidious colonial injustices continued to bite the African people. The continual refusal by the colonial authorities to grant economic and political spaces to the African population, which was the root cause of the liberation struggle, made their propaganda count for nothing.

The Liberation Fighters and Their Propaganda

Pro-Rhodesian narratives have insinuated and acknowledged that the liberation fighters waged a far more effective psychological and propaganda war than the white Rhodesians.[6] This was a result of the flawed conviction of the white Rhodesians that the claim by the liberation fighters that the discontented black masses of the impending new Zimbabwe were oppressed by the Rhodesian minority government was propaganda.[7] The political mobilisation of the rural population by the liberation fighters emphasised the cruelty and brutality of the colonial forces and colonial injustice that severely gnawed the African population. This was real and could not pass as propaganda (misinformation). It was largely at pungwe (night gatherings) that the liberation guerrilla fighters conducted political mobilisation of the rural peasants. Guerrilla propaganda appeared in the military reports that the liberation fighters announced at pungwe gatherings and through the radio broadcasts of the Voice of Zimbabwe that was beamed from Dar-es-Salaam, Lusaka and Maputo during the war. These reports amplified the military successes of the liberation fighters especially the ZANLA forces. This was largely through the deliberate avoidance of stating the military setbacks and losses of the liberation forces and inflating cases of fatalities.[8] The propaganda of the nationalist liberation forces was effective because it was crafted in such a way that it fitted in with the expectations of the rural people who were yearning for the removal of the unjust colonial system. The study turns to the aspect of violence which was bilaterally deployed for diverse reasons and in different circumstances by the rival parties during Zimbabwe's war of liberation.

Wartime Violence

The contesting players in Zimbabwe's war of decolonisation resorted to violence in different contexts. The Rhodesian security forces encountered the challenge of failing to engage the Zimbabwean freedom fighters in a frontal war because the latter adopted guerrilla warfare. Consequently, the Rhodesian armed forces had to rely on a set of strategies often called counter-insurgency, whose main objective was to deprive the guerrilla fighters of civilian support. This constituted the violence that was deployed by the colonial army against the civilian population in the rural areas. Counter-insurgency entailed instituting draconian reprisals and meting out collective punishment against civilians for their collaboration with the freedom fighters. Due to their preoccupation with survival the guerrilla fighters avoided frontal military engagement of the Rhodesian security forces. Guerrilla violence visited members of the rural populace who jeopardised the lives of the freedom fighters by reporting guerrilla activities to the Rhodesian security forces. However, before the guerrillas resorted to civilian executions they warned would-be traitors or collaborators against providing the colonial forces with information on their activities.[9] Invariably, guerrilla violence was used as a last resort when members of the rural population failed to take heed of guerrilla warnings. The liberation fighters thus used violence on civilians sparingly because they could not afford to lose the priceless support they rendered them. Civilian support and co-operation was the linchpin of guerrilla survival in a war in which they faced superior forces.

The Colonial Army's Repressive Violence

The violence that was used by the Rhodesian government troops against the rural people was vastly greater than that used by the guerrillas. This was because they were the incumbent government's armed forces and consequently had superior military machinery at their disposal. Many black civilians in the war zones became victims of this violence. The regime's soldiers were motivated to commit violence against the rural peasants (the guerrillas' support base) because of their failure to glean information about the guerrilla fighters and their activities. Colonial repressive violence was also inspired by the obvious fact that the rural people provided logistical support to the guerrilla forces. In their oral testimonies civilians who participated in the war of liberation have indicated that they were subjected to forms of repression that included terror, starvation, death and destruction of their property and homes[10]. In addition to this repression the colonial authorities introduced forceful relocation of the peasants especially along the country's borders. Werbner noted the extreme measures of the Rhodesian regime from 1973 onwards of collective punishment imposed under the Emergency Powers directed against whole communities for supporting the liberation fighters.[11] The measures included imposition of dusk to dawn curfew. Members of the rural population who broke these curfew regulations were shot at. Excessive force was used in the relocation of Africans into ‘protected villages' which were introduced to deny the liberation forces' access to the rural population.

The guerrilla fighters managed to negotiate a convivial relationship with the rural juveniles, who among other wartime duties provided them with intelligence about the Rhodesian security forces. The co-operation and alliance between the freedom fighters and the juveniles (vanamujibha and vanachimbwido) was significant in the successful prosecution of the liberation war. This collaboration infuriated the Rhodesian security forces who decided to shoot dead all juveniles who were found outside homes at whatever time of the day. Entire villages, homes, granaries, and crops in the rural areas were burnt down by the Rhodesian armed forces. The Indemnity and Compensation Act that was passed by the Rhodesian government in 1975 granted the colonial regime officials and forces with the immunity against prosecution for atrocities that they committed against the civilian population.[12] This Act of Parliament officially bestowed on the Rhodesian army forces and other government officials the carte blanche to commit atrocities and murder on the rural people. Cases abound of Rhodesian security forces shooting dead civilians for no apparent reason during the war. They would make reports that they killed guerrilla fighters. In a rural area south of Masvingo, a man and his four children who were working in their field were shot dead by Rhodesian soldiers. The soldiers actually went about boasting that they had killed five guerrilla fighters.[13]  

Villagers were sometimes witness to grisly incidents such as the bayoneting of a pregnant woman to death by the Rhodesian security forces. One ex-mujibha related such murder of a pregnant woman near Morgenster Mission, southeast of Masvingo. The responsible Rhodesian security forces unkindly commented that she was carrying communist weapons in her womb.[14] Terror was exercised on the rural peasants in various other forms. The imposition of a dusk to dawn curfew not only curtailed the movement of the rural people but provided the Rhodesian security forces with the excuse to shoot down people in the rural areas. Galling incidents that included tying people on army trucks and then dragging them on the ground for long distances were commonplace. Parker described how the Rhodesian soldiers how an adult man was made to sit on the bonnet of the lead army truck in the war zone hoping that he would reveal sites on the dirt roads were landmines were planted[15]. It was commonplace that peasants had parts of their bodies like noses, ears and limps dismembered by members of the colonial armies especially the Rhodesian Selous Scouts. Stories abound of rural women who were also raped by members of the Rhodesian army. The death of Rhodesian soldiers after Rhodesian army tracks detonated landmines spelt danger to the people in the vicinity. They faced the wrath of Rhodesian forces' repression. They would be subjected to terror that included severe beatings, torture and destruction of their homes and property. In his autobiography, Godwin, a white Rhodesian who worked for the British South African Police decried the failure of the Rhodesian forces to forge good relations with the rural people. Instead they went berserk in an orgy of violence and burnt rural homes in Matabeleland.[16]

The many raids of pungwe gatherings that were carried out by the colonial regime forces regrettably left many civilians dead. In May 1978 in Gutu District Rhodesian forces attacked a pungwe gathering resulting in the death of over 150 civilians and just one Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) guerrilla fighter.[17] The government forces were quite aware that their raids on pungwe meetings resulted in the death of innocent civilians. That they never exercised restraint was an index of their cruelty and the propensity to commit atrocities against the rural population. These attacks which did not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants were arbitrary and non-selective in nature. Every category of people in the rural communities that fell in the war zones became targets of the repressive violence of the Rhodesian government forces. Writing on terrorism in civil wars, Kalyvas observed that indiscriminate violence is targeted at individuals on the basis of their membership in a group perceived to be connected with the opposition irrespective of their individual actions.[18] In the Rhodesian scenario indiscriminate violence was motivated by the known fact that almost every if not all members of the rural societies provided logistical support to the liberation fighters. Kalyvas also holds that random violence is also prompted by information asymmetry between warring parties in a conflict.[19]

Due to lack of the support of the rural African population the Rhodesian security forces experienced dearth of information about guerrilla activities and guerrilla positions in the war zones. The liberation fighters, on the other hand, had access to intelligence which was willingly provided by the rural peasants. Frustration resulting from unavailability of information actuated the application of arbitrary violence by the Rhodesian army forces. The Rhodesian security forces were aware that rural communities were loyal and sympathetic to the liberation fighters but sometimes had no tangible evidence to incriminate them. The unfortunate propensity to apply indiscriminate repression was the result of this shortcoming. The Rhodesian security forces also used violent and desperate means that could not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. These measures included contamination with poison of food and clothing that was destined for guerrilla fighters.[20] Unfortunately, the rural peasants also became victims of the poisoned clothing and food.

This was the nature of the reprisals that the Rhodesian security forces applied on the African people resident in the war zones. This kind of violence exposed the Rhodesian security forces to odium. The Rhodesian regime was wary of the work of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) during the war. The CCJP set about to investigate and publicise violence committed against the civilian population by the warring parties during the war. Bishop Donal Lamont, who was the chairman of the CCJP, faced the wrath of the Rhodesian government for publishing the atrocities they committed when they used force to relocate the peasants into ‘Protected Villages'. He was deported from the country on 23 March 1977.[21] Sister Janice McLaughlin, a Catholic nun, who also worked for the CCJP was also deported from Rhodesia for her stand against Rhodesian repressive violence against the rural African people. It was evident that the Rhodesian security forces deployed wanton violence against the civilian population in its unsuccessful attempt to crush the liberation movements.   

The violence that the Rhodesian colonial forces perpetrated against the rural peasants was apparently systematic and organised. It is on this score that it should be appropriately labelled ‘terrorism' and it was the Rhodesian security forces that deserved to be called ‘terrorists'. The Rhodesian regime and its forces hoped that loyalty and sympathy of the peasants would be redefined if they used terror. Resulting from the proclivity of incumbent governments to attribute ills that are rooted internally, the Rhodesian regime justified their random violence in the war zones by intimating that they were fighting against communist-trained and inspired terrorists. They stubbornly refused to accept that the liberation war was not externally motivated but was largely a result of their unjust policies and practises. The Rhodesian regime recoiled from ever attempting to ‘win the hearts and minds' of the rural African population. Such a policy would have implied addressing grievances of the black population in Rhodesia. Officially these grievances did not exist. According to the Rhodesian government and the security force commanders, the way to eliminate terrorism was to kill ‘terrorists', deny them physical access to the black population and punish those who collaborated with them.[22]

Guerrilla ‘Violence for Freedom'

The perpetration of violence by the guerrilla movement against the rural population was no doubt an undeniable feature of the liberation war. However, pro-Rhodesian narratives of the war, which are unfriendly to the liberation fighters, have exaggerated the occurrence of incidents of and the character of guerrilla violence. The narratives have erroneously contended that guerrilla violence was part of the manner and method that the liberation movements employed to secure the co-operation of the rural population. Such narratives have given the impression that the liberation fighters applied violence against specific groups of the rural community. Kriger and Sachikonye suggest that chiefs, headmen, kraal heads, church leaders, shopkeepers and government agricultural demonstrators were obvious targets of guerrilla violence.[23] Sachikonye makes the contention that: ‘There was also a great deal of violence exercised by guerrillas against collaborators of regime forces as well as against civilians amongst the African rural population'.[24] Sachikonye errs in making a distinction between collaborators and civilians. Collaborators definitely emerged from the civilian population in the rural areas. Villagers who participated in the war have revealed that sell outs or traitors (vatengesi) that collaborated with the Rhodesian army forces were from all categories of the rural population. The sub-scholarly literature produced by ex-Rhodesian servicemen has largely exaggerated guerrilla violence. Chris Lotter, a former Rhodesian soldier manifested this hyperbole when he wrote:

The terrorist

Is excused

His rape and frenzied pillage

May mutilate and burn

For freedom has no crime

Hear the muted agony

Of crippled men and boy [25]

Lotter gives the impression that the freedom fighters exercised violence that included rape, mutilation and cutting off the limps of the civilians. Reid-Daly, the commander of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts during the war, lamented lack of press mention of guerrilla atrocities. He pointed out that these included cases in which wives were forced to eat flesh cut from their murdered husbands' bodies, whole villages razed to the ground and all the villagers slaughtered or burnt to death while locked in their huts.[26] Parker writes that the liberation guerrilla fighters raped, murdered and ruthlessly brutalised the villagers to keep them living in fear.[27] These assertions found in narratives written by ex-Rhodesian servicemen were drawn from and were generally part of the propaganda of the Rhodesian regime. These narratives were not only serious exaggeration but largely untrue. The narrative that provided this hyperbole was also deficient in analysis and failed to realise that guerrilla violence was selective. The liberation fighters did not hesitate to execute and administer thorough beatings on members of the rural communities who sold out information about their activities to the Rhodesian security forces. 

In my doctoral study I documented examples of collaborators who were executed by the liberation fighters around Morgenster and Bondolfi Missions.[28] I however indicated that these killings were not part of the programme of the freedom fighters. The nationalist fighters were at pains to avoid estranging themselves from the rural population. Executions were dictated by the need to survive since civilian collaboration with the colonial army forces put the lives of the freedom fighters and the peasants at risk. It was clear that guerrilla violence that visited the rural folk was discriminate. It was used against only those elements of the rural population, who against the express advice of the liberation forces collaborated with the Rhodesian security forces. It was possible that the liberation fighters executed innocent people who were incorrectly judged to be traitors. These were exceptions rather than the rule. The rural people easily avoided guerrilla violence by refraining from flirting with the Rhodesian security forces as per advice of the liberation fighters. It is significant to note that guerrilla violence during Zimbabwe war of liberation was effective because it was combined with an agenda to promote peasant interests. Moreover, the Zimbabwean nationalist guerrillas largely practised justice rather than vengeance when they applied violence against elements of the rural population. The application of selective violence by the freedom fighters induced the rural population to be loyal and avail resources to the nationalist freedom fighters. What made guerrilla violence selective? This was largely because the Zimbabwean liberation fighters were careful not to offend the rural people who were the bedrock of their survival by supplying them with intelligence, food and other necessary material. Again, the guerrilla fighters who were freedom fighters purported to be socialist and thus were guided by a moral vision of a better world, which precluded terrorist actions as inconsistent with such a vision.

Guerrilla violence was used in a highly controlled, ancillary and selective fashion within the overall plan of ideological and organisational restructuring in the war's theatre of operation. The liberation movement, especially the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and its armed wing, ZANLA, crafted a code of conduct that among other issues regulated the relations between the guerrillas and the peasants. The nature of guerrilla violence was influenced by these rules. Among these were the ‘Three Rules' and the ‘Eight Points for Attention.'[29] The code of conduct provided clear-cut censure procedures against commission of unwarranted atrocities by ZANLA forces. ZANLA regulations stipulated that the decision to execute collaborators or sell outs (vatengesi) was the prerogative of senior ZANLA field commanders from detachment leadership and above.[30] This ensured adherence to the process that had to be followed before any killing of such persons took place. The process entailed trials that constituted verification of the allegations that someone had ‘sold out' information which compromised the cause for freedom. It was these important and necessary trial sessions that anti-liberation literature has labelled ‘kangaroo courts' or ‘centres of miscarriages of justice'. Members of ZANLA's Military High Command, which was the supreme organ of the ZANLA guerrilla fighters, based at Chimoio during the last four years of the war, made frequent visits to the war font in colonial Rhodesia. These visits, among other objectives, had the intention of investigating and resolving guerrilla indiscipline which included unnecessary guerrilla violence. In keeping with principles of their revolutionary pursuit the liberation forces wanted to maintain moral superiority over the Rhodesian security forces. An ex-guerrilla fighter, Last Ndega, pointed out that liberation fighters endeavoured to depict that they were disciplined freedom fighters.[31] The ZANLA forces compiled reports of their activities at the war front. These reports were sent to the ZANLA military headquarters at Chimoio, in Mozambique. The exercise of writing reports was part of the training of ZANLA cadres. It was emphasised at training that ZANLA commanders had to compile accurate field reports which included activities like execution of individual enemy soldiers and collaborators. The compilation of reports precluded the liberation fighters from executing and deploying violence against innocent people in the war zones. 


The foregoing discussion has shown that current attempts to equate and link the selective nature of violence that was deployed by the revolutionary guerrilla forces to contemporary outbreaks of violence are unfounded and devoid of academic analysis. The nonselective violence that is perpetrated by troops of an incumbent government is normally intended to stifle legitimate demand for economic and political spaces by the citizens. On the other hand the application of violence on civilians by the liberation fighters was in the interest of creating economic and political space. It would be fitting to refer to guerrilla violence as ‘freedom violence'. The rural people tolerated and accepted it because it was possible to avoid it and were nearly always in agreement to the reasons for deploying it. The Rhodesian colonial regime and its repressive military machinery failed to gain control of the civilian population. It terrorised, starved, butchered and destroyed the property of the rural people. The proper definition of such violence applied on civilians by the Rhodesian security forces would be ‘terrorism'. It was applied to defend a repugnant system and therefore backfired. There was no justification for the deployment of violence on rural people by the colonial forces of the incumbent Rhodesian government. It could not justify its continued hold to power when it failed to address the black people's demand for social justice and political self-assertion.

In its propaganda the Rhodesian colonial government deployed the rhetoric of ‘terrorism' whose goal was to de-legitimise the liberation movements' fight for independence. The colonial government also set about to criminalise the liberation war through its propaganda. These efforts failed to change the attitude of the black people whose hostility towards the white colonial regime intensified. The propaganda of the liberation fighters was effective and strengthened their bond with their fellow black population in the struggle for shaking off the manacle of the unjust colonial system.


Bhebe, N., ZAPU and ZANLA Guerrilla War and the Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1999).

Author, ‘Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle: A Critical Decade of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s Guerrilla War (PhD Thesis, Fort Hare University, 2011).

Godwin, G., Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (London: Macmillan, 1996).

Godwin, P., and Hancock, I., Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Kalyvas, S., ‘The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil War', Journal of Ethics, 8 (2003), pp. 97-138.

Kriger, N., Zimbabwe's Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

Lotter, C., Rhodesian Soldiers and Others who Fought (Alberton: Galago, 1984).

McLaughlin, J., On the Frontline: Catholic Missions in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare: Baobab Books, 1996).

Moorcraft, P., Mugabe's War Machine (Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2012).

Parker, J., Assignment Selous Scouts: Inside Story of a Rhodesian Special Branch Officer (Alberton: Galago, 2006).

Reid-Daly, R., Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts (Weltervreden Park: Covos-Books, 1999).

Sachikonye, L., When a State Turns on its Citizens: Institutionalised Violence and Political Culture (Auckland Park: Jacana Media, 2011).

Sturges, P., ‘Information in the National Liberation Struggle: Developing a Model', Journal of Documentation, 60, 4 (2004), pp. 428-448.

Werbner, R. P., ‘In Memory: A Heritage of War in South-western Zimbabwe', in N. Bhebe & T. Ranger (eds.,), Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (London: James Currey, 1996).

Oral Interviews

Interview with Daniel Jerimani (ex-mujibha), Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 10 July 2009.

Interview with Felicitas Muzembi, Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 20 August 2009.

Interview with Alex Mataruse, Murambwi Village, Masvingo, 13 August 2009.

Interview with Last Ndega (ex-ZANLA guerrilla fighter), ZANU (PF) Headquarters, Harare, 19 January 2009.

End Notes

[1]     P. Sturges, ‘Information in the National Liberation Struggle: Developing a Model', Journal of Documentation, 60, 4 (2004), p. 439.

[2]     P. Moorcraft, Robert Mugabe's War Machine (Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball, 2012), p. 62.

[3]     J. Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts: Inside Story of a Rhodesian Special Branch Officer (Alberton: Galago, 2006), p. 285.

[4]     R. Reid-Daly, Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts (Weltervreden Park: Covos-Books, 1999), p. 292. 

[5]     The Rhodesian Ministry of Information, Tourism and Immigration published a pamphlet in July 1978 in which the description of the murders is given.

[6]     See P. Moorcraft, Mugabe's War Machine, p. 61.

[7]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 187.

[8]     Field commanders were obliged to compile accurate field reports. However, these internal reports took a new form when they became propaganda material. The losses of the nationalist guerrilla forces were left out.

[9]     Interview with Daniel Jerimani (ex-mujibha), Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 10 July 2009.

[10]     All war zones were witness to such violence.

[11]     R. P. Werbner, ‘In Memory: A Heritage of War in South-western Zimbabwe', in N. Bhebe & T. Ranger (eds.,), Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (London: James Currey, 1996), p. 197.

[12]     N. Bhebe, ZAPU and ZANLA Guerrilla War and the Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1999), p. 113.

[13]     Interview with Felicitas Muzembi, Morgenster Mission, Masvingo, 20 August 2009.

[14]     Interview with Alex Mataruse, Murambwi Village, Masvingo, 13 August 2009.

[15]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 58.

[16]     P. Godwin, Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa (London: Macmillan, 1996), p. 302.

[17]     J. McLaughlin, On the Frontline: Catholic Missions in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Harare: Baobab Books, 1996), p. 196.

[18]     S. Kalyvas, ‘The Paradox of Terrorism in Civil War', Journal of Ethics, 8 (2003), p. 101.

[19]     Ibid, p. 101.

[20]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 159.

[21]     P. Godwin and I. Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 186.

[22]     P. Godwin and I. Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die, p. 100.

[23]     N. Kriger, Zimbabwe's Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p.104 and L. Sachikonye, When a State Turns on its Citizens: Institutionalised Violence and Political Culture (Auckland Park: Jacana Media, 2011), p. 9.

[24]     Sachikonye, When a State Turns on its Citizens, p. 9

[25]     C. Lotter, Rhodesian Soldiers and Others who Fought (Alberton: Galago, 1984), p. 67.

[26]     Reid-Daly, Pamwe Chete, p. 292.

[27]     Parker, Assignment Selous Scouts, p. 25.

[28]      Author, ‘Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle: A Critical Decade of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)'s Guerrilla War (PhD Thesis, Fort Hare University, 2011), pp. 154-155.

[29]     The ‘Three Rules' and the ‘Eight Points for Attention' were regulations that ZANU adopted from Mao Tse-Tung's practice of revolution in China.

[30]     From ZANLA war documents.

[31]     Interview with Last Ndega (ex-ZANLA guerrilla fighter), ZANU (PF) Headquarters, Harare, 19 January 2009.


About the Author(s)


Outlaw 09:

(Moderator intervention and edited). As I have stated before, the stories that you relate of your experiences are invaluable, like most recent one about the mines in Iraq. I look forward to them.

(Chris Cocks is the co-author of JMA's book.)

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 12:26pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark/JMA --went way back over a lot of your SWC comments and you show an interesting trend---using this comment from you that actually was incorrect at the least and yet you challenged the writer of the comment;

Would like you to know of an Iraqi experience that totally counters what you said using accuracy in reporting not just heresay as you tend to do.

The US Army BCT in 2005 based in Baqubah, Diyala Province had the great idea to get the locals to turn in military explosives, arty shells, and mines for money in order to take them out of the hands of the Sunni insurgents who were hitting us hard on IED attacks.

Initially the response was actually overwhelming and after a number of weeks we noticed that the old shells and mines were getting rustier and rustier---through intel we learned that a number of the locals had organized themselves into disarming teams and where digging up old shells and taking mines out of the old Iraq/Iranian border mine fields and they were doing an excellent job on the disarming side.

So to dismiss the abilities of locals to disarm mines and use them flies in the face of UW as some of us have learned humans even uneducated ones have abilities that we in the military have a hard time accepting or we simply want to underestimate as it does not fit our perceived view of the insurgent.

So see Mark what you think was the inability of some in Zimbabwe that you thought could not disarm mines was easily replicated in Iraq.

"Not worth mentioning because the amount of explosives lifted from the ‘cordon sanitaire’ (border minefield) was miniscule.

Where do you get this nonsense from? Is it mere supposition?

It is not just me and my personal recollections but I phoned two Engineer officers who worked on the ‘cordon sanitaire’ to confirm my memories... so you can take it to the bank.

But please tell me how the anti-personnel mines would have been disarmed so they could be carried/transported to the roads that they wanted to mine?

By the way you never did answer as to rather you knew of Americans serving/working with the Rhodesian Army---would be happy to point you towards several more that even made it to the Rhodesian Army ranks of MAJ/COL on the Cav side.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 9:36am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark/JMA---you do know that Chris's book mentions an American VN vet was fighting in the RLI in his same Commando unit---and I did remember that I mentioned Americans were on the ground in around your area during the guerrilla war---you never responded but evidently a RLI vet seems to have confirmed it.

By the way the writer Moorcraft who you seemed to not like when you responded to Madhu---gave Chris's book an excellent review when it came out.

So are you now going to bad mouth a RLI combat vet who stayed and fought instead of running to England as a number of Rhodesians did do to avoid military service?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 8:51am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark/JMA---now I fully understand the sensitivity on your side due to the authors use of the term violence vs what you think should be atrocities.

(Moderator intervention and edited).

If I correctly recall was not your unit alleged to have been involved in a number of committed atrocities? And by the way no small number of accusations. You do not need to attempt to hide the fact as the below was taken from a book written by a conscript assigned to the unit and who fought in the RLI--OR you alleging he is also wrong? (Moderator intervention and edited).

By the way you do not need to respond to my comments as you really have not responded to the comments indicating that the Rhodesian Army failed badly in their COIN fight. Nor the comments I had in my response as you did read them otherwise you would not have responded quoting me and those comments did not come from a Zimbabwean writer who seemed to bother you but you did not respond to a South African writer. (Moderator intervention and edited).

By the way your numerous non responses is in fact a response which appears to me that you have a problem in hearing that the practiced Rhodesian COIN failed.

Taken from the RLI Conscript's own book concerning his service in the RLI.

The author of this book, Chris Cocks, was a teenage conscript in the RLI and this is his story. This book is a challenge to the straightforward writing of Military History, where so many historians choose to focus on prominent personalities and battlefield tactics. This is the story of a soldier's war - it is a gripping and bittersweet look at Army life. Cocks brings the constant thread of death to the forefront of this book. At no time does he attempt to disguise the brutality of the Bush War or hide the atrocities, which were committed by troops and guerrillas alike. The writer's own sense of doubt as to whether this was a just cause adds a further dimension to the book. Many of the young Rhodesian conscripts accepted the status quo without question, others, like Cocks were constantly plagued by the morality of a war that ultimately witnessed a society feeding upon itself.

Mark Adams

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 8:06am

Outlaw 09 wrote:

"YOU still have not indicated WHAT Rhodesian Army unit you served with OR did you not serve at all?"

I have already stated that Mark Adams is my real name and my Rhodesian military credentials can be gleaned here:

(Moderator intervention and edited).

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 11:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I missed this comment earlier, thanks for the feedback. I'm not sure sometimes if I am digging up the right stuff so feedback is helpful.

I don't know why I didn't think about looking at the insurgent strategy first, before anything else. The link I posted above (psywarrior, a site run by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) from the bio page) kind of does that and shows what was missed strategically early on by looking at the propaganda. There was so much focus on the insurgent's cruelty and violence and the trickery of scary communists, that focusing on building a kind of inclusive nationalism was missed as a counter to the insurgency, it seems from that site. There was a missed opportunity by failing to recognize that animating factor as others have said but it is helpful to see the actual examples and have them explained.

But to be honest, I would like to go back to my usual discussion topics here. While this thread is educational, I don't think this particular topic is necessarily for me.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 5:50am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Some of us that write here have had a far more detailed life on the ground in guerrilla wars starting in SVN, extending into Lebanon of the 70s/80, have dealt with various groups of the PLO in the 80s and have chased European terror groups in multiple different locations of the world and that some of us in our later years can reflect and question what we did in our "younger" years.

Madhu is a solid researcher who I have come to enjoy what he digs up and even though he has never served it still gives him the right to research and have his opinions.

Your massive concern with the author's use of violence vs atrocities leads me to believe that you served in one of the five Rhodesian Army units that were involved in what many see as atrocities. Just a side note members of those units did in fact flee Rhodesia to South Africa and are doing well in SA and have never answered for their crimes against humanity. (Moderator intervention and edited).

Your army failed at COIN and that is reinforced by the following comments in a book released in 1985 actually in South Africa built also on a dissertation in South Africa from 1980---will be happy to provide you an email copy of the document---also dug up on Google.

So please come down to earth, good reading below. (Moderator intervention and edited).

2.5 Conclusion
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 after UDI, the isolated terrorism
experienced prior to 1975 did not seem to constitute
a comparable revolutionary threat. In the years to
follow the Malaya clique belatedly realized that the
threat was essentially the same.
But lower ranking men in the field and those
not experienced in the subtleties of a coherent
counter-insurgency campaign, did not come to this
realization at all. History and combat experience in
a different continent hardly seemed applicable to
Black Africa. The majority of whites refused to
believe that 'their' black populace was capable
of a general nationalism and political awareness.
A communication gap developed between high command
in Harare, and men in the field. Equally
important was the fact that experience before
1972 led to an over emphasis of the role of the
military. This became ingrained in the thinking of
Security Force members and influenced their political
superiors who were dependent on the former's
advice for policy decisions regarding the conduct of
the war.

The foregoing approach to a problem that is
essentially not military, but rather socio-economic
and political, had a decisive influence on the Rhodesian
military strategy. Some of these effects have
been dealt with, but the major one is the lack of a
coherent total national strategy. Without a viable
political objective and at least rudimentary policy
guidelines a vast number of counter-insurgency measures
become difficult to execute coherently. Two
specific examples discussed at length are psychological
operations (Chapter 6) and the recruitment and
training of an own politically orientated local
militia for defense purposes (Chapter 8) .

Mark Adams

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 6:12am

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

TheCurmudgeon what I am suggesting is that you and others don't blindly accept Moorcraft's guesswork as being the definitive reasons behind the final outcome of the bush war.

Interesting in Moorcraft's preface to the 2008 edition (first edition being 1982) he makes the following statement:

"... after nearly three decades, and in the light of the near-total destruction of the state by Robert Mugabe, many will look back and reflect that the Rhodesian rebellion, although doomed, was perhaps not so damned."

Too late she cried!

Now we wait for the mea culpa from the man who put Mugabe into power - Jimmy Carter. Any bets?


Sat, 12/14/2013 - 6:59pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Whether you like Moorcraft of not, history does show that the government lost and the rebels won Are you honestly trying to assert that their "hearts and minds" campaign had nothing to do with that?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 5:20pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Thank you.

Mark Adams

Sun, 12/15/2013 - 7:42am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu asked: "Which books do you suggest?"

As you seem to have flirted with left-wing publications you can add Terence Ranger to that list.

If you want to get a good context of Rhodesia you probably need to read Richard Wood:

The first two of his trilogy are must reads (for the serious) - third being in production.

* So Far and No Further! Rhodesia's Bid for Independence during the Retreat from Empire 1959-1965

* A Matter of Weeks Rather than Months

For those with less interest you would do well to read his chapter "Countering the Chimurenga: The Rhodesian Counterinsurgency Campaign 1962-80"

... from the book:

Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare - by Daniel Marston (Author) , Carter Malkasian (Author)…

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 5:43pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Which books do you suggest? I can't go back in time and live your experience.

The colonists made many political decisions that are important to the discussion because strategic context matters. Isn't that what Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us Americans?

I am not presenting ANYTHING as a definitive truth. I looked up that wiki on Moorcraft too at the time that I posted the above. I thought to post the link but changed my mind. So, he was stupid about Mugabe but was he entirely wrong about why one side one prevailed at the time? That is my question, why did the propaganda resonate with some audiences? That is a valid question.

I am interested in American COIN doctrine and the American military. Malaya and other coin wars and tactics must have resonated for a reason but why no understanding of the strategic context of Iraq or Afghanistan?

You yourself have made the same criticisms about the Americans.

But at this point it is better to agree to disagree, or at least to understand that we are interested in different things around here.

<blockquote>Much of the intrigue associated with sanctions' evasion remains undisclosed, although recent events in Eastern Europe may soon open up archives there to researchers. A large amount of the Rhodesian documentation on the war was destroyed just before Mugabe took over, or spirited away to South Africa. Much of that information detailed South African involvement. There, too, a great deal more needs to be said.

As most writers on the Rhodesian war admit, the saga needs a comprehensive, balanced treatment. By general consensus the Rhodesian tragedy awaits the kind of treatment Alistair Horne gave the Algerian war in his masterly A Savage War of Peace, Just possibly, that might avoid another hundred years' war of words between future historians of Rhodesia's futile defiance.</blockquote> - from 1990, interesting to see the evolution of thought. Did anyone go through those archives, was that correct?

I am simply trying to understand.

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 3:41pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu you really need to learn and understand the people and their exposure to the Rhodesian bush war.

Paul Moorcraft was nothing more than journalist hack freelancing in Salisbury during the war. He was astute in rushing to print with the first edition of his book after the war and now tries to position himself as a historian and an expert on the war when he was little more "useful idiot" to the left-wing political cause. Like so many he discarded the warnings of the colonialists of what was to come (because he knew better) only to see the truth too late.

"Although initially praising the latter (Mugabe) for a conciliatory attitude towards white Rhodesians in the new Zimbabwe, he (Moorcraft)would later become a harsh critic of the increasingly despotic Mugabe regime." Wikipedia

First came the Ndebele genocide then the campaign against the remaining white farmers leading to the destruction of the economy etc.

Plucking quotes from Google - as presenting them as the definitive truth -is not the smart way to approach that little war - especially not from Moorcraft.

I don't know what your exposure to war has been but it should not surprise you that soldiers from many different countries who have been engaged in counter insurgency wars have a shared experience and therefore understanding and can share and learn from each other.

If you follow this to its fullest you will see that discussions between old soldiers on what was the right way and what was the wrong way get pretty heated at times... more so than when they encounter those with no shared experience. (Moderator intervention and edited).

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 3:24pm

From <em>The Rhodesian War: A Military History</em> by Paul L. Moorcraft, Peter McLaughlin:

<blockquote>The guerillas waged a far more effective psychological and propaganda war than the white Rhodesians. While the Rhodesians viewed these vital elements of guerilla warfare as adjuncts to the more important business of killing guerillas, the nationalists placed a major empasis on them.

The guerillas were in close touch with the <strong>aspirations of blacks in white-dominated Rhodesia</strong> and their closeness was skillfully exploited in spreading their propaganda throughout the population.</blockquote>


<blockquote>No matter how brilliant its military techniques, a conservative counter-revolutionary war must be based upon a clear political strategy. This is as true of Iraq today, as of the white regime in Rhodesia and South Africa of yesteryear. No distinct political strategy emerged in Salisbury. Political transformation to black rule was the only viable, if initially unacceptable, option for the white rulers. <strong>Instead the RF created a mountain of propaganda which the whites, but not the blacks, swallowed. The whites made the cardinal error of being gulled by their own propaganda....Most, though not all, whites became unwilling or unable to comphrehend the real nature of African nationalism.<strong></blockquote>

Which is not to take away from the many serious criticisms of the article that we discuss.

I looked at the consolidated Rhodesian thread and I see a great emotional and psychological bonding among a group of military folk based on the admiration of tactical prowess, with some discussion of the larger political and strategic context. But I see few attempts by the <strong>Americans</strong> to look at the situation outside an emotional and psychological lens based on a sort of favored tribal military kinship, at least, the emotional tenor seems more excited by stories of tactical prowess than the other facets. Perhaps my interpretation is incorrect but I think it has some merit as a discussion point.

I have to ask if American military men, based on their admiration, inadvertently took to heart some of the propaganda space highlighted in the book excerpt, so that they can see it in one direction but not the other?

I am not making an equivalence argument or wishing away the problems of propaganda on both sides. I am creating an argument based on a kind of bonding and a psychological space within some American military which creates blindspots?

(Certain comments in that consolidated thread call the prior government a 'noble' one. No one commenting thought about the sort of audience that was reading and how they might interpret the basic sensibilities of the American military and its fondness for those that resemble the 'self' as military men of similar cohorts. I don't want anyone to censor his or her own opinion and I don't know quite what that person meant nor am I interested in discussing what was noble. Just an observation.)

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 3:49pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

David you too are too kind. There is no excuse for publishing this garbage unless it is to present it as it is: as a cheap continuation of ZANU/ZANLA propaganda from way back. Sadly this was not the case. The Journal was suckered into publishing unabashed propaganda.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 3:32pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Excellent. Thanks, david.

'The new breed of Zimbabwean social scientists ought to stand up against the suppression of any information and should develop an ever-critical mind with respect to the facts, especially purported facts and actions of political leaders'. - Very well put. Bravo. (Also, easy for me to say from a distance.)

And so too should certain American military mythologies and fascinations be addressed, mythologies that seem to be drawn from an emotional well I cannot quite comprehend. Fascinating. Thank you for this detailed comment.


Sat, 12/14/2013 - 2:10pm

SWC readers will know I have long had an interest in what happened in the war to decide the future of Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe. I know a few who fought there for Rhodesia and for many years participated in partly academic meetings in the UK on the war - where ZANU-PF views were often heard. My knowledge is small I know.

I am not surprised that SWJ's editor(s) published the article, it does give a very clear partial account about the 'information war' and refers to the grim realities of an insurgency. As an account from the African nationalist point of view it gives readers a different account of what happened then in the war and how it is seen today, in 2013, by a Zimbabwean living in Zimbabwe.

Given the political character of Zimbabwe, alongside the "new" history of Zimbabwe created by ZANU-PF, it omits any reference to ZANU's wartime ally and challenger, ZAPU and its military arm, ZIPRA.

Nor does it once mention that an 'Internal Settlement' was "on the cards" for many years and ended with a widely recognised free election, for all, in 1978, in which large numbers of Africans voted. See:,_1979

I would not expect the author to deviate from the official 'line', indeed to do so today would carry some personal risk.

What I do find odd given all the caveats mentioned are a series of absences.

First there is the absence of two key texts that covered propaganda and violence: 'None But Ourselves: Masses vs Media in the making of Zimbabwe' by Julie Frederikse, pub. 1982. See:…

Maybe this book is no longer on the bookshelves in Harare, although not for its deviation from the official 'line' as the author was able to get ZANU's help then and went onto write other similar books on South Africa.

Then there is 'Violence & Memory: One Hundred Years in the 'Dark Forests' of Matabeleland' edited by Alexander, McGregor and Ranger, pub. 2000. Which has several chapters on the reality of war in rural areas; areas where ZIPRA was active, not ZANLA. See:…

These chapters are interesting as the author's fieldwork found that the rural population knew what to expect from the Rhodesian regular security forces, which could be very harsh, but it was the all-African auxiliary forces who were the worst users of violence.

Where is 'Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War' edited by Bhebe and Ranger, pub. 1998? Oddly the author refers to Dr. Bhebe's work and the sister volume 'Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War'. See:…

Or 'Peasant Consciousness and Guerilla Warfare in Zimbabwe' by Terence Ranger, pub. 1985. See:…

Or 'Counter-Insurgency in Rhodesia' by J.K. Cilliers, pub. 1985. Regarded by many then as the first scholarly account of the war, being written by a white South African analyst added a certain punch. See:…

Finally there is a comment by a Zimbabwean nationalist fighter, which comes from the introduction in 'Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War', referring to a conference in Zimbabwe in 1991, and cited in part: 'The new breed of Zimbabwean social scientists ought to stand up against the suppression of any information and should develop an ever-critical mind with respect to the facts, especially purported facts and actions of political leaders'.

Seems to me the author has failed to meet the challenge posed then in this article.

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 12:04pm

Outlaw 09, Mark Adams is my real name and you can glean my background here:

You may not have realized that my interest here is the trash article of Dzimbanhete that the Journal saw fit to publish.

(Moderator intervention and edited).


Mon, 12/16/2013 - 9:36pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark Adams/JMA,

I understand why you are angry but shouting down or calling people "useful idiots" isn't going to win you any points in an open debate. I've been a long time lurker here, both on SWJ and SWC and only recently started posting on the SWJ side of the house. To be frank, having been a "moderator" on several boards in the past I consider the whole "moderated" aspect of websites a double edged sword. With that being said, I understand that it is often the case where people become "keyboard commandoes" on the internet by the very fact they will speak in tones that they probably wouldn't do in person.

As a fellow brother in arms, I'm sure there are many points to this article that we would both agree were "garbage" to a certain level. However, I agree with Outlaw that to entirely dismiss something based off the "rotten meat" would be a critical error for those attempting to put the "pieces of the puzzle" together (you're welcome Madhu). I followed your link and see it's to Amazon for a book that you wrote. I'd love to read a copy of it but considering the timing with the holidays not sure I can drop the coin right now (and being published by Helion I can understand why it's currently $50 a pop). I'll admit I'm by no means an expert on what you lived through, but that doesn't mean that someday I'll find the time to devote to learning more about this period in history. I believe Outlaw made a valid challenge, why don't you write an article and submit it to SWJ for publishing? The best offense is to get your side of the story published and let educated people make up there minds. I'm a firm believer that often the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Yes, we could apply the thesis to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan but why stop there? We could go on to the American Civil War, the American-Indian Wars, etc. but right now I would like to focus on this subject, especially cause it's peaked my interest and I'd like to learn more. Speaking of learning, the day I quit learning is the day I'm horizontal 6 feet under the ground. By the way, I thought my first couple of comments to this article were somewhere on your side of the debate. I do find it interesting that in the 90+ comments to this article that the author has yet to chime in and defend much of what he wrote...

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 11:02am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark---there is a really old saying "the victors get to define history". The second saying in guerrilla warfare is "to the victors goes the spoils". (Moderator intervention and edited).

The Rhodesian Army COIN failed simply because they failed to address the three core strategic strategies of both insurgent groups---you focused on the national liberation piece but failed on the hearts and minds piece ie true land reform and one man one vote which would have driven a stake through the hearts of both insurgencies THEN with the correct parallel messaging the population could/would have swung to the government.

But winning the hearts and minds with white supremacy is a hard sell.

The Rhodesian COIN model is a good one to study especially on the reasons for the failure ---ie no attention to details ie not focusing on the strategic strategies of the enemy.

Mark Adams

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 10:18am

Condor, I would be interested to hear what you have learned from this discussion. In the SWC there is a Rhodesian COIN thread with 384 messages and 118,861 views.

As so often happens in un-moderated and undisciplined boards discussions are certain to stray off-topic.

This piece of garbage by Dzimbanhete proves nothing and offers no direct insight. What he attempts to sell (from the Rhodesian bush war experience)is that if terrorists can claim to be freedom fighters their atrocities immediately become justifiable acts. On the other hand the government side (or the invading ally of the government) can only be illegal in all ways and their every action becomes an atrocity. This is of course garbage.

But by all means take Dzimbanhete's thesis further and apply it to the US involvement in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and see where that leads.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/14/2013 - 7:08am

In reply to by Condor

Condor---good points and I will actually credit Mark/JMA with jogging my memories as I had a great deal to do in that area of the world during that period of time.

When we discuss COIN here on the blog---being either for or against we keep over and over using the examples of VN, Malaysia, Algeria etc--but what struck me during JMAs discourse was we have never really discussed here the Rhodesian COIN model which was a take off on the British counterinsurgency model as used in Malaysia.

Now that would be a COIN debate to have and I was actually startled when I go back over the COIN debates-- Rhodesia is not mentioned---WHY?

I personally think the JMA's reaction is due to the fact that yes atrocities did occur on the Rhodesian Army side as well as the insurgency side but if one goes back to the authors discourse he uses the term violence not atrocities which really bothered JMA.

NOW actually both the author and JMA based on their individual perspectives are totally correct---therein lies the rub.

Under Rhodesian COIN and it is actually internet wise well documented as well as from German open source materials---they did totally accept the Malaysian model and forcefully pushed many black villagers into what I would from VN call "armed hamlets"---they took the next COIN step learned out of the Mao days and attempted to "dry" the pond by then poisoning water holes, slaughtering cattle, destroying crops, destroying hamlets that could have used in support to the insurgents. So from the black side it is viewed under the propaganda as atrocities against the blacks vs say from the RA side it simply was a COIN tactic using violence to counter an insurgency under the British model of COIN.

The RA did in fact launch attacks into the insurgent sanctuaries as well and setup defacto competing insurgent groups supported by the RA in those sanctuaries just to keep the insurgents busy in their rear areas.

So they did try the gauntlet of COIN tactics even using airpower into the sanctuaries.

Actually the RA did well in the early years of the guerrilla war but in the last stages the insurgents discovered the single point of failure ie the center of gravity of the RA---which was manpower.

The RA had only a small standing army and had to rely on reservists to man up---but the reservists where actually being drawn out of the active work force and if they were gone for long periods then the national economy suffered which it was in the last years of the war.

The insurgents observed this and contributed their bit by attacking many white farms driving the white farmers out of some areas and forcing many to leave Rhodesia due to the "violence" thus robbing the RA of manpower.

So to the RA their use of force--"violence" was a COIN tactic and was working now JMA sees the word "violence" being mentioned and in turn assumes from his perspective that it should have been "atrocities" because his "violence" was COIN dictated.

WHAT the author did not do was to discuss the violence used between the two competing insurgent groups and their followers---one was supported by the Chinese and one by the Soviets---a number of these intrafights were in fact "atrocities" but spun via propaganda to be pinned on the RA. This I think is what JMA means when he mentioned the RA did not do propaganda well.

NOTE: I am still puzzled by JMAs comment on the fact the RA did not do propaganda well when the RA had a massive psywar element within the military---they definitely understood how to use psywar---taken from a 400 page Rhodesian Army document.


Now do not for a moment think atrocities were not committed by a number of the elite RA units---they were and it went far past the concept of COIN violence.

Robert and Bill M who blog here would say this goes to prove that if the counterinsurgent does not fully understand the insurgents strategic strategy he is dangling in the wind---and the Rhodesian Army while for a number of years was tactically superior on the ground they never focused fully on the strategic strategy of both insurgent groups which actually had the same strategy just worded a tad differently. Robert would also suggest that the had the Rhodesian government practice good governance and applied the law/security correctly to all elements of the society it would have contributed to the COIN fight.

They failed to understand the term "hearts and minds" that get so derided often in a COIN debate---but check the insurgent strategy of say national rebirth---if the RA and Ian Smith had opened up immediately the idea of land ownership and actually followed through they in fact would have "dried up the pond" and followed that with a massive messaging campaign then they would have been headed in the correct COIN direction---if the RA and Ian Smith had actually gone to a one man one vote and held open and observed elections they would have driven a stake into the insurgency---which was the third insurgent strategic strategy---return the country to the rightful citizens.

But as always it is not easy---for implementing land reform and open and fair elections also places the minority of the population at the mercy of the majority---which in the ideology of white supremacy as practiced in Rhodesia was virtually impossible.

Thus since the RA and Ian Smith only provided one answer that was fighting national liberation the model of COIN simply failed.

Understanding the insurgents strategic strategy is the single thing we did not get right in both Iraq and AFG and we basically "lost" our Iraq COIN model and are losing it as well in AFG.

NOW the Rhodesian war is interesting as the term "one mans' guerrilla is another mans' freedom fighter" came out of the timeframe of that period---say 1968 up through 1979 and was across the whole spectrum of terrorism from that period ---from the Palestinians to the German RAF to the Italian Red Brigades to the guerrilla wars of southern Africa.

Historically speaking in order to under the current events in the world maybe many should go back and understand the events of that timeframe better especially the southern African wars.

You know what bothers me? The fact that I feel a few on here are shutting down either due to emotion, pride, bias, ego or whatever. Despite what this article may have said, I think the discussion has been great and like most subjects on here I've learned a lot. I do believe that we should try and stay as objective and open to seeing "both sides" despite what our past experiences and prejudices may have been. One of the great things about our way of life is the ability to have OPEN dialogue about any and all things. The good news is that the educated people with decent critical thinking skills can weed out the "garbage" from the "gold". I'd hate to see what has been a good and healthy discussion turn into a mud slinging and name calling affair. If we become like that, we are no better than those we might detest.

This article is presented as a piece of historical analysis. As such its conclusions rest upon the accuracy of the history it uses to support its thesis. One of the pieces of history it uses to support it thesis is that the murders and crimes committed against the people by the ZAPU, ZANLA and other Z forces were not as widespread as has been previously been presented and also that the murders and other violence committed were both well considered before being done and that they were also well justified. I don't believe the historical record justifies that view of history. Therefore one of the primary planks upon which the authors argument is built is pretty weak. That is the primary basis of my criticisms of this piece. I think it goes so far in trying to maintain that particular part of the argument that it goes beyond minimizing the wrong done the Z forces, it gets into the realm of chilling rationalization of great evil.

(The author's tone is a bit offputting. That crack about first person accounts being "sub-scholarly" rankled. They may be accurate, inaccurate, truthful or a pack of lies, but "sub-scholarly" is just a sniffing arrogant dismissal.)

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 4:29pm

Mark---you complain about this particular article but all he is doing is mirroring a style of communication in an ongoing conversation in Zimbabwe that I think goes back to the land reform being pushed by Mugabe however badly it is progressing---watch the tone and the verbiage being used in this online newspaper article---ALSO check the atrocities being mentioned that were alleged to have been committed by the Rhodesian Army.

That is why I previously mentioned that there were far more acts of violence by the Rhodesian Army that still sits deep in the black memory even if 30 years ago---that is why I said one must learn to "listen" when reading an article.

I could go on and on with examples---

Taken from an online Zimbabwean newspaper out of 2009:

TODAY we seem to be bombarded by stories of how abusive Robert Mugabe’s government is to its people. The media is awash with stories of the “evil” perpetrated by Mugabe and his government.

I do not condone the actions of Mugabe’s government for one bit, but the sudden mushrooming of ex-Rhodesian operatives purporting to be human rights defenders needs to be challenged.

I am very suspicious of these once-upon-a-time human rights violators, and abusers of Zimbabwean people, some of whom fought tooth and nail to perpetuate and preserve the repressive Rhodesian government because at the time it afforded them certain privileges and allowed them to benefit from exploiting black people on the farms, in the kitchens and gardens in the suburbs (panga pasina mubunhu asina bhoyi).

A few weeks ago, in a discussion with a long-time friend we spoke about some of the “champions of Zimbabwean democracy”. I was amazed at what some of these people did for black people at a time when Rhodesia had some of the most repressive and discriminatory laws. Most of them, with a few exceptions, did absolutely nothing to help the black person. They defended the system and did all they could to perpetuate the status quo.

Without any explanation, some of these so-called champions of human rights not so long ago bombed, maimed, and killed a lot of innocent black people, tortured and raped many defenceless black villagers, rounded up and caged thousands of black villagers in what were called “keeps”.

They poisoned sources of water and destroyed livestock belonging to the natives and in turn whatever little form of wealth these poor people had was lost to the plunder of the raging and rampaging Rhodesian forces, who today come back and claim to be champions of human and property rights.

How can people who were born and bred as racists, educated as racists and were made to believe that they were more deserving and more superior a race than black people in their own country, who had generations of racist attitudes and culture passed down to them by their land thieving forefather just wake up one morning and claim they are no longer racist but are now champions of human rights and democracy?

Simply because Robert Mugabe is fulfilling the Chimurenga war time promise or objective of land reform, however flawed the process maybe?

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 4:56pm

In reply to by carl

I guess it is back to The Council. (Moderator intervention and edited).


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 4:19pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Maybe it would be good if we all took a deep breath and thought of lambs or lambchops or something pleasant for moment. (Moderator intervention and edited).

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 3:24pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark---you are getting in deeper---are you finally going to admit that in fact elements and by the way just not a few elements of the Rhodesian Army committed atrocities?

Secondly, some Americans were also in Rhodesia in the 70s/80s if you remember some of the rumors inside the Rhodesian Army and I know if you were in a specific unit you heard the rumors.

Thirdly, if you cannot read objectively then do not read it. (Moderator intervention and edited).

Fourthly, never take for granted that someone might actually just happened to have been in the same area as you were and that regardless of my age some of us have experienced most of what you have experienced just in a larger scale and have been at it far longer than the 14 years of war you had if you served the full time.

(Moderator intervention and edited).

Now take up the offer and provide us your view points in a article as well and then we can compare---suggest balancing against the author say battle for battle or atrocity for atrocity and then let the reading audience make up their minds using both points of view.

Would also suggest mentioning examples of propaganda that you felt the RA had not done well---as you mentioned that once here--that comment alone means to me that the "other side" was getting it right.

It is really really easy to reject something written about that period which is really what you have been saying all the while here if one does not like the words, the tone, or the assumptions ---it is harder though to put your story in your own words---try it.

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 2:36pm

Outlaw 09 said:

"As an American who understands much more about your particular guerrilla war than most Americans I will tell you that far more was reported by European journalists on the atrocities being committed by the Rhodesian Army than from the guerrilla side--and one could during that period of journalism actually state the reporting was extremely accurate."

What exactly is your point?

The lie this Dzimbanhete person is trying to sell is that all the atrocities in the war were perpetrated by the Rhodesian forces while all the atrocities carried out by the insurgents were not atrocities but carefully considered justifiable acts of justice. If you believe that .... I can't help you.

Your claim to expertize on the Rhodesian War is based on the that you know more than people who nothing on the subject. No cred there I'm afraid. You spoke elsewhere of representatives of both sides you spoke to in Berlin. Berlin? Is Berlin really the place to find people from both sides you can form an opinion on?

I really believe you need to have a greater grasp of this subject if you are going to jump in on the side of one of the parties.

(Moderator intervention and edited).

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 5:15pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

TheCurmudgeon---good points---what Mark/JMA nor the author are discussing is that Rhodesia was an interesting focal point during the Cold War days---there were two rival black nationalist groups one being supported by the Soviets the other by the Chinese going at it---the Cubans were mixing in due to Angolan borders and Mozambique was also involved along with the South African Army/Portuguese Army and not least but last the US.

They were all going at it on the ground at the same time and the Rhodesian Army was trying at the same time to conduct a form of COIN at the same time using the British Malaysian model as the example.

Agree with you the white Rhodesians could have defused the issue but with Smith leading them there was no attempt at land reform---which would have taken the sails out of the nationalist movements as the black rural populations had been pushed by the whites onto basically barren unfertile land and were living in poverty.

Actually what Mark/JMA does not want to admit is that Rhodesian would make one heck of a COIN study and worth a Army PME course due to the sheer unlimited variations of actions and players from that period of time-US, Portugal, Soviets, Cubans, black nationalists, white supremacy---and then the population itself.

LESSONS LEARNED:---Robert and Bill M have repeatedly mentioned in order to counter an insurgency one must understand the strategy of the insurgent---the core strategic strategy across southern Africa during that time was 1) National liberation, 2) National rebirth and 3) Returning the country to it's rightful citizens.

The Rhodesian Amy only addressed the national liberation piece by their constant fighting---they never addressed the other two strategic objectives thus were doomed to fail.


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 4:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I understand. My comments were part of a sidebar I was having with Madhu on what I would call the COINTra’s war against Petreaus. The facts surrounding the Surge are what they are; what lessons one takes away from it are matters of interpretation. Finding truth is much harder than simply rehashing facts and requires looking at a situation from all angles and taking account of agendas and personal biases (including your own).

I try to stay away from the “right or wrong” side of the arguments and concentrate on the “why”. Why did the population get off the fence? Why did the rebels win the “hearts and minds” of the rural population? Then try to extract commonalities that can be applied to different situations.

The article is interesting from a historical point of view but I believe it falls short on delivering the mail on propaganda or violence. Your short comment about the common distrust of the whites as well as the farmer’s interest in land redistribution I find much more interesting. In essence, I could not really draw any lessons from the article but I did learn some history.

I also realize that sometimes finding these commonalities require a leap of faith of sorts. For example, if the government would have offered a land distribution plan of its own could it have pacified the farmers? Could it have been sold to the ruling elite or were the prejudices too strong? History is only worth reading if you can take from it and apply it to current situations. I realize that this requires a level of “interpretation of the facts”, but in my mind that is worth the risk as long as it is properly caveat it as such. Telling one side of a story and trying to place upon it a ring of “truth” always makes me wonder what is going on. I am guilty of this sometimes myself, but I try not to do it.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 2:26pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon


No not really---it is not a he said she said---- one just has to understand the context of the period the article was writing about and understand the verbiage being used---I keep repeating if one wants to understand one's enemies one must 1) understand himself and 2) fully understand everything there is to learn about one's enemy. Following the motto--hug your friends but hug your enemies even closer.

I learned as a VN vet student doing my Diplom work at the Free University during my GI Bill days studying PS at the "red" Otto Suhr Institute where they must have been 20 different leftist student organizations---one had to really check his biases at the door and listen. You learned to listen and to defend your positions during heated debates.

When I was doing my MA with BU here in Berlin I had an official card carrying US Communist Party member as a Professor who stated so at the beginning of the course---I do not want you to pander to my views---I want to hear your views and be prepared to defend them-whatever they are---had a great semester with him.

Even had Ulrike Meinhof in one of my classes before she drifted into the BM Gang/Red Army Fraction. Those debates were interesting to listen too and years later I was chasing her/RAF when I was working in Hannover, GE.

One has to build filters in that allows one to filter the words out that make no sense and grab those that have a grain of truth.

Again this article is a great one to read---BUT it did not address what Muguba has done as a leader---that was not what the article was written about.

Let's see if JMA takes the offer and submits an article from his "side".

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 1:00pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

So we should ignore history? We don't understand a lot of things in medicine but we don't stop trying to understand what might help a patient even as we understand that we don't have the basic science tools at the moment to really define a disease process.

We might as well just sit around and drool in our cups then, why bother thinking at all?

The problem with some of the coindinistas is that it was all he said.

They didn't even know she said anything.

So, they missed stuff that could have helped.


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 1:04pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

“Just because something is hard is no excuse for ignorance.”

Truer words were never spoken … but that is just my interpretation of the truth. ;-)

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:55pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

Yes, but the beholder may change his or her mind about the truth based on new information so he said she said isn't nothing.

Haven't well changed our minds about things here based on uncovering some new piece of information?

Just because something is hard is no excuse for ignorance.

The importance of he said she said is not to be an ignorant fool about the world and to know a little something.

How many dumb mistakes have we made on our foreign policy because of the ignorance of some of our politicians and policy makers?

It's also about the process of he said she said, if you take the time to do the intellectual work you realize there are no magic bullets.

It's like doing sit ups mentally. If you don't do it, your mental muscles are flabby.

They certainly were with some coindistas because they didn't understand this part of he said she said.

<blockquote>"I don’t know about any feud," Mr Mugabe told reporters on his return to Harare. "If anything, there was an alliance. We worked very well with him when he came out of prison. We gave him support.

"We established the principle of national reconciliation at independence in 1980; they took it over and used it as a basis to create what they have now as the rainbow nation. There was no feud, where was the feud, what feud?"

He added: "But from our point of view, we have lost a great friend, a revolutionary and a man of real principle. That’s why we went to give him a send-off so that we would be satisfied that the love we had for him, the historical alliance that we created in the fight against imperialism and colonialism, will not have been historically lost by our being absent, and by not really being present to see this great man being given his eternal rest."</blockquote>…

Interesting place, the world.


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:47pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

... and so we are back to the He Said/She Said of history. The facts are there for everyone to see. However TRUTH is in the eye of the beholder. Right and wrong, what worked and what did not, are matters of interpretation, not fact. If you are looking for a definitive answer you may leave disappointed.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:37pm

<blockquote>Ian Smith, the former prime minister of Britain's rebellious colony of Rhodesia, who once promised that white rule in Africa would endure for 1,000 years, died Tuesday in South Africa. He was 88.

The cause was a stroke suffered at a nursing home near Cape Town, said Sam Whaley, a friend and former senator in Smith's Rhodesian Front government.

Smith's resistance to black rule led to a unilateral declaration of independence from Britain in 1965 and, later, severe repression and a seven-year guerrilla war, costing about 30,000 lives, most of them black fighters and civilians....

An urban elite with ties to the regime of President Robert Mugabe prospers while the poor go hungry. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to neighboring African states. Political opposition to Mugabe's regime has been suppressed with the same zeal that Smith himself once displayed in the fight against African nationalist strivings for majority rule.

Zimbabwe's troubles only fed Smith's unwavering white supremacist views, his unshakable belief that Africa without white rule would not work.

"I'm pleasantly surprised at the number of people who come to me and say, 'When you were in the chair, we thought you were too inflexible and unbending; we now see that you were right,' " he said in an interview during a visit to London in 2004.</blockquote>…

Right about what? To think that freedom fighters were thugs doesn't make a certain kind of rule right, it just means man is an incredibly flawed creature and can always f^%k things up even more.

At any rate, if we are to study small wars, how can we forget the context of the time or the idea of the "agency of the insurgency" to use a phrase I picked up in the second party counterinsurgency dissertation posted here? People can't peer into the future. As <strong>Outlaw</strong> says, this is the language of a certain time and place.

We can read about Templer in Malaya or whatever but we can't read this article, as long as we understand the context?

But I don't know this stuff well. Teach me, tell me what I've got wrong.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 1:54pm

In reply to by carl

Carl---was actually fairly reported on both sides---example say if one was attending the Free University you got the standard leftist view of what was going on as that was the trend in the 60/70s, if you saw German TV which was under government sponsorship you tended to get a middle of the road presentation and if you read the newspapers most being conservative you got the Rhodesian government's view.

So you got a little of everything.

What was stunning was usually the film footages coming out of Rhodesia usually from British or German journalists---I had met a German journalist who had served with the French Foreign Legion in SVN and had been captured in the DBP battle in 1954 and who had been in Rhodesia reporting.

He became later one of the leading foreign combat camera reporters during all of the VN war---he once mentioned a sentence that stuck with me when I got to VN and actually saw what was going on.

He stated that what the camera depicts needs no words to explain.

That is the reason I keep saying "listen to the other side regardless of what is being said or how it is being said".

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:46pm

In reply to by carl

Oh, I see. I did misinterpret some of your comments. You and I were looking at this completely differently. Thanks for the clarification. Our brains do work differently :) But I've always been told I'm sort of an oddball :(


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:38pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


No problem at all with the decision to publish. It has value, but not as a piece of history. That is my objection and the point of my criticisms. As history it is "We were good. You were bad. So there!". If the guy wants to write it and publish it, great. But he has no immunity from people ripping his presentation of history apart.

Like I said below, it does have value when viewed as a piece of agiprop and as an example of clever rationalization of great evils done.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:03pm

In reply to by carl

You are actually making the case for publishing this article and for listening to all the narratives in a small war, not just from those that fight it and write memoirs about it or report it and write articles about it.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:15pm

In reply to by carl

Sorry, I interpreted your question in the context of your other comments here, you seem to be more interested in one side of the story too, the atrocities of Mugabe over others but maybe I'm wrong on that.

And we have been involved in the world since our Civil War and have those actions to think about too.

PS: carl, I like you, but you and I have brains that seem to work very differently :) I still don't get how you got to your reply from my comment. At the end of the day, the argument was about white minority rule which this author makes clear despite the more dubious justifications of violence.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:20pm

In reply to by carl

No, no, no, I am not talking about the US, carl, I am talking about the fact that a lot of people here are more likely to read about Templer or Galula or to pay attention to the sorts of small warriors they like and didn't understand the criticism of population centric counterinsurgency. It was based on only half the story.


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)


We fought a great Civil War about white supremacy a long time ago. Not so long ago we went through great upheaval in getting rid of the last vestiges of white supremacy in the US. We got nothin' to apologize for to anybody on those lines.

My question to OUtlaw was a very narrow one.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 12:01pm

In reply to by carl

To play another kind of devil's advocate, are American men and women of a certain age and generation ideologically aligned with idea of certain white rule governments as long as those governments fit into an ideological notion of leftists and rightists, communists and anti-communists, and the nature of contemporary rule in some African nations?

It is very difficult to know "just what happened" in a small war, or, indeed, in any complicated human endeavor. We keep collecting information, studying it, refining it, and moving on as we get more and newer information.

Your points are good ones, but, then, so are everyone else's in this thread.

Shouldn't we question EVERYTHING which is what you and this article are both doing in the realm of information and propaganda?

If we are to learn about small wars, then we need to try our flawed best to understand all of it, your points and outlaw's points and the author's points and so on....

You don't discard information but you can disregard parts of it. If you totally discard it, you lose whatever might be of value, even the part where you understand it should be disregarded.


Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:45am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:

To play the devil's advocate: did the European journalists report more on Rhodesian Army atrocities than guerrilla atrocities because they were ideologically aligned with the guerrillas, because they had more access to areas controlled by the Rhodesian Army rather than other areas or because they were objectively reporting the totality of events on the ground? Until that question is answered I don't think you can much from what they reported.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 9:59am


I had posted this previously and it answers exactly what you are asking---please read it.

Mark/JMA---you said the article was garbage and that it was second rate.

As an American who understands much more about your particular guerrilla war than most Americans I will tell you that far more was reported by European journalists on the atrocities being committed by the Rhodesian Army than from the guerrilla side--and one could during that period of journalism actually state the reporting was extremely accurate.

Brutality is a mark of any guerrilla war and it was committed by both sides. Remember your particular guerrilla war was unwinnable simply because it was a war of independence from White rule where you were the minority of the population which is a really hard one to win--you can and did delay the final end, but at some point the end comes. That is definitely one historical truth---ask the Sunni's in Iraq.

I for one have felt for years Mugabe was worse than Saddam and should have been in front of the Hague for crimes against humanity, but that is a decision for the population of Zimbabwe to make---ie Kenya recently sent charged individuals to the Hague for trial.

You asked earlier why he was writing his article now and twisting the truth---maybe the truth that he writes about is how he sees the research materials available to him---doubt that he was a fighter based on my guessing of his age so he goes on what is available to him or from interviews of former fighters.

That is the problem with researchers---it is hard to filter out one's own ego, one's own biases and beliefs etc. You asked why now---two guesses 1) it has been about 30 years since the events and that is about the right time for researchers to look at an historical event BUT 2) he is writing I am guessing for the current generation of Zimbabweians---he is definitely not writing for you or myself.

If you feel the article misrepresented the facts remember they were the facts from his point of view then write something from your point of view about the war events and submit it.

You might be surprised by the comments.

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 9:50am

Outlaw 09 wrote: 'JMA---this is why this article has a message even if one thinks it is garbage---namely one of violence and information operations by both the insurgent and the counterinsurgent.'

No this article does not.

This garbage is an attempt to white wash the atrocities of one side of and totally demonize the other.

What one does learn from this type of garbage is that one needs to look at studies/theses from second rate universities with a very jaundiced eye. One needs to be critical, one needs to question the assumptions and claims made (as some of the more enlightened around here already have).

My question to you is: what motivated Dzimbanhete to produce this pathetic attempt to white wash the atrocities of the insurgents/terrorists/freedom fighters (take your pick)some 30 years after the end of the war?

Mark Adams

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 9:51am

Carl wrote:

'I can see why JMA is upset with this article.'

Carl, angry, not upset. Not angry at Dzimbanhete as he is without doubt trying ingratiate himself with the Mugabe regime, but angry that publications like the MR and the Journal that publish this type of garbage.

You are correct it is not a study - certainly not worthy of a Phd thesis (other than from a second rate institution).

So maybe the Journal editors can explain how this trash got through what one supposes is a editorial selection process.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 12/13/2013 - 11:19am

In reply to by Mark Adams

I'm glad you replied here in the comments. I understand the intellectual problems with this article and I didn't make that clear in earlier comments on this thread which I should have done initially.

But if the Journal hadn't printed it, we wouldn't be having this larger conversation between commenters here, at the SWC (and inside the heads of lurkers reading).

A significant percentage of lurkers will be young, will not know any of this first hand, and will not understand what to read or how to read it.

As time moves on, all that will be left will be articles like this and articles written from the experiences of someone like you. They will be published somewhere or remain a part of the oral culture of a region. Better to have it published here and discuss the problems vigorously so that a different generation can learn than to pretend such work or attitudes don't exist.

As for useful idiocy, some attitudes expressed in this article find plenty of play in corners of American academia, albeit in a much more subtle form, but someone somewhere is always looking to justify violence, is sympathetic to it, especially if it fits a general narrative of oppressed versus oppressor.

I am sorry, Mark/JMA, that horse left the barn a long time ago.

Better to argue against ideas you thing are wrong than pretend they don't exist or won't find some way out, especially after the fact.

By the way, the very fact that you ask, "why is this being published now," means that even you think there may be some value to this work or the question wouldn't come up. Everything is a piece of information, it just depends on what you do with it.

1. People believe the narratives of this article and it resonates because of the nature of white rule at the time.
2. The regime is aging and Africa itself is in a period of transition.
3. Africa is becoming a great place for outside economic competition between the Chinese and Americans and Europeans, British, etc.
4. Mandela recently passed and Africa is being much discussed in the West very recently.

And so on. I can think of a million more questions along this line, and more specifically related to the contents of the article.

Everything is information. What to do with it is another matter.