Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.Selous Scouts "Pamwe Chete" title block.Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.

 

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PSYCHOLOGICAL 

OPERATIONS

DESTABILIZATION AND DISINFORMATION OPERATIONS

In addition to intelligence gathering, Special Branch, Branch II, and the Selous Scouts were actively involved in covert destabilization and disinformation operations. The exact extent of these has not been fully revealed, but the few operations for which there is some information available provides some idea of their nature and success.

During the early sixties, the split between ZAPU and ZANU had an extremely detrimental effect on the nationalist struggle. It is assumed, though inconclusively proven, that Special Branch may have exploited the rivalry between these two movements whenever possible, using agents of influence strategically placed in both organizations combined with various disinformation tactics. These tactics were certainly used in Zambia after UDI to help foment the rivalry between ZANLA and ZIPRA. Peter Stiff, for example, recounts the sabotage activities in Lusaka of two British veterans of the British SAS who worked for CIO and were assisted by a white Zambian farmer and his wife.  This foursome conducted several attacks against both ZANLA and ZIPRA targets that were made to appear as if they had been staged by the rival insurgent organization.

The most successful of these operations was the assassination of the ZANUís national chairman in Zambia, Herbert Chitepo, done in such a way as to suggest that his death by a car bomb was due to factional fighting within that organization. This incident provoked the anger of Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, who had allowed the nationalist organizations to operate in his country only on the express condition that there was no internecine violence. When Kaunda learned that dissident ZANLA elements were suspected in Chitepoís murder, he ordered the arrest of all senior ZANLA officials (including military commander Joseph Tongogara), the expulsion of the organizationís fighters, and the suspension of all ZANLA activities in Zambia. The arrested officials were brutally interrogated until they falsely confessed to involvement in Chitepoís murder, while other alleged conspirators were shot. The overall result was a severe setback for ZANLA operations that, according to Ken Flower, the head of the CIO, cost ZANLA an estimated two years in its war against Rhodesia.

Rhodesiaís most ambitious external destabilization operation was the formation of the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (MNR, later to be called RENAMO). The Rhodesians hoped in the long term to undermine and ultimately overthrow FRELIMO and replace it with a pro-Western government and, in the short term, simply to use the MNR both to further disrupt ZANLA operations in Mozambique and to provide intelligence about the insurgents and their bases. The genesis behind the MNR idea lay in the Mozambican populationís increasing discontent with FRELIMO. That insurgent organization had been completely surprised by the Portuguese decision to withdraw from Mozambique and thus was unprepared to assume power in 1974. FRELIMO rule, accordingly, was generally inept and quickly alienated the population. As increasing numbers of Mozambicans fled their country, the CIO decided to launch a disinformation campaign using a large, powerful, and impossible to jam transmitter that the Portuguese had given to the Rhodesians when they left Mozambique. These broadcasts described the fictitious activities of a nonexistent resistance movement in Mozambique that the Rhodesians called the MNR.

The ruse worked only too well. Shortly after the broadcasts began, FRELIMO deserters began crossing in droves, seeking to join the resistance movement. The CIO was therefore forced to create a real organization to preserve its ruse. Because. Rhodesia itself lacked the resources needed to supply a clandestine army, the CIO turned to other countries, primarily in Southern Africa, for the funds and weapons the MNR required. Training was provided at first by former Portuguese soldiers, but the black recruits distrusted their former colonial masters and responded better when the Portuguese trainers were replaced by former Rhodesian SAS troopers now working for the CIO. In their search for a leader for the movement, the CIO found Andre Matangaidze, a former FRELIMO platoon commander, who had fled to Rhodesia in 1978 after escaping from a FRELIMO re-education camp. The CIO tested Matangaidzeís leadership ability by sending him with a small band of men to free the inmates at the camp from which he had escaped. Matangaidze succeeded and was appointed the commander of the MNR.

Subsequent MNR operations were equally successful, and support or the movement grew rapidly in both Mozambique and Rhodesia. The Rhodesian Army in particular was impressed by the MNRís successes and threw its full support behind the movement. In 1979, the MNR began to work very closely with the Rhodesian SAS. They carried out several joint raids, including the attack on an oil storage arm in Beira, Mozambique; the sinking of ships and subsequent blocking of a harbor in a Mozambican port; and the disabling of a FRELMO tropospheric scatter station. Unfortunately for the Rhodesians, the MNR was formed only toward the end of the war and thus had little effect on ZANLA, although it did destabilize the FRELIMO regime and later was exploited by the South Africans as a bargaining tool against Mozambican support of the African National Congress (ANC). Although the MNR did not achieve the objectives for which it was originally established and had little effect on the outcome of the Rhodesian conflict, some of the Rhodesian intelligence officers and special operations personnel involved in the formation of the MNR and the attendant disinformation campaign in Mozambique claim that had these efforts been initiated earlier in the conflict, the FRELIMO government might well have been overthrown and the insurgents deprived of their operational bases in that country.

Disinformation operations were carried out within Rhodesia as well. Perhaps the most controversial were atrocities against civilians allegedly undertaken by the Selous Scouts disguised to appear as, and thereby to discredit, the insurgents. Among the crimes that the Scouts allegedly committed were the murders of white missionaries, attacks on tribal villages, and the murders of insurgent contacts, whom the Scouts had accused in front of witnesses of being government collaborators. Although both Special Branch and Selous Scout officers categorically deny these allegations, some former police officers maintain that many of the Scoutsí disinformation attempts were in any event amateurish and did more harm than good.

 

 

 

 

Propaganda leaflet used by the Rhodesians.

The aim in Rhodesia was to win the 'hearts and minds' of the population. A guerrilla army cannot be defeated by military means alone: you have to be able to isolate the terrorist from the host population with the minimum amount of damage to innocent parties. The Rhodesian forces recognized the importance of winning the propaganda battle, and maximum use was made of any enemy they managed to turn around, in this case in the leaflet above a ZANLA detachment commander. These leaflets were air dropped.

 

 

 

 

THIS SITE LAST UPDATED: Sunday, September 16, 2007 06:43:38 PM

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