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

































Depending on the specific circumstances that enabled a pseudo team to enter an area as insurgent forces, pseudo methods and the deception employed varied widely from one area to the next.

According to then Major Reid-Daly the role of the Selous Scouts was to infiltrate the tribal population and the terrorist networks, pinpoint the terrorist camps and bases and then direct conventional forces in to carry out the actual attacks. Then depending on the skill of the particular Selous Scouts’ pseudo group concerned, their cover should remain intact which would enable them to continue operating in a particular area ... perhaps indefinitely. (6)

As already indicated, validification was a prerequisite for success. Detailed operational intelligence was required to enable a team to enter an area without arousing suspicion. The next step was to establish contact with the local population, and specifically with the insurgent agents within local villages. As a final step these agents or contact men were used as go-betweens with the pseudo team and any other insurgent team in the area. Having made contact a meeting was arranged which would be used finally to establish the credentials of the pseudo team.

Patience is essential in almost all types of pseudo operations. Arranging a meeting with a real insurgent group could entail several weeks during which numerous letters were passed back and forth via mujibas (insurgents’ youth supporters) and con­tact men. If successful, a meeting would be arranged between the two groups at a neutral spot in which the senior group was approached by the juniors. Fol­lowing this, the members of the two groups met and mingled. Information would be exchanged, beer drunk and possibly some revolutionary songs sung. Informa­tion gleaned at such meetings, as well as from other sources was then passed back to Special Branch or directly to Fire Force, the helicopter-borne reac­tion force, for action. One such specific type of operation that proved to be highly effective, was termed the Observation Post tactic.

For obvious reasons white pseudo team members could not come into direct contact with members of the local population or insurgents. When a pseudo team thus entered a village, the white(s) remained outside and as close as possible. After contact had been made between village members and a pseudo team, for example, the village would be kept under close observation. The reaction of villagers very often gave a good indication of the presence and location of other insurgent groups. Upon confirmation of such suspicion, the Selous Scouts team leader would call in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group. To facilitate this, observation posts were manned on high ground close to the village. Former insurgent members with a detailed knowledge of both local customs and insurgent practices proved invaluable in picking up the most minute indications of insurgent presence. The use of observation posts was especially suited to the rugged terrain in the North­east of Rhodesia and proved highly successful in these areas.

The modus operandi of the Selous Scouts was particularly well suited for engaging the services of captured or wounded insurgents. It often happened that Fire Force attacked an insurgent group, eliminating most of them and capturing the remainder.

Immediately following capture and the traumatic memory of the preceding fire-fight, these insurgents would be ‘turned’ by promise and threat. Along with a number of Scouts these prisoners would adopt the identity of the former insurgent group and function as they had done in an adjacent area sufficiently far enough from the local population who could identify them. In this instance the newly-turned insurgents would introduce the group to contact men and in general establish their bona fides with the local population. This method, however, relied upon total security, specifically in the area of the contact. But even where a prisoner had become compromised he could still be used as advisor or source of detailed local information.

A further variation of pseudo work entailed what were termed ‘hunter—killer’ groups. In contrast to a purely defensive, intelligence-gathering role, these teams were used aggressively. Having located a specific insurgent infiltration route, pseudo teams were dispatched along it on the pretext of returning from Rhodesia for resupply and retraining after an extensive operation. En route further information was collected while the group, in contrast to its normal intelligence function, eliminated all insurgents on the way.

Hunter-killer groups were first used north of Mount Darwin in the Mavuradonha area where the rugged terrain inhibited normal Security Force operations.

In relation to their numbers, the success of the Selous Scouts became an important element in Rhodesian counter-insurgency operations. Both senior Army and Special Branch officers continuously called for the further expansion of the unit. Once the Selous Scouts had two platoons trained for deployment, their tactical headquarters shifted to Bindura. As the war spread across the country, deployment of Selous Scouts was no longer limited to the North­east. The first Scouts troops moved to Inkamo Bar­racks on 12 July 1974, which became the regimental rear base. During January 1977 it was renamed the André Rabie Barracks.

In general, the Selous Scouts achieved less success in penetrating the tighter, more disciplined ranks of ZPRA than was the case in the unstructured command and control groupings of ZANLA. Three Group did, however, achieve considerable success in a process of validification could entail extraordinary measures. It could entail calling in an air strike by Security Forces on their own position or close to it. Alternatively it could consist of select aggression against Security Forces or civilians. One such example was documented in Africa Confidential

After a white farmstead about forty miles north-west of Salisbury had been attacked, it was discovered that one of the two groups in the assault were Selous Scouts ... (7)

  In some cases attempts at validification did more harm than good, as was the case with the first attack on a Protected Village. This was carried out by a pseudo team in the Mount Darwin area in Kandeya Tribal Trust Land during 1974 and precipitated a rash of similar attacks by real insurgent groups. A second example occurred in Nyanga North where a resident pseudo team trained and briefed the local population so well in aiding them that by the time real insurgents penetrated the area, a clandestine organization had been firmly established for them.

Especially during the initial years, many pseudo operations were conducted to sow dis­trust between members of the local population and the insurgents. Rudimentary attempts towards achieving this objective consisted for instance of theft or offending local customs. Numerous further refinements were added. One such practice entailed calling in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group after they had left a specific kraal. After two or three such occurrences the insurgents invariably suspected the kraal members of informing Security Forces of their presence. In revenge, and to forestall any repetition, innocent kraal members were executed. This would normally put an end to any voluntary support that the insurgents could expect from the kraal. (At the same time such punishment could also intimidate the inhabitants from helping the Security Forces).

A second method used relatively widely once an insurgent contact man had been identified, was for a pseudo team to eliminate him publicly after labeling him a traitor to the insurgent cause. Since the rest of the kraal members knew the contact man to be a loyal and staunch insurgent supporter, such a death would lead to considerable disillusionment and bewilderment. This practice had become so common by the end of the war that the Rhodesian Criminal Investigation Department had opened a number of murder dossiers on Selous Scouts and Special Branch members. Invariably poor security led to a general knowledge of these measures. As the war progressed and Selous Scouts operations increased and intensi­fied, this knowledge also spread to the local population and insurgent forces in the field.

Although the short term benefits that were achieved by such illegal actions were substantial, once the local population became aware of these practices, it could only have had a distinctly negative effect on their attitude toward the government in general. The task of government, i.e. judicious law enforcement and maintenance of law and order, is incompatible with substantial transgression of the law. Under these circumstances it becomes extremely difficult for any such regime to claim legitimacy.

Once insurgent forces and their supporters became aware of pseudo activities, various measures were instituted to identify any such teams. Specific bangles and pieces of clothing were worn which would provide positive proof of identification. On specific instruction, members of the local population changed their method of aiding insurgent forces. Instead of leaving nightly food parcels at predetermined spots, each insurgent received his food individually during daylight. Any white member of such a team would thus be identified. It was only during 1979 that the Selous Scouts succeeded in fielding all-black teams to eliminate this problem.

In reaction to these changing means of identification, the Selous Scouts launched an intensive intelligence effort to remain constantly aware of what these entailed in any specific area.

A major success that did result from these ope­rations was the mutual suspicion and distrust between insurgent forces in the field. Contact between such groups was increasingly preceded by lengthy exchanges of oral and written messages and coordination of forces for a single operation presented acute problems. This was even more so in those areas where both ZANLA and ZPRA forces were operating. Within ZANLA, groups frequently attacked one another. To increase this breach even further, pseudo ZANLA teams began attacking ZPRA insurgents, thus ensuring that the next encounter between ZANLA and ZPRA would turn into an armed clash. During the period between 1976 and 1978 when ZANLA attempted to encroach on Matabeleland, the success of this method was such that a captured ZANLA commander confessed to having been shocked by the fact that his first eight contacts were with ZPRA forces. He was captu­red by the Security Forces in the ninth.

A further method employed in the Mount Darwin area entailed the intimidation of known contact men to aid the Selous Scouts. Shortly after having called in Fire Force on a group of insurgents in the area, the pseudo team visited the contact man. It was made clear to him that failure to cooperate with Security Forces would lead to his death. There­after his kraal was kept under constant surveillance from an observation post. Each time an insurgent group entered the area, the contact man would, for example, hang up a certain blanket after which he would meet the Selous Scouts at a predetermined spot to exchange information. Fire Force would then normally eliminate the insurgent group.

The contact men recruited in this manner were code—named ‘Lemon’ and ‘Orange’ and collectively known as ‘Fruit Salad’. Since they were also paid for their services, the sudden appearance of riches in both cases led to insurgent suspicion and retribution. In his book Selous Scouts   Top Secret War Lieutenant-Colonel Reid-Daly describes a similar operation code—named Market Garden with the two compromised contact men known as Apple and Banana. This incident occurred at the foot of the Mavuradanha mountains in the North—east. (8)

As stated above, the Selous Scouts eventually could claim the highest kill ratio of all Rhodesian Security Forces. Although Fire Force, and First Battalion Rhodesian Light Infantry, which constituted the quick deployment troops of Fire Force, were physically responsible for most of these insurgent casualties, the intelligence that had led them to the insurgents originated from the Selous Scouts.

Yet, the very success of pseudo operations led to constant demands for the further expansion of the unit. Originally a single platoon of highly skilled men, the Selous Scouts grew into a disproportionately large unit of 1 800 men. A substantive portion were, however, territorial soldiers and thus not permanently attached to the unit. The rapid increase in numbers in itself led to a number of problems. In the first instance the unit was forced to lower its entry standards to obtain enough personnel to comply with Combined Operation demands. This led to a general lowering of operational standards in the pseudo role as did the widespread use of the less-demanding observation post tactic. The latter did not require as high a standard of training and experience as did normal pseudo operations. On the other hand, these recruits were not all suitable for pseudo—type operations, while their training could not be as thorough.

As a result pseudo operations again shifted in emphasis away from that of gathering intelligence to a more aggressive role where insurgent casualty figures became all-important. This process was aided initially when substantial bonuses were paid for insurgent casualties.






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