Black and White or 'How to lose a War'
The White Regime and the Problem of Insurgency – Rhodesia 1965 to 1979
I have spent much time over the past year thinking about insurgency and counter-insurgency, mainly with respect to the long war in Malaya between 1948 and 1960. Some of you will have heard me speak on this topic at various gatherings, and I’ve largely finished a short manuscript on the subject. I regard Malaya to be a very successful ‘win’ for law and order, civil society and the path towards independence.
During this time I’ve been challenged by a friend to think about the issue of counter-insurgency in Rhodesia. He holds to the view that the white majority regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia successfully achieved a stalemate of sorts by virtue of the application of superior counter-insurgency technique in their war against Marxist-inspired guerrillas, only to be ultimately undone by an international consensus against it.
I have come to the conclusion that the argument simply does not hold water. In fact, I am of the view that the enormous odds eventually stacked against the Smith regime were a direct consequence of the regime’s poor approach to the problems facing it, in particular an inadequate appreciation of the nature of the insurgency itself and a misguided approach by it’s armed forces. Rhodesian defeat by 1979 was largely an own goal.
Until the mid-1970s the odds were strongly in Rhodesia's favour in terms of political and civilian resolve, military resourcefulness and battlefield success. This advantage was overturned thereafter, however, as the guerrilla effort shifted to concentrate heavily upon the politicisation of the black African population. Had the Rhodesians recognised this change, and adapted their approach accordingly, a significantly different result would have been achieved. Instead, the Rhodesian approach to the insurgency, which concentrated almost exclusively upon the violent symptoms of the conflict and made little effort to redress the insurgent's political grievances, itself contributed to the overwhelming odds that eventually brought about the Lancaster House settlement of December 1979.
White Rhodesia faced significant odds between 1965 and 1980. The first was that the black African population overwhelmingly, one which would conceivably be supportive of the insurgents, dominated the tiny white minority.[i] This was not necessarily a hindrance to government efforts to counter guerrilla activity. Few blacks in fact supported the concept of armed insurgency during the first decade of the war and initial guerrilla politicisation met with widespread indifference. The government, however, misinterpreted this as a sign that the blacks were innately apolitical and that no effort was required to continue either to persuade this vast majority to desist from supporting the guerrillas or to support the government. Consequently the Rhodesian government made little visible effort either to remove the grievances which underpinned the nationalist cause, or to provide any compelling reasons for the black population to side with the government. What is also clearly evident is that the repressive and punitive policies of the government actively encouraged blacks, albeit unwittingly, to transfer their allegiance, over time, to the insurgent movement.[ii]
Second, the white Rhodesian regime was publicly opposed by almost the full extent of the international community, some members of which, of course, were more vociferous in their opposition to Salisbury than others. The so-called 'five front line states' of Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi became the central focus for African opposition to Rhodesia. Mozambique[iii] and Zambia, in particular, acted as the principal bases for guerrilla operations against Rhodesia. By 1976 Rhodesian counter-insurgency operations were directly targeting guerrilla activities in these countries increasingly successfully, but even without such activities the war in Rhodesia acted to cause enormous disruption – economic, societal, political and military – to these states. In 1977 the five front line states declared their full and unqualified support for the Patriotic Front,[iv] an action which endorsed the guerrilla-led armed struggle rather than the Smith-led attempt to organise an 'internal settlement' within Rhodesia by integrating moderate blacks into the government.[v]
A sixth 'front-line' state was South Africa. Although South Africa and Rhodesia ostensibly had much in common South Africa was eventually to play an important part in Rhodesia's demise. Ironically, Rhodesia's policy of 'unofficial' apartheid was potentially destabilising to South Africa which, under its premier John Vorster, increasingly sought détente with its black neighbours. D. Martin and P. Johnson agree that 'The main danger for South Africa was no longer the disappearance of white rule but its persistence in hopeless circumstances and the manner of its eventual undoing. Smith was no longer a shield [to South Africa] but an Achilles heel.'[vi] Much more preferable to Pretoria, notes P.L. Moorecraft, was 'a moderate and pliant black regime to replace Smith... [because] a long war in Rhodesia would produce a hard-line Marxist regime inimical to South Africa.'[vii] Vorster forced an unwilling Rhodesia into a period of short-lived détente from December 1974 and abortive talks at the Victoria Falls in September 1975.[viii] In 1976 Vorster halted military aid to Smith's regime after Rhodesia had ignored his demands not to conduct further attacks into Mozambique. Under enormous pressure from Vorster, Smith publicly conceded the principle of majority rule on 24 September 1976.[ix]
Within the wider international community opposition to Rhodesia was evident from both states and non-state actors, such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Organisation of African Unity and the World Council of Churches. In the UN the Third World lobby was particularly strong and maintained a vociferous campaign against Rhodesia. The UN supervised sanctions against Rhodesia but these were mostly a farce and as a consequence contributed to the complacency of the white regime.[x] In practical terms both China and the Warsaw Pact provided the bulk of guerrilla arms and training.[xi] The UK, as former colonial power, had been summarily rejected by the government of the white minority by dint of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) of 1965, because it feared (correctly) that the UK’s plans for decolonisation were based upon majority rule, a concept that was anathema to the majority of white opinion-makers in Rhodesia.[xii] While the UK consistently refused to use force to bring about a transition from white rule to majority rule in Rhodesia it nevertheless refused to recognise or publicly support the white regime until it made a commitment to majority rule.
The Rhodesian Government's Approach to Insurgency
How did the Rhodesian government approach counter-insurgency? It’s approach was coloured by white racial attitudes to the black African majority. Rhodesia after UDI has been described as a 'white island' with a communal white psyche that was wrapped up in notions of patrician benevolence to the blacks with the top-down transmission of Western civilisation to supposedly grateful natives at the bottom of the social pecking order. An over-weening culture of white arrogance permeated most of white society in Rhodesia, Moorecraft talking of 'an assertive white nationalism that believed its rule would last 1000 years.'[xiv] As misplaced as these notions were they persisted in persuading the majority of whites until the very last that their regime would be inevitably victorious.[xv] The armed forces reflected these attitudes in their dealings with the black African population.[xvi]
Despite this culturally evangelising mission, the regime was fundamentally discriminatory against the black majority.[xvii] It was unashamedly determined to maintain white political supremacy at any cost and steadfastly refused to countenance any move towards a political rapprochement with black Africans, despite rhetoric to the contrary in the late 1970s.[xviii] Moorecraft argues that the white regime was wholly racist, the initial aim of the war being the prevention of 'power passing to any black government, no matter how moderate.'[xix] 'At root' Cilliers argues, 'white Rhodesians were circumvented by their own political creed.'[xx]
The ultimate consequences of this creed were themselves to increase the odds against Rhodesia's survival. The widespread belief that the blacks had no aspirations to nationhood and were not politically motivated was a wholly spurious notion which acted to blind the white regime for much of the civil war to the true nature of the campaign being waged against it by the insurgents. The ostrich-like underestimation of black African aspirations and the patience of the black population in general in achieving them, together with a general black African reluctance to stand-up to what can only be described as white bullying, gave rise to the equally dangerous idea among whites that 'blacks only understand force',[xxi] a belief that led naturally to the proposition that the insurgency was simply a military problem.
Second, the Rhodesian government misconceived insurgency to be communist-inspired and part of a larger Soviet plot to take over the horn of Africa rather than an outpouring of nationalist sentiment.[xxii] The government reflected the erroneous but popular white view 'that the threat facing Rhodesia was an external one rather than that of black nationalism within their own borders.'[xxiii]
This belief was part of a wider failure to appreciate that at root the insurgency was political, and thus that the problem was not the military threat per se but that the majority of the population would eventually be persuaded to support the guerrillas.[xxiv] There was, therefore, no recognition of the imperative to politicise the black African population, or at the very least, to counter the promises made by the insurgents.[xxv] Considerable effort, for example, was expended to prevent guerrilla infiltration into Rhodesia from neighbouring black states by means of cordon sanitaires along border areas without recognising that even if the border could be hermetically sealed it would not prevent the gradual politicisation of the black African population by other means.[xxvi]
The white government refused to recognise the reality that the only possible solution to armed rebellion was the political enfranchisement of the black community. Half-hearted measures to increase black political representation made in 1978 under the internal settlement arrangement with Bishop Muzorewa were themselves prompted more by international pressure, particularly from South Africa, than by any political determination by the white regime to relax its attitude to black enfranchisement. Recognition that the war was based on a demand for political representation would have been tantamount to political suicide for Smith because white supremacy and majority rule were entirely incompatible in the Rhodesian context.[xxvii]
This was a particularly significant failure after 1972. This year saw the re-emergence of guerrilla activity after a lull of three or four years after the failure of the first abortive guerrilla campaign. Early guerrilla operations were based on the belief that the business of winning the people to the nationalist cause, and then of defeating the government, would not be difficult.[xxviii] This, however, proved not to be the case, particularly 'against highly trained, mobile troops backed by total air supremacy.'[xxix] Consequently a new strategy, at least within ZANLA, was to politicise the black population following the Maoist doctrine of protracted revolutionary war.[xxx] This factor went unperceived by the Rhodesian regime who regarded the earlier campaign in the late 1960s to be a complete victory and who, initially, 'did not realise that they were fighting a new and determined force of guerrillas, whose priority was to mobilise the people politically rather than to confront the security forces militarily.'[xxxi]
Few attempts were made by the Rhodesians to undermine the new ZANLA approach, a strategy that ultimately paid rich dividends for the guerrillas.[xxxii] Martin and Johnson argue that 'Once the ground work had been laid among a generally receptive population [in the north east of Rhodesia] the Rhodesians were never able to uproot or contain it.'[xxxiii] Moorecraft agrees, arguing that in the long term (1977-80) it was the protracted nature of the war which 'engulfed the whole country and [destroyed] the Rhodesian government's resolve to fight on.'[xxxiv] Constant bickering between the various insurgent groups and the internecine warfare that often raged between them did not help in removing the Rhodesian's contempt for the military proficiency of their enemy[xxxv] but allowed them to ignore the vast gains in popular support being made by the insurgents throughout rural Rhodesia.
Third, the Rhodesian government persisted throughout the war in treating insurgents as criminals[xxxvi] and applying harsh punitive measures against people suspected of involvement in guerrilla activities, an approach which had the effect of quickly alienating the majority of poor rural blacks.[xxxvii] Moorecraft argues that this attitude 'preserved the fiction that the government was waging a campaign against violent criminal elements rather than an incipient civil war, but despite its political usefulness this attitude ignored the realities of the conflict.'[xxxviii]
Fourth, the government failed to offer the blacks an alternative to second-class status, political disenfranchisement, social alienation and economic poverty. In particular, the Rhodesian approach to anti-guerrilla operations failed to bring the rural tribes peoples any material advantages in exchange for supporting the government. The only substantive policy seemed to be punishment for aiding the guerrillas.[xxxix] For example, the policy of creating Protected Villages (PVs), modelled on the successful 'New Villages' scheme adopted in Malaya, were actually counter-productive in Rhodesia. Communities were unsympathetically moved from traditional grazing lands, herded together into indifferent communities, often in deplorable living conditions and very often poorly protected, simply to make the task of the armed forces in locating and killing guerrillas easier.[xl] It was hardly surprising that many became highly successful breeding grounds for guerrilla recruits.[xli]
Unlike Malaya, the Rhodesian government failed to develop a coherent national strategy, which might have included political, economic, societal and military components, to counter the insurgency from the beginning, or even to recognise that such an approach might be desirable.[xlii] Tactical success on the battlefield, in particular in the years preceding 1974, allowed the Rhodesians to become complacent about the threat facing them in the long term.[xliii] Such success had the negative effect of strengthening 'the impression amongst Rhodesians that military action, to the exclusion of political and other non-military action, would be sufficient to destroy the insurgent threat' precisely the idea that my friend had come to believe.[xliv] Furthermore, Rhodesia's policies indicated an attitude that subversion could be kept from the black African population by barriers and cordon sanitaires, an attitude which Cilliers castigates as providing 'clearest witness to a lack of a coherent national strategy to counter the insurgency.'[xlv]
The Rhodesian military’s single greatest deficiency was to regard counter-insurgency as only a tactical – rather than a strategic or political – activity. The Rhodesians employed all the tools of successful operations, based largely on the British Army's experience in Malaya, in which some Rhodesian units contributed, without recognising the causes of that success.[xlvi] As Moorecraft asserts, 'the Rhodesian obsession with successful tactics created a fatal blindness to the strategic imperatives of a protracted revolutionary war such as the guerrillas were waging'[xlvii] which led them to deal only with its symptoms and not with its causes.
The most dominant feature of this approach was to regard counter-insurgency simply to be the business of killing guerrillas, an activity in which the side that could kill the most would win. 'Body counts' and 'kill ratios' became an obsession that closely mirrored US action in Vietnam.[xlviii] This attitude, however, acted to blind the military to the harsh reality that the numbers of guerrillas killed had no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of the war. The crucial test was the political loyalty of the mass of the population and in this the Rhodesians failed utterly.[xlix] In a war where the real battle was for the political support of the black African population the 'best counter-insurgency troops in the world'[l] were of no avail.[li]
The emphasis on the attrition of the insurgents produced significant extra consequences of the military’s prosecution of the war. The first was that the imperatives to kill insurgents threw overboard the principle of minimum force, which was a central pillar in British operations in Malaya.[lii] Second, highly successful tactical procedures such as the use of so-called 'Pseudo Gangs' failed to be effective in the long-term because the 'population inevitably became the battleground.'[liii] Third, counter-insurgency tactics acted to reinforce white racial attitudes to blacks. Black lives were thus cheaper than white ones, and 'hearts and minds' imperatives and psychological operations activities were weakened as a consequence.[liv]
For all the military’s impressive technical and tactical prowess, however, command and control arrangements remained remarkably immature throughout the insurgency.[lv] During the period 1964-1968 guerrilla activity was, in the main, countered by the police and the same procedures were revived when insurgency broke out again in 1972. No thorough-going appreciation of the military command and control arrangements for conducting counter-insurgency was carried out: the result was that the armed forces was racked with fundamental problems.[lvi] Fractious liaison existed between the highest military command element and the government, much of which was bound up with Smith's own personality and his determination to retain personal control of operations.[lvii] The central apparatus of government was poorly organised to conduct the business of countering the insurgency[lviii] and the senior military command element was itself badly organised and divided. The reorganisation of the civil military interface at governmental level in 1976, and the structure of military command in 1977, failed to iron out the considerable deficiencies evident in the coordination of the war.[lix]
Because no clear and distinct delineation of responsibilities had been made at the highest levels considerable friction existed between the police and the army as the escalation of the war led to the replacement of police personnel by soldiers within the Joint Operational Committees (JOCs) set up in various areas to deal with the insurgency.[lx] There was also endemic and debilitating rivalry between the different branches and units of the armed forces and police, a rivalry that had disastrous consequences for the collection and coordination of intelligence.
Success in counter-insurgency rests on the necessity for governments and their armed forces to develop positive and progressive policies and procedures across the whole spectrum of action, with the sole purpose of nullifying the impact of the guerrilla message on their target population. The primary focus must be political action rather than military activity, because insurgency is first and foremost a political business. In fact, there appears to be no evidence that counter-insurgency can be won by a government by the use of military action alone. The Rhodesians, however, placed virtually their entire effort on the physical elimination of insurgents: any political action was half-hearted and foisted upon the largely unwilling white regime by outside pressure. Rhodesia's counter-insurgency technique – both political and military – was poorly judged for the war it was fighting and itself created the odds that ultimately militated against the survival of the Smith regime.
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Some recommended books
1. P.L. Moorecraft and P. McLaughlin Chimurenga! (Sygma/Collins, Marshalltown, 1982).
2. J.K. Cilliers Counter-Insurgency in Rhodesia (London; Crook Helm, 1985).
3. D. Martin and P. Johnson The Struggle for Zimbabwe (Harare: Faber and Faber, 1981).
4. D. Caute Under the Skin: The Death of White Rhodesia (London; Penguin, 1983).
5. N. Bhebe and T. Ranger (eds.) Soldiers in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (London; James Currey, 1995).
[i] In 1978 the population totalled 6.9 million, of whom only 260,000 were white.
[ii] J.K. Cilliers argues that the repressive and indifferent policies of the white regime to its black subjects, acted to force many of them into the arms of the insurgents, or at the very least made them receptive to their propaganda. J.K. Cilliers Counter-Insurgency in Rhodesia (London; Crook Helm, 1985), p. 16. 'By a determined refusal to effect any transfer of real power, and an inflexible assertion of white minority rule, the government of Ian Smith alienated the black majority, driving the populace to the expedience of communist subversion.' Ibid., p. 253.
[iii] The collapse of Portuguese rule in Mozambique in 1974-75 transformed the situation in Rhodesia by dealing strategic and psychological blows to the white Rhodesian regime. It also provided considerable heart to the nationalist cause in Rhodesia because it showed that guerrilla pressure, although not necessarily resulting in battlefield victories, could nevertheless finally succeed in overthrowing a 'colonial' regime. In March 1976 Mozambique closed its borders to Rhodesia, making it completely dependent upon the routes to South Africa. By this time Machel and FRELIMO had consolidated his hold on Mozambique and were totally backing ZANLA. D. Martin and P. Johnson The Struggle for Zimbabwe (Harare: Faber and Faber, 1981), p. 116.
[iv] A politically expedient amalgam of ZAPU and ZANU elements forced together by Zambia's President Kaunda prior to the Geneva talks in late 1976.
[v] 'Internal Settlement' was signed in March 1978 but was rejected by the Patriotic Front and the 'new' state of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia was not recognised by the international community. Cilliers, op.cit., p. 44.
[vi] Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 16.
[vii] P.L. Moorecraft and P. McLaughlin Chimurenga! (Sygma/Collins, Marshalltown, 1982), p. 30. Moorecraft believes that 'John Vorster undermined Rhodesia almost as much as the combined efforts of the insurgents and the OAU did.' Ibid., p. 27. By 1976 Vorster was particularly concerned lest a widening of the war brought in the 20,000 Cuban troops known to be stationed in Angola. Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 34.
[viii] Détente, forced upon Rhodesia by South Africa, had two detrimental effects to Rhodesian COIN. The first was that it gave ZANLA and FRELIMO time to recover and consolidate their forces without active Rhodesian interference. Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 30. The second was that it 'had the effect of convincing the local population that the guerrillas had won a victory similar to the one which the cease-fire had brought FRELIMO in Mozambique.' Cilliers, op.cit., p. 24.
[ix] Moorecraft argues that Vorster gave Smith the ultimatum: 'agree to majority rule or we will cut off your supplies.' Ibid., p. 36. Crucially, however, Smith did not define the term 'majority rule'. What is clear is that he did not mean 'one man, one vote.'
[x] Moorecraft argues that the oil price rises in the 1970s hurt Rhodesia far more than sanctions, which were 'riddled with hypocrisy and deliberate contravention...' Ibid., p. 162.
[xi] The Chinese supported ZANLA, the WTO and Cubans supported ZIPRA. 'The entire Eastern Bloc, and virtually all Third World nations and their propaganda machines, strongly supported the guerrillas cause.' Ibid., p. 89.
[xii] UDI was a political 'own goal' for Smith of gigantic proportions because it signalled utter political failure in its consideration of the black African majority within its borders, it cut off links with the West, forced the nationalists into the Eastern Bloc and Chinese camps, and dried up potential investment and foreign support, all for the sake of 'an illusory freedom of political action...' Ibid., p. 16.
[xiiv] Moorecraft., p. 24. This included the widespread white belief that the majority of blacks were 'loyal' to the white regime and grateful for the white civilising presence.
[xiv] Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 95.
[xv] Cilliers, op.cit., p. 168.
[xvi] But despite white claims to the contrary black Africans were not universally well treated or well paid, nor did they unquestioningly support the government. Martin and Johnson claim that the government body which tended to provide Smith with political and military advice with regard to the black population- the Ministry of Internal Affairs- was also the government body least well-informed about black African affairs. Martin and Johnson, op.cit., pp. 7-8.
[xvii] Ibid., p. 12.
[xviii] Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 67.
[xix] Cilliers, op.cit., p. 253.
[xx] Ibid., p. 169.
[xxi] Moorecraft argues that 'it was a chronic misperception of the Rhodesian forces that they saw the guerrillas as Marxist agents of eastern-bloc imperialism rather than armed black nationalists who had become beholden to the eastern bloc because the Western powers rejected their demands for arms. Socialist revolutionary ideology was a convenient vehicle... for their specific objectives and organisation.' Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 67. See also p. 78.
[xxii] Cilliers, op.cit., p. 243.
[xxiiii] Ibid., p. 61.
[xxiv] Not all Rhodesians ignored the power that politicisation of the masses would give the guerrillas, but those, like the maverick MP Allan Savory, who advocated such an approach, did not receive a hearing in the government. Savory argued that the guerrillas 'only require the mass of the population to be passive. We, to win, require the mass of the population to be actively in support of us and not passive. We are at a severe disadvantage here.' Quoted in Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 29.
[xxv] Consequently, Cilliers asserts that the cordon sanitaire policy 'provides clear evidence of the lack of a clear and coherent military strategy at the national level.' Cilliers, op.cit., 115. Furthermore, the Rhodesians persisted in pouring money into a scheme that was clearly 'ineffective at an early stage.' Ibid., p. 117.
[xxvi] The very nature of the white Rhodesian state prevented the adoption of radical political change to meet the aspirations of the black majority. Moorecraft argues that UDI in 1965 'was an unintentional declaration of civil war' because it made inevitable a conflict between the divergent political and societal aspirations of black and white. Moorecraft, op. cit., p. 16.
[xxvii] Cilliers, op.cit., p. 6.
[xxviii] Ibid., p. 20.
[xxix] Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 11-13.
[xxx] Ibid., p. 74.
[xxxi] Moorecraft states that up to 80% of the guerrillas time 'was spent in mobilising the masses.' Moorecraft, op.cit., pp. 127-130.
[xxxii] Ibid., p. 114. Cilliers also notes in this regard that as a consequence of ZANLA politicisation in the northeast the local population very quickly came to provide solid support for the insurgents. Cilliers, op.cit., pp. 12-14.
[xxxxiii] Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 39.
[xxxiv] Ibid., pp. 22- 23, 76-77. See also Cilliers op.cit., pp. 25-26. The most significant difference was that between ZAPU/ZIPRA and ZANU/ZANLA. The former, dominated by the Ndebele people of Western Rhodesia, operated out of Zambia and Botswana, was supported by the USSR and the Eastern Bloc and was dominated by Soviet theories of war, in particular by the dominance of heavy weaponry and conventional military operations. It sought the build-up of military might with which to confront the Rhodesians in a conventional war. ZANLA, by contrast, recruited primarily from the Shona people of Eastern Rhodesia and largely operated out of Mozambique. ZANLA'S operating principle, after 1972, was the Maoist notion of protracted revolutionary war, and in particular the winning over of the mass of the population to the guerrilla cause. See I.F.W. Beckett The Rhodesian Army: Counter-Insurgency, 1972-1979 in I.F.W. Beckett and J. Pimlott Armed Forces and Modern Counter-Insurgency (London; Crook Helm, 1985), pp. 168-169. ZANLA were largely dependent upon Chinese military training and aid.
[xxxv] The insurgents were regarded as 'terrorists' by the Rhodesian regime, an emotive term reflective of the overall failure of Rhodesians generally to recognise the war to be a political one requiring a political solution. Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 96.
[xxxvi] For example, the 'Law and Order Maintenance Act (1960), 'which gave the government sweeping powers for the control of political opposition and laid down draconian penalties for politically motivated crimes... symbolised white determination to resist African political aspirations.' Moorecraft, op.cit., pp. 13-14. Likewise the 'Indemnity and Compensation Act (1975)' placed the law firmly on the side of the SF. The central principle in British COIN of the inviolability of the rule of law was thus overturned. See Martin and Johnson, op.cit., pp. 103-4.
[xxxvii] Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 40. Until the late 1970s most whites regarded the guerrillas to be 'some sort of communist-inspired gang of stateless criminals...' Ibid., p. 67.
[xxxviii] In a telling expression of Rhodesia's treatment of its black subjects Moorecraft comments that 'The Rhodesians, like the Americans in Vietnam, forgot that hearts and minds also live in bodies.' Ibid., p. 30.
[xxxix] Ibid., p. 28. Begun in 1974 about 240,000 black Africans had been moved into PVs by 1976. Cilliers suggests that the total number of people moved into PVs totalled 750,000 by 1978, when 234 PVs had been planned or built. Cilliers, op.cit., p. 17. See also Beckett, op.cit., p. 180.
[xl] Surprisingly the bulk of the black population came to be regarded as potential terrorists and treated remarkably callously, in terms that were evocative of American treatment of civilians in Vietnam. Black Africans in the Tribal Trust Lands (TTLs) in the later stages of the insurgency were regarded as sympathisers of the guerrillas and thus 'fair game' to aggressive military action. Moorecraft asserts that by 1979 the SF had given up the idea of holding territory against the pressure of overwhelming guerrilla influence amongst the rural black population, and concentrated upon what they did best, namely 'killing guerrillas and controlling the African population.' Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 65.
[xli] Martin and Johnson, op.cit., p. 98.
[xlii] In statistic terms at least Moorecraft suggests that the 'short-tern gains [of SF activity] looked impressive. By the end of 1974 Rhodesian intelligence estimated that only 70 to 100 hard-core guerrillas remained operative inside the country.' Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 30.
[xliii] Cilliers, op.cit., p. 9.
[xliv] Ibid., p. 20.
[xlv] A squadron of the Rhodesian SAS, commanded by Peter Walls, served in Malaya late on in the insurgency. When later commanding the Rhodesian COIN campaign Walls employed the language of British COIN theory, in particular regarding the need to view insurgency as not simply a military problem, but he failed to provide any real evidence that he was aware of the ramifications of his argument. Whilst the British military in Malaya between 1948 and 1960 developed highly successful anti-guerrilla tactics it was not these which defeated the insurgency. The single most important factor lay in the political field, in particular in providing Malayans (in particular the settler Chinese), who would have been most likely to support the guerrillas, with the answers to their political grievances, namely the promise of independence and political enfranchisement. The military campaign proved to be vital in removing the threat of terror from the population but it was always, or at least after 1951, regarded as an adjunct to the political campaign.
[xlvi] Moorecraft writes that 'The armed forces of Rhodesia won virtually every battle and skirmish they ever fought... yet they lost the war.' Further, 'The story of the Rhodesian armed forces during the civil war is one of tactical brilliance and strategic ineptitude...' Few assessments of the SF's attitude to COIN can be more incisive. Moorecraft, op. cit., p. 40. Furthermore the SF were fatally unpolitical in their approach, a 'crippling deficiency' in the Rhodesian understanding of the war. Ibid., pp. 66-67.
[xlvii] '... Kill rates became the barometer of Security Force effectiveness...' Marston, op.cit., p. 26. See also Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 65.
[xviii] Moorecraft, op. cit., p. 138.
[xlix] Quoted in Marston, op.cit., p. 26.
[l] Cilliers argues persuasively that casualty figures 'are not a sure indication either of success or failure in a counter insurgency campaign...although numerous insurgents were killed ...the SF failed to gain any permanent hold over rural areas.' Cilliers, op.cit., p. 132.
[li] In Malaya, for example, the principle 'enabled the government to bring non-lethal pressure to bear on the inhabitants and to gather the kind of intelligence that would lead the security forces directly to the insurgents.' Thomas Mockaitis British Counterinsurgency, 1919-1960 (London; MacMillan, 1990), p. 145.
[lii] 68% of insurgent fatalities inside Rhodesia were attributed, by 1978, to the Selous Scouts, who perfected the use of Kitson-type 'counter gangs' to impersonate guerrillas in tribal areas. Cilliers, op.cit., p. 132.
[liii] An organisation called the 'Sheppard Group' had attempted to use psychological tools in a campaign to 'sell' the PV concept to blacks in 1973-74 but the bulk of its ideas were rejected in the face of opposition from the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Information. An army psychological ops unit was established in July 1977 but immediately encountered hostility from the police special branch and senior military commanders. The government in 1979 established a Directorate of Psychological warfare but it too, proved ineffectual. Beckett, op.cit., p. 181. Moorecraft notes that Rhodesian 'Hearts and Minds' initiatives failed because they did not include political reform to increase black African participation in politics. Moorecraft, op.cit., p. 65. Cilliers argues convincingly that Rhodesian psychological operations failed because they 'were aimed at convincing the blacks to support the white regime instead of attempting to change white racial views as a prelude to any such support.' Cilliers, op.cit., p. 40. Interestingly, the guerrillas proved to be far more adept at psychological warfare than the SF, so much so that Moorecraft argues that 'Ultimately it was on the propaganda fronts, both internal and international, that the guerrillas created the conditions of their victory.' See Moorecraft, op.cit., pp. 86-89. A significant element of the guerrilla's psychological warfare strategy was to undermine white morale and persuade them to give up what appeared to be an increasingly unequal struggle. Arguably it was in this area that the guerrillas were ultimately most successful. Cilliers, op.cit., p. 30.
[liv] Beckett, op. cit., p. 176.
[lv] Ibid., pp. 171-173.
[lvi] Cilliers, op.cit., pp. 71-72.
[lvii] Ibid., p. 66.
[lviii] Ibid., 68-71. In 1977 a central co-ordinating authority was established called Comops. But Comops never enjoyed effective control over organisations that were crucial in mounting a coordinated attack on guerrilla support, such as the Ministry of Internal affairs and Justice. Serious deficiencies in the Comops organisation were never rectified. Comops became entangled in the day-to-day conduct of the war rather than in planning long-term strategy. Additionally, whilst the Comops commander, Lt Gen Walls, had command of all offensive and special forces and external operations, his personal rival, Lt Gen Hickman, the Army commander, commanded only black troops and white territorials. The 'de facto' army commander was therefore the brigadier Comops. Cilliers, op.cit., 74.
[lix] JOCs typically consisted of representatives from the military, police and civil affairs.
Smith was a decent man who fought for Britain in WW2 as a pilot (and suffered burns to his face). He was also a farmer and was more reasonable than many in his Rhodesian Front Party. But he (and his government) were overtaken by events which they really should have foreseen. Many white Rhodesians felt betrayed by Harold Wilson and the British Government because of the significant Rhodesian contribution to Britain during WW2 - and found it hard to accept the "Winds of Change" which Harold Macmillan had forecast.
Thank you Rob. A tragic consequence of the Smith regime's self belief in their cause was the almost inevitable eventual election of Mugabe rather than a more moderate African leader. Life in Zimbabwe is now much worse than ever. Hindsight is easy but there was just a chance of a peaceful transition to a multi-racial black majority government until the Rhodesian Front (led by Smith) governed what was Rhodesia and attitudes became polarised. It is very sad that so many people of all races in Zimbabwe were killed during the conflict. There has been an exodus of talent (both black and white) from the country since it ended. The Rhodesian Army was reckoned to be extraordinarily capable but its professionalism was not matched by the political leadership.