ALL-OUT WAR 1977-1979 I

The Green Leader raid was part of the Rhodesian strategy of cross-border raids which began in earnest in mid-1977. After the debacle at Geneva, the Rhodesian government concentrated on finding an ‘internal solution’ to the war. Pretoria would continue to provide the arms to attack guerrilla camps in Mozambique and Zambia, and later Angola. This would ‘buy time’ to negotiate with moderate black leaders, who would be suitably awed by the still vigorous white military power. Such was the thinking in Salisbury. It meant that the Anglo-American proposals of September 1977, touted by Andrew Young, the American ambassador to the UN, and Dr David Owen, the British foreign secretary, were doomed.

The Patriotic Front was neither awed nor keen to negotiate an end to the war. By April 1977 the Rhodesian government conceded that about 2,350 guerrillas were active in the four operational areas: 500 in Hurricane, 1,000 in Thrasher, 650 in Repulse and 200 in Tangent. New operational areas were opened in central Rhodesia (Grapple), the Salisbury area (Salops) and Lake Kariba (Splinter). As the numbers of guerrillas increased, so did the extent of the penetration and disruption of the government infrastructure. Schools, clinics and mission stations were forcibly closed. In the south-east in May 1977 the government admitted that 22,000 tribesmen in four administrative areas had refused to pay their taxes. All over the country African councils in the rural areas could not function; local council buildings were looted and burnt. Stock theft and attacks on white farms mounted. In August 1977, the rail line to Sinoia was sabotaged on the outskirts of Salisbury. The most devastating guerrilla attack in 1977 was the bomb planted on 7 August at a Woolworth store in Salisbury: 11 people were killed and more than 70 injured. Nearly all the casualties were black. ZIPRA infiltration increased across the Botswana border; the new tempo of Nkomo’s effort brought a massive upswing in recruits, many of them schoolchildren, who crossed clandestinely into Botswana. They were then flown to Zambia for training.

Also, ZANLA raids grew more daring. On 18 December at 10.45 pm about 60 ZANLA guerrillas attacked the Grand Reef security force base near Umtali. The troops were watching a film show in the canteen. The show came to an end as rockets crashed on to the area. The guerrillas had seen one RLI unit leave, but they had not noticed the arrival of another RLI Fire Force which returned fire. The guerrillas then disappeared into the night, after killing one African and injuring six whites at the base. A vociferous section of the RF demanded total war on the guerrillas: it wanted a full-scale call-up and urged that, while a large regular army was being created, the security forces should destroy all guerrilla bases in the frontline states. Some hardliners in the RF hatched a plan to appoint a military junta under General Walls, after putting Smith under house arrest. Later 12 RF members, nicknamed the ‘dirty dozen’, hived off from the ruling party to form the Rhodesia Action Party. (They were all defeated in the August 1977 general election.) But the dissident RF men had a point: the Rhodesian effort was poorly organised. A new War Council was set up to co-ordinate the various ministries directly involved in the war; it also included the service chiefs. A National Manpower Board was established to oversee white conscription. The most important development was the creation of a Combined Operations centre (ComOps) in March 1977 which took over the role of the OCC and the National JOC. ComOps now co-ordinated the activities of the various Joint Operations Commands which remained the HQs of the respective operational areas. ComOps was thus the national JOC for day-to-day administration and also a think-tank for long-range strategic planning. It was headed by Lieutenant General Peter Walls, the Rhodesian-born, Sandhurst-trained, SAS commander and former OC of the Rhodesian Army. There was some canvassing for Air Marshal ‘Mick’ McLaren, the former air chief, to become the ComOps supremo. McLaren was considered by some to be a more capable commander than Walls; in the end the army, as the larger organization, had more ‘pull’ and McLaren was made Walls’s deputy. Both men were due to retire from the armed forces, but the government was thus able to retain their expertise.

ComOps HQ was appropriately situated in Milton Buildings next to the prime minister’s office in central Salisbury. By late 1979 the political-military balance had swung heavily towards Walls. By then, real power in Rhodesia lay in the hands of Walls, not Smith or Muzorewa. Ken Flower, a small, wily Cornishman who headed the CIO, also wielded tremendous power behind the scenes. By this time Smith and Walls were hardly on speaking terms because of disagreements over strategy. Both men were strong-minded and Smith found it easier to get on with Walls’s deputy, Mick McLaren. The two ex-airmen spent hours talking about aircraft, often of the World War Two variety. (After the Rhodesian war ended, Walls was asked why he hadn’t persuaded Smith of the importance of providing a political strategy for the war. Walls maintained that as a ‘simple soldier’ he was not in a position to dominate the political leadership, especially a stubborn man like Smith. Bearing in mind the position of the army in the last stages of the war and Walls’s personal influence, it is difficult to accept Walls’s conventional interpretation of civil-military relations. Perhaps Walls, a former member of the Black Watch, had fully imbibed the Sandhurst principles. The strain between the two men did not develop into a total rift. After Walls’s exile to South Africa, Smith continued to recommend that visitors to Johannesburg should look up his former military chief.)

Besides changes at the top, in April 1977–despite an outcry from the business community–conscription was extended to the 38 to 50 age group and exemptions were severely reduced. The maximum call-up for those under 38 was increased to 190 days a year; those older than 50 were asked to volunteer for police duties. In September the government encouraged national servicemen to stay on for another year by offering Rh$100 a month bonus. The bottom of the barrel was being scraped; the only alternative was to boost the number of black soldiers. Black doctors had already been drafted and apprentices were next on the list, but large-scale black conscription was unnecessary as hundreds of volunteers flocked every month to join the Rhodesian African Rifles. The RAR was augmented with a third and a projected fourth battalion. In addition, the PV programme was stepped up. In June 1977, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 145 PVs and 40 consolidated villages had been completed; another 32 PVs were scheduled for construction by the end of the year. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission asserted, however, that 203 PVs had been erected and that, in August 1977, 580,832 people were living ‘behind the wire’, often in squalor. Dawn-to-dusk curfews had been imposed on most TTLs and ‘no go’ areas had been extended along the Botswana and Mozambique borders. The government was trying to pull out all the stops. As Roger Hawkins, the minister of Combined Operations, put it: ‘Until now it has been accepted as basically a police operation with military support against criminals. Now it is to be a military operation, mainly by the army, with police support.’

Hawkins also admitted that ‘our greatest problem before was lack of decision’. Decisions were now made. The most significant was to escalate the cross-border raids. ComOps personnel had been impressed by the various film versions of the Entebbe raid; in particular, they wanted to experiment with a Dakota fitted out with communications equipment to act as the ‘command module’ of future raids. And the SAS were arguing for a ‘1,000-kill’ raid. In May 1977, Mapai, about 95 km from the Mozambique-Rhodesia border, was captured by security forces. It was not a successful raid. In spite of the scale of the operation, only 32 guerrillas were killed, although large quantities of equipment were seized. But a Rhodesian Dakota was shot down and the pilot killed at the Mapai airstrip. The raid was prolonged to three days to salvage the plane. ComOps privately blamed the military failure on a tip-off; politically the Mapai raid was a disaster. An irate Vorster phoned Smith to tell him to pull out his troops. Pretoria was still not convinced of the validity of Smith’s plan to bomb his way into a constitutional settlement. South Africa did not want an endless war; it was looking to its own military needs (in November 1977 the UN imposed a mandatory arms embargo on the apartheid state).

But then South Africa changed tack. For a number of political reasons, including the need to project a tough image to sidestep the HNP challenge in the November elections, the National Party government began to support the internal settlement plan in Rhodesia. Bishop Muzorewa’s UANC looked like going along with Smith; so did Ndabaningi Sithole’s wing of ZANU. On 25 September 1977 Smith had flown to see Kaunda in Lusaka to encourage the old warrior Nkomo to return. With his options widening, Smith had in effect rejected the Anglo-American settlement by late September. The Rhodesian government particularly loathed the idea of integrating the guerrilla armies with the Rhodesian security forces during a transition period monitored by a British Resident Commissioner (Field Marshal Lord Carver) and a UN-appointed military supremo (General Prem Chand). Perhaps a show of force before negotiating with Muzorewa and Sithole would work. And this time Pretoria nodded its assent. (On most occasions, until the last few months of the war, the Rhodesians did not consult Pretoria officially in case it disapproved. Salisbury wanted to avoid having to disregard South African advice, though the SADF liaison officers in Salisbury co-ordinated any military support required.)

On 23 November the Rhodesians launched their biggest operation to date. The Rhodesian army, with a crucial SAS core, hit the ZANLA HQ near Chimoio, about 90 km inside Mozambique (roughly opposite Umtali). Three days later a second assault wave overcame Tembue in Tete province (220 km from the Rhodesian border). The double assault, codenamed Operation Dingo, were classic examples of vertical envelopments. At Chimoio 97 SAS and 48 RLI parachutists landed on two sides of the base, while 40 heliborne RLI troops were dropped on the third side. The fourth side of the trap was, in theory, to be sealed by fire from K-cars, after the initial bombing strikes. Chimoio was estimated to hold at least 9,000 ZANLA and Tembue 4,000. Practically the entire air force (42 helicopters, eight Hunters, six Vampires, three Canberras, six Dakotas and 12 Lynx aircraft) was deployed for air strikes and to transport 185 Rhodesian troops. It was almost impossible to air-transport more than 200 troops at one time. Normally, a 3:1 superiority is required for attacking an entrenched enemy; the Rhodesian attackers were massively outnumbered. The element of surprise and air power were supposed to fill the gap. During the first phase of Operation Dingo, ComOps claimed that the Rhodesians had killed more than 1,200 guerrillas. According to ZANU sources, the guerrilla figures were much higher; probably nearer 2,000, many of them women and children. The Chimoio complex contained schools and hospitals, as well as military training sections. On 25 November a ground and air attack hit Tembue. A Hunter dropped flechette antipersonnel darts for the first time in the war. It hit the parade ground, but a hangover had prevented the ZANLA commander summoning his men that day. A personal inspection of the killing ground by the RAF’s Peter Petter-Bowyer had left him in no doubt of his invention’s potential. ComOps had vetoed their use at Chimoio because an international outcry would have followed the inevitable visit by the UN High Commission for Refugees. In total, ComOps estimated that Operation Dingo had cost ZANLA in excess of 3,000 trained men and approximately 5,000 wounded (and many subsequent desertions). The Rhodesians had suffered two dead, six wounded and one Vampire was downed. On 26/27 November, in Operation Virile, a Selous Scout column with close air support destroyed five key road bridges between Dombe (near Chimoio) and Espungabera to deny ZANLA vehicular access to the Rhodesian border.

The slaughter at Chimoio in particular was to have a big impact on the collective psyche of the ZANU leadership. The mass graves were continually conjured up in political speeches and poetry, particularly after Mugabe’s accession to power. After a week’s protest, however, the most important leader still in Rhodesia, Muzorewa, decided to return to his negotiations with Ian Smith. Eventually, in March 1978, Smith reached an accord with Muzorewa, Sithole and a pliant Shona chief, Senator Jeremiah Chirau. These four men, nicknamed the ‘gang of four’, hoped to bring about a kind of majority rule which would end the war and pre-empt a military victory by the forces of the Patriotic Front. It was essentially a formula for white survival: ‘Give them the parliament and we keep the banks.’

The Patriotic Front rejected the March Agreement as a sham, another UDI. Nkomo called the three internal black leaders ‘small nuts in a big machine’. Nevertheless, Nkomo still kept back the bulk of his army. During 1978 he never deployed in Rhodesia more than 2,000 guerrillas; 8,000 to 10,000 remained in bases in Zambia. ZANU in Mozambique had repaired much of the damage caused by interparty dissension. 1978 was declared the ‘Year of the People’ in which ZANU intended to achieve a mass political mobilization of the peasantry before 1979, the ‘Year of the People’s Storm’, the final onslaught on the Rhodesian government. ZANLA troops entered Rhodesia in groups 100-strong; by June 1978 at least 13,000 ZANLA troops were deployed in the country. They were assisted by locally trained recruits and thousands of mujibas.

In Salisbury, Muzorewa and Sithole, now members of the four-man Executive Council (Exco) which in theory controlled the transitional government established in March 1978, promised that the war would wind down. They argued that, as majority rule was in sight, the guerrillas would have no reason to fight on. Both men claimed to represent large groups of ZANLA guerrillas, but Smith was soon to find out that the two nationalists had deceived both him and themselves. During the rest of 1978 only a few hundred genuine guerrillas responded to the government’s amnesty offer.

The internal solution was not working. The war escalated. The main reason why the guerrillas refused to heed Salisbury’s call was the fact that behind Sithole’s and Muzorewa’s rhetoric all real power was still firmly in the hands of the whites. The obvious example was the running of the COIN war. On the same day that the Bishop, Sithole and Chirau were sworn into government, Smith quietly created his own unofficial war council, which had six members: Walls, as head of ComOps, the army and air force chiefs, the Commissioner of Police, the director-general of the CIO and sometimes civilian ministers. The streamlined war council had been set up in September 1976 to co-ordinate the ministerial control of the war; in March 1977 the formation of ComOps had improved some elements of the central command. Smith’s personal council primarily aimed at excluding the black co-minister of defence. Black ministers were considered unreliable and prone to security leaks. (The first black minister of defence, John Kadzviti, a Sithole man and a former guerrilla, shortly after his appointment fled the country to escape a murder charge brought by the BSAP.) Smith was officially excluded from the conduct of the war. In fact, however, he worked closely with the service chiefs.

The new administration tried to improve its image. Most of the political detainees were released, executions of political prisoners were suspended and the ban on the political wings of both ZAPU and Mugabe’s ZANU was (temporarily) removed. In spite of the military repercussions, many of the PVs were closed, especially in the Mtoko, Mrewa and Mudzi areas. (Some were in regions where the government tacitly admitted it had lost effective control.) This was done to satisfy the UANC’s clamour to end the PV programme, which it knew was unpopular with the tribespeople. The main weakness, however, was the tardy removal of racial discrimination. (Four months after the March Agreement, a committee was set up to ‘explore’ means of removing discrimination.) Smith seemed to regard the tempo of removal of racial inequalities as an exchange for winding down the war. The black leaders had not kept their side of the agreement, Smith argued. In turn the black leaders argued that white intransigence over the race laws had undermined their efforts to persuade the guerrillas to come home. Lacking real power, the three black internal members of the Exco did look like puppets.

Many white soldiers regarded the settlement as an opportunity to Africanize the war under effective white leadership. With blacks in a semblance of power, a tougher policy against the frontline states might be more acceptable to the world. White conscripts continued to agitate for blacks to be conscripted as well. Muzorewa opposed this move (except for blacks already affected–apprentices and doctors). But in September Exco announced that blacks would be conscripted in spite of the massive problems of training this posed for the army. Skilled men were needed in the field; few could be spared as instructors. The light had just dawned upon Muzorewa and Sithole: both leaders belatedly realized that they should flood the army with as many trained political followers as possible. Black Rhodesians, who comprised 80 per cent of the armed forces in 1978, could well hold the balance in future events. It would be just as well to have some soldiers already committed to their respective parties.

Meanwhile, the security forces were determined to show that a black-white coalition in Salisbury did not imply a softly-softly approach to the war. Sometimes excesses resulted. At a village in the Gutu district in May, security forces fired upon a night-time pungwe organised by ZANLA troops. At least 50 black civilians were killed and 24 were wounded for the loss of one guerrilla. Despite protests from Muzorewa, such incidents of indiscriminate firing continued. Casualties caused by the guerrillas also mounted. By mid-June fatalities within the country were 100 a week, against three a week in the first five years of the war. Guerrilla attacks became more determined and cruel. On 23 June 12 missionaries, eight adults and four children, were raped, hacked and bludgeoned to death at the Elim Pentecostal Mission in the Vumba mountains near Umtali. (ZANLA denied responsibility, and blamed the Selous Scouts. After the war, regular ZANLA troops were proved to be guilty of the abomination.) In July the first major gun battle took place within the Salisbury city limits. Police units killed three guerrillas in the Mufakosi and Highfields townships, wounded two and captured five others. It was claimed that the guerrillas were part of a suicide squad planning to assassinate members of Exco. The spiralling conflict continued to hit the white core: emigration was edging up to 1,500 a month and taxes were increased. On 20 July the government announced a compulsory national defence levy of 12.5 per cent extra income tax to help to cover a record budget deficit.

Salisbury was also perturbed by international events. In July 1978 the US Senate voted against lifting sanctions. Despite continuing South African backing, Rhodesia under a black-white coalition appeared to be the same pariah it was under unadulterated RF rule. And the Russians were meddling in southern Africa again. The Soviets and the Cubans were accused of encouraging an invasion from Angola of the Shaba province of Zaire. The bestial slaughter of whites in Kolwezi sent shivers down Rhodesian spines, as they prepared to hand over to blacks. Black rule might come in parliament, but the whites were determined to control law and order and the security forces. Rhodesian intelligence sources began to fear that the Cubans would step up their support of ZIPRA, which could be given the means to launch a conventional sortie into Matabeleland. Vassily Solodovnikov, the Russian ambassador in Lusaka, was portrayed by the CIO as the eminence grise behind an invasion threat. BOSS had got wind of the plans and so had the CIO. The CIO head, Ken Flower, a genial, unflappable man, rushed off to London. The traditional intelligence links between the rebel state and Britain (as well as the USA) had, like oil, proved too slippery and vital to succumb to the moral dictates of sanctions. London tried to calm the Rhodesians; the British were more afraid of Smith renouncing UDI and handing back to them a Rhodesia which was portrayed by the world’s media as completely war-torn. This thought terrified London more than any conceivable Red plot. The British fears were groundless because Smith would never have willingly renounced UDI. He had a pathological distrust of the British. (Although the CIO did have some grounds for alarm, as there was evidence of a conventional build-up, the Russians were playing a waiting game and were planning a long-term strategy. The year 1978 was vetoed. When the Cubans suggested a conventional sortie in mid-1979, ZIPRA rejected the plan even though ZANLA also had made extensive preparations for a conventional incursion. The Russians expected the war to last much longer and were gearing up for a big move in July 1980 or July 1981, depending on military developments.)

In April 1978 the first (and only) foreign war correspondent was killed. It was a sad irony, but it happened to be Lord Richard Cecil, a descendant of Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister who had lent his name to the Rhodesian capital. Cecil, a former Guards officer who had a distinguished record in Northern Ireland, was shot while making a film of the war. Because of his unusually good contacts with the Rhodesian army, he had caused some resentment among other journalists. He also carried a gun, which contradicted the professional ethics of journalists, who claim neutrality. Some journalists did nevertheless carry firearms for self-protection. The insurgents rarely asked for press cards before opening fire.

By mid-1978 Smith knew that his internal experiment was not working. The transitional government was being torn apart by party bickering among the blacks; even some of his own trusted supporters had been involved in a scandal over the theft of defence funds. The war was worsening and no one, not even South Africa, wanted to recognize the beleaguered state. Could Nkomo be brought into the internal settlement? Could ZIPRA and the security forces together wipe out ZANLA? Certainly Zambia and Angola, and perhaps other African states, would recognize a Nkomo-led Zimbabwe.

On 14 August Smith flew to State House, Lusaka, in a Lonrho company jet. Nkomo and Smith talked again, and later Brigadier Joseph Garba, a former Nigerian minister for external affairs, tried to involve Mugabe. The ZANU leader refused. But the secret Nkomo-Smith talks did not blossom into a military alliance, for on 3 September 1978 ZIPRA guerrillas shot down an unarmed Air Rhodesia Viscount with a SAM-7 missile. Of the 53 people on board, 18 survived the crash, but 10 of them, including six women, were massacred by ZIPRA guerrillas. Nkomo said that ZIPRA had shot down the plane, but had not murdered the survivors. During a BBC interview the ZAPU leader incensed Rhodesians by chuckling over the Viscount incident. One RF MP, Rob Gaunt, captured the mood of the whites when he said: ‘I believe we have done our utmost in this country to be reasonable and the time, I fear, is now upon us when all Africa is going to see their first race of really angry white men.’ Smith called Nkomo a ‘monster’; clearly a ZAPU-RF deal was now out of the question. In a subdued speech (Walls had persuaded him to tone it down) Smith declared martial law in certain areas of the country. Although ZAPU and ZANU were later re-banned, Special Branch allowed senior ZAPU personnel, such as Josiah Chinamano, to leave the country before arresting the lower echelon party members. Perhaps when the storm had died down, Nkomo and Smith could try again.

The whites called for a massive retaliation against Zambia. Initially, however, the Rhodesians hit Mozambique. In late September Rhodesian forces launched a four-day airborne attack against ZANLA bases around Chimoio. The area had been extensively attacked in the previous November in Operation Dingo. It had been rebuilt, but dispersed over a much wider area. The Canberras went in low with their Alpha anti-personnel bombs, followed by the Hunters with Golf cluster bombs which were designed to explode above ground. The Rhodesian troops, including South African Recce Commandos in ‘D’ squadron of the SAS, spent three days clearing ZANLA from the trenches. Nine FRELIMO T-54s were driven off when they came to the rescue, and four Soviet armoured cars were destroyed. The Rhodesians lost no aircraft, but many were hit by ground fire. The Rhodesians suffered one trooper killed in ‘friendly fire’ during an air strike; a South African Recce serving with the SAS was also killed in a separate incident. Salisbury claimed that large quantities of ammunition had been destroyed and several hundred guerrillas killed. Zambia seemed to have had a reprieve. In early October Kaunda had opened the Zambian border, which had been closed since 1973. The British-owned Benguela railway through Angola was useless because of action by South African-backed UNITA rebels and the TAZARA line through Tanzania was clogged by mismanagement. Kaunda had no choice but to use Rhodesia to get his copper out and food and fertiliser in.

Then Rhodesian security forces swept into Zambia. Previously Salisbury had launched raids only in the border areas of Zambia. On 18/19 October 1978 Chikumbi, 19 km north of Lusaka, was bombed. Mkushi camp, north-east of the capital, was also bombed and occupied by heliborne troops for two days. Via Green Leader, the leader pilot of the Canberra bombing force, Rhodesians controlled Zambian air space during the Chikumbi raid, and in effect prevented any hostile Zambian air activity for 48 hours. Using a Zambian airstrip (Rufunsa, near the Rhodesian border) as a forward staging base, Rhodesian aircraft created panic in the camps they hit.

During the Green Leader raid the security forces suffered minimal casualties. The Rhodesians claimed more than 1,500 ZIPRA killed as well as a small number of Cuban instructors. In fact, the bulk of Nkomo’s 10,000-strong army in Zambia was unscathed, although hundreds of refugees living in and near the camps were killed. From the gunners’ sights it was impossible to distinguish innocent refugees from young ZIPRA recruits.

The three-day assault demonstrated the efficacy of Rhodesian firepower and the superior security force training and leadership. Perhaps better weapons could help to fill the gap? Nkomo rushed off to Moscow to ask for further military aid and Kaunda asked Britain to improve on the air defence weapons it had already sent. Besides new equipment such as AA guns, the British Aircraft Corporation sent instructors and a maintenance team to refit the Rapier SAM system which had fallen into disrepair.

The raids into Mozambique and Zambia had boosted white morale, but they had done little to deter the rainy season offensives of both ZANLA and ZIPRA. On 23 October General Walls admitted: ‘We have not only had a hard job containing them [the guerrillas] but in some areas we have slipped back a bit.’ By December 1978, three-quarters of the country was under martial law. ComOps discussed a ‘vital ground’ strategy of trying to hold on to key areas of white settlements and farmlands, while effectively giving up on the TTLs. The generals, not a squabbling Exco, held uncertain sway. Courts martial had been set up which could impose the death penalty for acts of terrorism without the right of appeal to higher courts (though sentences were subject to a reviewing authority). The government claimed that more than 22 ‘frozen zones’ (encompassing seven per cent of Rhodesia) were being policed by security force auxiliaries, the guerrillas who had come ‘on-sides’ and accepted the internal settlement. In fact, only a small proportion were converted guerrillas; the vast majority had either been unemployed or were UANC or ZANU (Sithole) supporters who had been trained in Uganda, Libya and the Sudan. By late 1978 the UANC and ZANU (Sithole) had about 1,000 armed guerrillas each. By late 1979 Pfumu reVanhu, as they had become known, had swollen to nearly 20,000. Most were loyal to Muzorewa. In spite of the brief training and supervision provided by Rhodesian whites, the auxiliaries turned on each other as much as they fought the PF. Often looting rather than battle was their main preoccupation. A measure of their military capability was that Selous Scouts often dressed up as auxiliaries to entice the guerrillas into attacking a supposedly ‘soft’ target. The RF was creating the perfect conditions for its greatest fear–uncontrollable civil war. Five armies were active in Rhodesia by December 1978: ZANLA, ZIPRA, the security forces and the armed followers of Sithole and Muzorewa.

From Salisbury things looked decidedly ugly. The internal elections had been postponed from December 1978 to April 1979 because of the security situation. The internal ‘solution’ had impressed relatively few guerrillas; even UANC supporters were disgruntled. Moreover, few of the 25,000 Africans affected by the October call-up seemed ready to take up arms against their brothers in the PF. With whites emigrating and blacks reluctant to be conscripted, who would protect the Salisbury government in the future? The war was edging closer to the city suburbs. On 11 November, while Smith was celebrating the anniversary of UDI, guerrillas launched an attack on the exclusive Umwinsidale suburb of Salisbury. On 11 December guerrillas fired rockets and tracers at the central oil storage depot in the heart of Salisbury’s industrial sites. Only five guards armed merely with truncheons had been protecting the vital depot. ZANLA forces (although ZIPRA claimed the honours) created a fire which lasted six days and destroyed 25 million gallons of fuel.

The Rhodesian government entered 1979 in dire straits. This was to prove the crucial year. ZIPRA forces were committed in greater numbers; Rhodesia was now safer for them than Zambia. ZANLA, which stopped active recruiting because numbers were too large to train, had infiltrated beyond the Bulawayo-Plumtree rail line. The cities were being surrounded and ZANLA believed they would fall like ‘ripe plums’ as Mao had foretold. Despite the frictions, in some areas ZANLA and ZIPRA were co-ordinating their strikes. ZANLA was preparing to establish formal liberated zones and to defend them with a locally trained people’s militia. The groundwork for the initial, crude structure of administration was being laid.

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