The Civil War in Rhodesia (1965 - 1979): the phase of guerrilla warfare and the rise of Mugabe

(To Manuele Serventi Merlo)

After the first skirmishes in the 1965, the fight between the parties came alive in April 1966, when strong guerrillas groups began to infiltrate Rhodesian territory from their shelters in Zambia and Mozambique. This resulted in very strong fire clashes with regular troops following which Rhodesian soldiers set up elastic defense lines in the Zambesi and Kariba Lake areas. Through these lines of defense, assisted by fortified fields, he was able to intercept and put out many rebellious fighting in the face of very small losses.

Nevertheless, guerrillas "stinging sticks" stopped only on December 21 of the 1972 when they attacked Swing farm in Centenary District and other nearby agricultural centers. To these attacks, very aggressive, they answered i SAS Rhodesians with a raid in Mozambique with the approval of Lisbon. It was the first of several other similar actions concluded in general with satisfactory results. Meanwhile, the armed forces had now completely mobilized, thanks also to the call of the reservists. Thus was launched theHurricane operation, aimed at mopping up and reclaiming the entire territory of Rhodesia from the presence of the guerrillas. For this purpose, the country was divided into different geographical areas to give greater clarity to counter-guerrilla actions. Through these moves, the conflict now seemed a step away from a positive conclusion for the local government. However, in the 1973-1974, there was a decisive turning point. The black guerrilla became better organized and equipped thanks to the fact that Portugal, after the "Revolution of red carnations"Of the 1975, had begun to give up on the rebels of the Frelimo. For Salisbury - the then capital of Rhodesia, today Harare - meant now having to control 800 miles of border with Mozambique, which had just become independent. Despite this, however, the troops under Smith did not give up, and indeed, continued operations. New operations Search and Destroy they were put in place with an active collaboration between earth and sky, under the constant threat of missiles SA-7 Strela fresh supply of guerrilla.

The 2 May of 1976 was thus launched a vast counteroffensive to disarticulate the guerrillas with valid results, also useful for internal propaganda purposes. But the really big blow the Rhodesian soldiers got it with theOperation Eland, conducted by Selous Scouts. 72 soldiers from that department managed to penetrate Mozambique, pushing to the Nyadzonya camp, where they were accosted about 4000 rebels. Wearing Soviet-cut uniforms, their faces and arms blackened by carbon black, the Rhodesian soldiers managed to penetrate the rebel camp. Taking advantage of a concomitant military parade, the attack was launched that provided the guerrillas with very large losses estimated at least 1000 dead, suffering just injured 7. After the action, i Selous Scouts they returned in good order among their lines. Furious at the blow immediately, the guerrillas responded immediately: the 7 September of the same year, with the use of explosives, they collapsed the railway bridge over the Matetsi river, destroying also a convoy passing over it.

Another offensive took the 3 of the 1977 April, organized by the General Peter Wallis. Target of the action was once again a logistic base of the guerrilla located in Mozambique. To be precise, the field in question was located at Mapai and was controlled by him Zanla. Military 500 and a paratroopers rate launched by C-47 e DC-4, supported by Skymaster (photo), were used for the operation. The attack was a complete success: at least 72 were the confirmed deaths among the ranks of the rebels Zanla, against only a Rhodesian fallen.

The story, however, provoked tough positions by the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union at the UN. After the next operation Dingo, consisting of an attack of 3 days conducted by various weapons against the fields of Chimoio e Tembue in Mozambique, in which also several leading cadres of the Zanla, the guerrilla had to give up. This lasted at least until the next May 1978 when, at a trespassing of 450 militia of the Zanla, followed a heavy retaliation air attack conducted by Canberra, in close collaboration with the Hunter, against other fields in Mozambique and in Zambia.

As the war progressed, the Rhodesian military was increasingly resorting to airborne vehicles, relying on its absolute superiority in this sector. But two serious events wavered this conviction. The 3 of the 1978 August and the 12 of the 1979 February zipra led two terrorist attacks by destroying with missiles SA-7 civil aircraft of the type Vickers Viscount. All the crew members and passengers died, but the real purpose of the whole operation, namely the assassination of General Wallis - commander of the armed forces - and his family, was not achieved because fortunately they were not on those aircraft the day of the attacks. However, even these attacks undermined the Rhodesian strategy based on the intense use of the aerial vehicle both for raiding and counterattack operations, but on the other hand the guerrillas never ceased to respond blow by blow, with increasingly violent and ferocious attacks.

Meanwhile, the embargo to which Rhodesia was subjected since independence, became more and more tightly compromising the already shaky economic situation. This contributed to a serious crisis in the Salisbury government, forcing the Rhodesians to the negotiating table with the "more moderate" black formations. The result of these negotiations, concluded in March 1978, was to rename the country Zimbabwe - Rhodesia and to launch future multiparty elections. Elections from which the bishop came out victorious Abel Muzorewa, who became thus the black prime minister in the country's history.

Thus, the political bases for overcoming the 'apartheid, though the activity of the most extremist and Marxist Black Guerrilla never ceased completely, and indeed increased its activity and consistency. Given the situation, a peace conference was set up by the governments of the United States and Great Britain that they held Lancaster House at the end of the 1979. In it it was established that new elections would be held in the country, to which the leaders of the Zapu and Zanu. To oversee the proper conduct of these elections would be a small contingent of observers formed by Commonwealth. The results of these new elections saw the victory of Robert Mugabe, candidate of the Patriotic Front, in which the two formations that had led the guerrillas were merged.

It was the 1980: the Rhodesian Civil War had come to an end, the president-dictator began Mugabe (photo).

Also read: "The Civil War in Rhodesia (1965 - 1979): Historical Premises and Armaments Involved"

(images: web)