Reliving Operation Dingo: Part Two…..ZANLA’s great fight with limited resources

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LAST week we saw the embarrassing riches the Rhodies had by way of lethal weapons which they employed during the air raid at Chimoio.
Countless jet bombers they had – the Canberra bombers were capable of carrying nuclear bombs.
They had numerous helicopters fitted with devastating 20mm cannons.
They had another squadron of helicopters on standby back in Zimbabwe at a lake outside Mutare called Alexander.
Then there were many transport planes called ‘Dakotas’ that ferried paratroopers who were dropped around the huge Chimoio ZANLA camp where they lay in ambush to kill escaping ZANLA freedom fighters after the camp had been decimated by the jet bombers.
There were also numerous ground troops.
There was no doubt the entire Rhodesian army had come to take part in the Chimoio massacre.
This week we are looking at the actual massacre whereby ZANLA was caught unawares.
Rhodies completely surprised ZANLA by violating international boundaries.
All along ZANLA thought Rhodies would not illegally cross the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border and attack them in Mozambique.
ZANLA was also far less-resourced than the Rhodies.
Where the Rhodies brought the entire Rhodesian Airforce, ZANLA did not have the adequate anti-aircraft guns needed to meet the Rhodesian challenge.
However, despite the above shortcomings, because of ZANLA forces’ great courage and the numerous small arms they had, they fought a memorable battle which greatly surprised the Rhodies who had thought they were going for a joyride into Chimoio.
It is therefore important to clarify that Chimoio was not like Nyadzonia where the Rhodies simply massacred innocent unarmed refugees at a massive parade ground without being challenged.
Chimoio, despite the big ZANLA losses, was a battle as we see below where ZANLA acquitted themselves well.
The way the Rhodesians conducted the Chimoio massacre is outlined below.
First, they used the jet bombers to bomb the ZANLA freedom fighters assembled at parade grounds, or still in their barracks.
This first phase of bombing was followed by helicopter gunships which shot at the ZANLA fighters fleeing from the bombed parade grounds and elsewhere.
The third phase involved the Dakota planes that dropped paratroopers who thereafter set up ambushes ready to mow down the ZANLA fighters running away from the helicopters.
The entire Chimoio attack was commanded by General Peter Walls, the Rhodesian army supremo at the time, from a Dakota plane which hovered above.
On the ground, however, the attack was commanded from a helicopter by commanders of lower rank.
At the edge of the area was set up a Rhodesian administration base from where helicopters refuelled and fresh ammunition supplies could be obtained.
Once the attack had begun and ZANLA realised what the Rhodesian plan was, they took the helicopters head-on, especially with their heavy 14,5mm anti-aircraft gun which was at the headquarters of Chimoio ZANLA Camp.
Small arms and bazookas joined the fray to the surprise of the Rhodies.
The Rhodesians themselves tell us the unpleasant encounter they met at Chimoio.
“K-cars – helicopters, arriving to refuel and re-arm (at the admin base) reported that they were having a tough time with high volumes of small arms, anti-aircraft gunfire and more targets than they could handle.”
An interesting story is told of the numerous times that the command helicopter was now-and-again disabled by the intense ZANLA fire resulting in it being replaced only for the new one to be disabled again-and-again.
This went on throughout the day as narrated by one Rhodie: “Brian Rodinson (who commanded from the helicopter) had only just began to give orders when his command helicopter was hit, forcing him to clear to the admin base.
One of the trooper helicopters took serious hits that rendered it unfit to fly even for a one-time flight to Rhodesia.
I inspected the command helicopter and one other damaged helicopter.
There was no hope of switching the complex radio system on the command aircraft and so was grounded.
The other helicopter had its ‘tail’ cut off completely.”
It is important to note that a second command helicopter which Brian Robson had taken back to the battle was again disabled by great ZANLA fire and brought back to the admin base.
Another interesting story involved a Rhodesian veteran pilot who was assigned to hit a base camp called Percy Ntini which housed ZANLA freedom fighters that had been injured in the battlefield and were recuperating.
The Rhodie veteran thought he was going to have it easy, wiping out all the ZANLA injured fighters in the base camp.
He had a rude awakening as noted below.
“Flight Lt Mark Mclean (the Rhodie veteran) had been allocated a satellite target (Percy Ntini base camp).
He was met with a lot of anti-aircraft fire there.
He got a graze and large swelling above his right eye which bore witness to how close he had come to death from a vertical bullet strike that had torn a section out of his protective helmet.
As with Mark’s aircraft, every other K- car – helicopter had taken many small and large calibre strikes (from ZANLA fighters).”
Besides helicopters having a torrid time, other Rhodesian aircraft were not spared.
“Some anti-aircraft guns took on the slow-flying Dakotas as they passed in extended line disgorging troops.
One of the vampires was crippled by ground fire and its pilot was killed.”
On top of the helicopters and other aircraft which had suffered a lot during the attack, Rhodesian ground forces were also killed.
Rhodies, having discovered that they had got more than what they had bargained for decided to end the attack with a real war crime of horrendous proportions.
There was a camp called Osibisa where women stayed.
A section of the Rhodesian paratroopers got there and committed a satanic war crime.
One of the Rhodies tells us the story.
“There was a crude brick building in which were housed a series of latrines.
An enclosed passage ran down the length of the latrines and at the end was a wooden door.
The door was closed and so it was a fair guess that people were hiding in the passageway and possibly in the latrines.
A female guerilla fighter suddenly stood up from nowhere, her arms raised above her head.
‘Surrender! Surrender! she begged hysterically, but one of the men shot her through the head.
Then that man crouched over his Mag-Nato – medium machine gun and emptied belt after belt into the wooden door.
There were people in that building.
They were women and children.
They came out of the building – living and dead, wailing, crying screaming for mercy.
The area around the doorway was a mass of heaving blooded dismembered humanity.
A few desperate and wounded survivors, some of the mothers managed to drag themselves to the gunner and clung imploringly around his legs.
But their pleas for mercy went unheeded as the gunner shot them at his feet.”
The then wife to the then secretary-general of ZANU Edgar Tekere, one Anne Mujeni, confirmed the above murder after the war.
She had survived by hiding deep inside a pit latrine when the above murder took place.
It is pleasing to note that in less than a month, ZANLA had come back to Chimoio Camp at Takawira Base Two and resumed their training programme.
Whenever we remember Operation Dingo, let us not be distracted by the murders that were committed by the Rhodies.
We must always remember with great pride the great fight that was put up by ZANLA with limited resources against the ‘mighty’ Rhodesian Airforce.

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