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Former Rhodesian soldiers release videos showing raids on guerrilla camps

by Thabo Kunene
12 May 2015 at 15:21hrs | Views
Photo sowing the aftermath of the bombings at Freedom Camp. Zapu officials are seen collecting the bodies of the victims for burial.

Pretoria - Some former members of the Rhodesian special forces who took part in daring cross border raids on guerrilla camps in Zambia and Mozambique towards the end of the liberation war have released controversial videos showing carnage and destruction after the bombings.

The videos do not show any resistance by the guerrillas - a clear indication that the raids took them by surprise and were unprepared to face highly trained Rhodesian forces comprising the dreaded Selous Scouts, Special Air Services (SAS) and para-troopers from the Rhodesian Light Infantry(RLI).

Some of the images have been posted on video sharing channel, YouTube. According to one source, the former Rhodesian soldiers have kept the more sensitive images of the raids to themselves fearing backlash as some of them showed dead refugees who included women and children.

Some Zimbabweans have criticized the former soldiers for posting the videos on the internet saying they are insensitive to the families of those who died in the bombings.

Raids into Zipra camps in Zambia were carried out by specialized Rhodesian military units led by the notorious Green Leader, real name Chris Dixon, who openly ordered the Zambian airforce not to interfere with their operations or face similar action.

If the Zambian airforce intervened, warned Green Leader, they would be wiped off the skies. In one video, Greeen Leader can be heard on his radio communicating with the Zambian airport tower and airforce base commander: "This is Green Leader of the Rhodesian military. We request your permission to attack Rhodesian terrorist bases on your territory."

"You are not the enemy, I repeat, the Zambian government and its people are not the enemy. We are simply targeting Rhodesian terrorists."

In a shocking response, the Zambian base commander communicating with Green Leader agrees to keep his Soviet supplied MIG Fighter planes on the ground.

The Rhodesians had told him they would not hesitate to shoot the Zambian fighter planes down if they tried to intervene to protect Zipra camps. I listened to the voice of some of the soldiers conducting the raids.

One of the soldiers is heard speaking to the pilot: "Can't you see those fucking terrorists are running away. Shoot them."

The main targets of the Rhodesian raids were Freedom and Mkushi camps where the raiders dropped para-troopers to finish off the wounded on the ground. The raids on the two camps took place in October 1978.

On that same day the Rhodesians dispatched a six men CIO hit squad led by former British Special Air Services(SAS) man, Taffy and Chuck Hind with orders to kill Nkomo at his Zimbabwe House headquarters. The house was bombed to rubble but Nkomo survived.

Taffy was the same CIO assassin who almost killed Robert Mugabe while attending the Lancaster House talks in 1979. The order to kill Mugabe was called off at the last minute without an explanation.

Most of the Zipra guards at the Zimbabwe House were reportedly killed but Nkomo escaped, because, says one former member of the raiding team, he was tipped off by a British mole within the Rhodesian secret service.

Nkomo surfaced later and told Journalists that he escaped through the toilet window when the bombing started. But a black member of the Selous Scouts told his boss, Ron Reid Dally that it would have been  impossible for the Rhodesians to kill Nkomo.

In his book about the Selous Scout war, Reid Daly says he asked the black soldier why Nkomo was hard to kill. The black soldier claimed that the Zapu leader was protected by his mysterious stick-induku which, according to the black Selous Scout member, was smeared with powerful muti from some tribes in East Africa during one of Nkomo's visits in the 60s.

The stick, said the black soldier,vibrated when danger was looming for Nkomo. That would give him the chance to escape.

 A survivor of the raid on Mkushi told the Times of Zambia, "I saw the soldiers being dropped off from planes. They were shooting anything that moved including our chickens donated by locals. Many died from cluster bomb attack while other wounded refugees were shot while pleading for their lives."

Testimonies of the survivors of Mkushi camp forced the UN security council to issue a communiqué condemning the Rhodesians. Most of the recruits who died on that day had just arrived in Zambia from home via Botswana. They were on standby to be transferred to Zipra camps in Angola.

The airbourne and ground assault was more devastating at Freedom Camp where the Rhodesians claimed they killed more than 1500 Zipra personel and their Cuban instructors. The figure was however disputed by some military historians such as author, Paul Moorcraft. Moorcraft who also served in the military said Nkomo's strong 10 000 force appeared intact on the outskirts of Lusaka.

He claimed most of the dead at the camp were refugees. This was also confirmed by the Red Cross and the United Nations. One of those who survived the raids and attack on Nkomo's headquarters was Zephaniah Nkomo of Mafela Trust.

Other Zipra survivors were Longman Ndebele and Chris Moyo. Two recruits from my village in Tsholotsho, Newboy Dlamini and Bernard Ncube were also among those who survived the bombings at Freedom Camp but they still bear the scars of the cluster bombs.

The dead were buried in mass graves. In 2009 survivors of the Zipra camps raids visited the sites. They cried as they remembered their fallen comrades. The raids on the two camps were ordered by the Rhodesian military high command as retaliation following the shooting down of the Rhodesian Viscount Plane-Hunyani  by a Zipra patrol near Kariba in September 1978.

What enraged the white community was Zipra's killing of 10 of the 18 survivors.

The massacre of the surviving passengers by Zipra guerrillas was a barbaric act which violated the Geneva Convention on the rules of war. The guerrillas knew the survivors were civilians not military personnel and should have spared their lives.

The killing of the survivors filled the white community with revulsion. The commanders called for revenge and for Nkomo's head. Operation Gatling-to attack guerrilla bases in Zambia,was put into motion in Salisbury after a meeting of the Rhodesian High Command.

Writing in their Facebook page,former members of the RLI said the Freedom Camp raid was 'payback time' for the shooting down of flight 825.Speaking on Rhodesian TV, some of the survivors said they saw the guerrillas bayoneting to death fellow survivors as they scrambled to safety from the wreckage of the doomed flight 825.

But while the Rhodesians were still mourning the victims of the crash, Bulawayo clarevoyant, Scotsman Bill MacLeod shook the foundations of the military when he predicted that Zipra would shoot down another Viscount.

The CIO arrested MacLeod and accused him of being a Zapu sympathizer. But his prediction came true in 1979 when another Air Rhodesia Viscount-Munyati was brought down from the skies by Zipra using the same Sam-7 strela 2 surface to air missile killing everyone on board.

Zipra also used the same missiles on military Dakota planes but,although damaged,they all landed safely. South African friends of Rhodesia offered a reward of R100 000 to anyone who would kill Nkomo or bring him to Salisbury to be tried.

The whites have never forgiven Zipra, Zapu and Nkomo for the downing of the two civilian planes. MacLeod, described by most whites as a doomsday prophet, became popular with his accurate annual predictions.

In February 2013 outspoken Britain's Labour Party parliamentarian, Kate Hoey put forward a motion to memorialize the victims of the doomed Rhodesian Viscount planes. The memorial was later erected on the grounds of the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria in 2012 amid protests from Zimbabwe government and Zapu officials who included Dumiso Dabengwa.

The names of all the dead passengers and crew are engraved on two granite slabs at the monument. The raids, according to some witnesses prompted Zipra commanders to request the Zambian authorities to allow them to conduct their own patrols and surveillance around Lusaka because, they claimed, it had become clear that the Zambians lacked combat experience and were incapable of defending their own country against Rhodesian forces.

The Central Intelligence Organisation,in charge of Rhodesia's external operations and 'dirty tricks' campaign, warned that the presence of Zapu's regular army trained by Russians and Cubans was a real security threat to the Zambian government.

The Rhodesian propaganda almost worked as some Zambians began to question their government's continued assistance to liberation movements from Southern Africa that included the ANC, Zapu and Swapo of Namibia.

The Rhodesians had hoped that president Kenneth Kaunda would kick Zapu out of his country after he did the same with Zanu following the assassination of its war time leader, Herbert Chitepo.

The expulsion of Zanu from Zambia stopped Zanla military operations for 18 months as the party struggled to find new bases for its guerrillas until the Organisation of African Unity(OAU)-now African Union, approached the leader of the newly independent Mozambique, Samora Machel who reluctantly agreed to accommodate Zanu.

When the war ended the former Rhodesians took all the war records including those containing details of the raids on guerrilla camps. They wanted to prevent classified files, documents and war documentaries from falling into the hands of the new black rulers from Zanu-PF.

Thabo Kunene is a freelance Journalist and a former news presenter at Radio Vop. In the 80s he covered wars in Mozambique and Angola and has reported extensively about the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Source - Thabo Kunene