Rhodesian atrocities from the horse’s mouth

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LAST week I looked at the ugly side of the liberation struggle where thousands of innocent people were massacred and dumped in mass graves around the country by Rhodesian forces as it became inevitable they were losing the war.
The victims were villagers and supporters of black nationalists who were killed more than 24 years ago by special forces units such as the Selous Scouts of the former white minority regime.
This week I look at some crude admissions made by the Smith regime that they were entirely responsible for the deaths of thousands of Zimbabweans now lying in some of the 218 mass graves around the country.
In postings on various websites and books, some former Rhodesian soldiers continue to make shocking admissions on how they massacred innocent people during the liberation struggle and some accounts are too graphic.
Poisons were often introduced by the Rhodesians and enemy agents into both refugee and military camps.
Many people died from poison soaked into jeans and t-shirts which caused bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears and it was later discovered there was a unit experimenting with poison in Salisbury (now Harare) and that tests were conducted on captured guerillas at Mount Darwin and elsewhere with an unknown number of causalities.
Perhaps that explains the 72 mass graves in Mashonaland Central.
Questions were also being raised by some missionaries and a large section of the African population about the conduct of the Rhodesian forces in a number of incidences where people were being killed, including the murder of four Dominican nuns and three Jesuit priests at St Paul’s Mission near Musami, some 50km north-east of Harare.
A priest left alive in the incident, Father Myerscough, who did not speak Shona, said he heard the killers talking and he claimed they were guerillas.
However, ballistic experts produced guns they said had fired the bullets found at the scene, which was not surprising since there was mounting evidence that it was a Selous Scouts ‘pseudo gang’ operation .
A Special Branch officer later confirmed this after independence and so did an initially incredulous inspector in the police who had asked questions of some of his colleagues.
A student at the mission school said she had known guerillas because she and her classmates knew all the boys in the area.
The guerillas normally gave three warnings and then addressed a mass meeting before punishing sellouts and none of these things had occurred.
A deserter from the Rhodesian Army, Gordon Thomas Wood, told a British newspaper that it was in the interest of the Rhodesians that missionaries should be stopped from helping blacks.
It was common knowledge that the Selous Scouts had gone in and wiped them out at Musami.
He produced his army boots, the soles of which matched the footprints of the killers as shown in the press photographs.
Wood had spent seven months in the army and said he left because of his atrocities.
He said he had killed 16 people.
“One soldier called me a murderer for shooting two black men who turned out not to have weapons,” said Wood.
“But they were out during curfew and you can’t say ‘excuse me do you have a gun or grenade?’
“You shoot first and ask questions if you want to continue living.
“Even so, it’s all wrong.
“Dozens of innocent people are knocked off during curfew hours.
“The army puts it to ‘terrorists’ running away.”
Another British mercenary, trooper Tony Rogersson, spoke of the psychological effect of the war.
The Smith regime always denied it recruited mercenaries and argued that all soldiers were signed on at regular pay.
In his diary Rogersson expressed the hope that he does not become like the callous soldiers who enjoyed killing innocent black people.
He spoke of a mercenary who collected ears from dead guerillas, of another who posed holding severed heads and a third who gouged out a captured guerilla’s eyes during interrogation.
A particularly brutal massacre later in the war at the Elim Pentecostal Mission in the eastern border area was never solved.
More than 30 missionaries and a number of villagers were killed in cold blood throughout the war.
However, considering the vast number of remote mission stations deep in operational zones, the casualties were few.
Many missionaries supplied guerillas with food, medicine and medical care and were generally sympathetic.
“Can we assume it was the guerillas who killed them?” asked the Catholic Bishop of Umtali (Mutare) Donald Lamont, who expressed his doubts by recounting an incident that occurred to one of his priests.
“I had a visit from one of my African clergy who reported he was terrorised by white members of the Security Forces and they said to him: “You had better watch out.
“One dead missionary is as good as 100 dead terrorists to us.”
Bishop Lamont said his life had been threatened once to his face and frequently by telephone and letters.
“I would say this, that if it were the object of the guerillas to kill missionaries, there should not be one of us alive,” he said. He was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to report the presence of guerillas and was later deported and stripped of his citizenship.
Several other missionaries whom the regime described as Marxist were expelled or imprisoned.
A priest on a remote mission outside Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) said in 1980 that law and order had improved considerably in the area during the years since the guerillas had moved in and he described them as a well disciplined group who were very popular among the people.
The murders and killings were not recorded in history books as the whites ensured that their tracks were covered, but because of their obsession with Zimbabwe, they are now spilling the beans, providing us with an opportunity to see what they did to our people.

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