“BY revolution, we understand a turning of the wheel.
We want an entirely new society based on no exploitation, true equality and true justice for all.
It is this vision which our people have been fired with … so fired with that vision they have been prepared to take up arms to fight (against) the regime that oppresses them, to establish a new Zimbabwe, a new country, a new justice, a new economic system, a new society.” (Chitepo:1974).
In earlier articles, we have quoted from confessions by former members of Rhodesia’s Special Branch, such as Henry Ellert, which reveal how they used chemical and biological warfare to murder both the masses and the freedom fighters during the armed struggle.
In this article, we examine the use of chemical and biological warfare by Rhodesians on the people of Zimbabwe.
Comrade Muchemwa (2015) provides details of Rhodesia’s use of cyanide to poison injectables such as anti-biotics and vitamins, contaminating clothing, especially underwear, using organophosphates as well as thallium (the most lethal chemical agent) to poison tinned foods and bottles with wooden corks, using syringes with fine needles.
On taking in food contaminated with thallium, “…many comrades either died on the spot, or found themselves with severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and later developed severe alopecia and sudden greying of hair. Severe peripheral neuropathy was often the end result.” (Muchemwa: 2015)
In the Chimoio attack of November 23 1977, Rhodesians used chemical warfare extensively.
“In the nearly destroyed medical stores which was full of a variety of useful drugs, from anti-biotics to vitamins, SAS medics had deliberately injected a variety of highly toxic substances, into the penicillin and B-complex vials. This resulted in the death of three ZANLA combatants from contaminated vials of penicillin and B-complex,” Muchemwa explains.
Cdes Muchemwa and Sydney Sekeramayi tested one of the vials of B-complex on a monkey and it died frothing at the mouth seconds after it had been injected at the shoulder with only 0,5 ml of B-complex, which prognosis is typical of cyanide poisoning.
Not even children were spared the scourge of chemical warfare. Lisbet Munyarari, then a young girl at Chindunduma School at Chimoio, describes her ordeal during the Chimoio massacre of November 23 1977:
“My name is Lisbet Munyarari, I came here in 1976. It was 23 November at Chimoio, early in the morning, when the racist forces attacked our camp, that was the HQ, early in the morning I was going to school, I was having a bath, at that time, I shivered and my hair stood on end, I thought that there is something wrong, then I and Grace went outside, when we went outside we saw the mirage jets, helicopters bombing, everything was in flames, around the camp, I had to run away, some of my beloved friends whom I was with in the bathroom they all died, the bathroom was bombed, I saw it in flames, I had to run away, I ran, when I ran, I fell down, when I fell down I had to roll in the napalm which was being splashed by the jets, a young kid came by my side, he rolled, he was burnt all over, he said comrade don’t take me, I am already dying, you run away for your life.” (I Can Hear Zimbabwe Calling:1980)
Rhodesians were trigger happy, equally they had no qualms about using chemical weapons.
In September 1968, a member of the South African Police ( SAP) was killed in a joint operation of the ANC and ZIPRA in the Zambezi Valley. In retaliation, “…the Rhodesian air force were summoned and Provost T-52s of the 6 Squadron dropped napalm and white phosphorus bombs.” (Ellert:1989).
This not only affected the targeted guerillas but also the flora and fauna, water sources and any other human beings who would be exposed to these dangerous contaminants.
Rhodesians also used chemical defoliants to clear bush from mine-fields, fully aware that this would poison flaura and fauna as well as humans.
In 1974, at the Mukumbura PV, there were a number of mysterious deaths which medical experts believed were a result of eating vegetables contaminated with chemical defoliants.
This was not of concern to Rhodesians; they called it collateral damage, or victims caught in crossfire — just a statistic.
Rhodesians knew no ethics, no morality; nothing was off limits, they would do anything to retain Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and all its wealth exclusively for themselves.
The ideal they sought was the elimination of the whole of Zimbabwe’s population — genocide, nothing less!
Rhodesia’s Secretary for Law and Order, Peter Claypole, underlined this murderous position at the pass-out parade of young policemen on July 29 1976 when he put it very bluntly: Officers were “…not to be squeamish in departing from the niceties of established procedure which were appropriate for more normal times.”
In this context, chemical and biological warfare was one of Rhodesia’s last ditch efforts to turn the tide of the liberation war which was irrevocably progressing towards victory for the people of Zimbabwe.
There were no laws here; the end justified any means they could conceive.