Turning point in liberation war


THE evil propaganda that was put out by Rhodies always said the Rhodesian army was very smart, had the best soldiers in the world, were enough to do the job and these were never defeated in all encounters with freedom fighters.
In this article as we celebrate our hard-won independence, we are going to show that from 1976 on, the Rhodies became under-staffed, their soldiers were no more of high quality, with standards slipping fast and they began to lose numerous encounters with ZANLA forces on the battlefield.
With the failure of Détente (an effort by imperialists to cheat ZANLA of their victory later), the conflict resumed.
ZANLA was now well established in Mozambique.
ZANLA opened up three more sectors, in the Manica Province namely Tangwena, Munhumutapa and Musikavanhu.
In February 1976, the Rhodesian ‘Operation Thrasher’ started and in May 1976 ‘Operation Repulse’ began.
We therefore saw ZANLA usurping positions of authority and command
The effect of the flooding of Zimbabwe by ZANLA was that the Rhodies became terribly stretched.
What then were they going to do?
They decided to intensify conscription of youngsters and later mercenaries.
The story of an intake named ‘150’ shows how bad the situation in Rhodesia had become.
Prior to this intake, as our source says, the majority of those recruited were regular volunteers who were older and more mature than the youngsters who were taken in intake 150.
“Intake 150 changed all that had been happening in the past as the majority were 18-year-old white national servicemen (many of whom simply did not want to be there),” said the source.
“Considerably outnumbering the old soldiers when they arrived in the commandos, they were greeted with suspicion, acrimony and resentment and in many cases victimised mercilessly… effectively cannon fodder.”
The so-called great Rhodesian army was now being manned by kids and those poor kids were being treated like dirt.
How on earth could this army be referred to as the best in the world then?
However, the major reason these kids had to be in the army was as we have already touched above – ZANLA’s covering almost the whole country, a development that caused the Rhodesian army to be thinly spread on the ground.
“The ZANLA summer offensive of 1976 which saw thousands of guerillas infiltrating the country along the freshly opened fronts of the eastern border with Mozambique forced the Rhodesian High Command to churn out the numbers in ‘sausage machine’ mode to combat the threat.
I know of several recruits in ‘150’ who, for medical reasons, should not have even been in the army.
Recruit Kevin Rhodes is such a case.
He was blind in his left eye but somehow this had been overlooked during his medical (examination).
He was critically wounded during his first bush trip in the Mt Darwin area in 1976 – he hadn’t seen a guerilla in ambush on his left flank,” said the source.
Yes with the flooding of the country by ZANLA in 1976, the Rhodesian army was shown to be a little army that was going to drown sooner or later in the ZANLA great flood.
One of the problems associated with the massive recruitment of the white kids was training.
Rhodesian propaganda always said Rhodesian soldiers were professionals who were highly trained while freedom fighters were wrongly referred to as poorly-trained.
However, the truth on the ground, especially from 1976, was totally different.
Alarming were the national servicemen in the Rhodesian Light Infantry who became Training Troop instructors from 1978/79 onward who were referred to as the ‘jam-stealers’.
Having done their basic training, they would immediately undergo a drill and weapons course which qualified them to instruct new recruits in the art of counter insurgency warfare.
With zero combat experience, those instructors comprised the majority of Training Troop instructors.
It is little wonder the army suffered increased casualty rates in the last two years of the decade.
And don’t forget those heavy casualties were caused by ZANLA. Therefore, contrary to their propaganda, the Rhodesian soldiers were not as professionally trained as they claimed.
Then there was another empty claim that the Rhodesian army was a well-oiled machine with its members getting along nicely.
After 1976 when the Rhodies were forced to fight all over the country by ZANLA, they had no choice besides recruiting high school kids and importing mercenaries from all over the world to bolster their army.
And so the mercenaries came in a flood.
“Former American green berets, British paras, Green jackets, Royal marines, SAS, Grenadier Guards, Aussie and Kiwi Vietnam veterans. These foreigners brought with them their weird languages and cultures.”
It is said fights were pretty common between locals and foreigners. One of the main reasons for the fights was over black women.
The foreigners liked black women badly while the locals, brought up under an apartheid type of education, were not allowed to touch white women.
Therefore when the mercenaries brought black women, fights broke out.
And so the story that the Rhodesian army was one happy family was false, especially after 1976 with the coming of the mercenaries.
We end our look at the watershed year 1976 by highlighting an encounter between the Rhodies and ZANLA, where the Rhodies lost dismally.
This is to show that from 1976 on, ZANLA began to win numerous victories against the enemy until final victory in 1979.
Here then is that encounter.
“On February 28 1976, a composite troop of 18 members of One Commando commenced a follow-up at 0800hours at the eastern point of hills called Chibata in the operational areas.
Corporal Cookson and Hoskin were tracking.
One Smith later joined them.
Around lunchtime, the trackers split in two.
Cookson and Hosking went on one set of spoor and Smith on the other. Hoskin and Cookson eventually relocated the main spoor and called Smith to join them.
At 1430 hours, the troops, with the trackers ahead of them, walked into a ZANLA ambush.
In the initial burst of enemy fire Dong Coolson was killed and Dave Hoskin seriously wounded.
One Lt Paul Morpuss was also wounded.
A sweep was organised and further five contacts ensued lasting until darkness fell.
During these contacts, Sergeant White BCR, Trooper Diedricks and Smith, the tracker, were killed.
Troopers Dipenaar and Wilkinson were also wounded.”
Fantastic fight ZANLA!
There is no doubt about it.
The year 1976 will go down in the annals of the Second Chimurenga history as the turning point in the entire liberation war.
From that year on, the Rhodesian army quite dramatically began to go on the back foot.
They continued to backpedal blindly under incessant freedom-fighter onslaught until they inevitably fell into the cesspool of defeat in 1979, which event led to our independence in 1980.
Congratulations maZimbabwe for winning the war and attaining independence on April 18 1980!



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