THERE is a new breed of farmer emerging, battle-hardened younger men. Men like 29-year-old Rhodesian-born Don, who has spent 10 years in the Security Forces and who now manages a 5 000 hectare estate which produces tobacco and maize and runs a large cattle herd. The farm is mere stone's throw from a sprawling Tribal Trust Land in the Beatrice District. Terrorists are active, attacking farms, labour compounds, destroying crops, stealing cattle, ambushing farmers on the land and on farm roads and laying landmines, which are the most indiscriminate killer in this war, and the most feared.
The toll among farmers is disconcertingly high despite the tight security network which blankets this prosperous district. It is obvious the external terrorist movements are making their largest yet assault on the commercial farms.
The farming community there are anxious but not dispirited for they are now stronger militarily than at any time during the last seven years of terrorism. Farm attacks are stepped up, but most are beaten off. Militia guards are making it more difficult to hit homesteads, destroy equipment and crops; hundreds of head of stolen cattle are being recovered and better equipment is more efficiently detecting landmines.
Farmers in the Beatrice area, indeed in areas throughout the country, are now able to react in force to terrorist attacks, ambush or to reports of terrorist presence. This is due mainly to the setting up of Area Co-ordinating Committees which are "self-help" community units comprising local farmers, police and military. These have been formed under the umbrella of a national co-ordinating body representative of organised farming, government and the military. The initiative, the brainchild of the RNFU and the Ministry of Agriculture, has won the enthusiastic support of government, military, commerce and industry, who together with farmers, are providing the necessary finance to ensure the "frontline" holds. It is costing millions of dollars in equipment, arms, ammunition, and manpower but there is only one regret among farmers ... "pity these fighting committees were not set up six to seven years ago."
Don is married to an attractive blonde, and they have a three-year-old daughter. He commands the estate's reaction force and has a separate military commitment which takes him away from his farm, though every effort is made by Combined Operations to limit the time active farmers are pulled out of their own areas to serve elsewhere.
By and large this is working. It hasn't always been so. In the early days of the war farmers were taken off their land and transported hundreds of kilometres to the other side of the country to guard other people's farms. There is the story of one Salisbury farmer who was ordered to a farm outside Bulawayo to guard a family while the husband was away on military duty. He arrived there only to find that the Bulawayo farmer had been sent to Salisbury to guard his wife and family.
I met Don on his farm early one Saturday morning. But there was no time for talk. A team of black militia, who double up as stock men, had spotted terrorist tracks on the outskirts of the farm. Don was too busy giving instructions to bother about me. He had already radioed the local police headquarters and a PATU stick (Police Anti Terrorist Unit) was on its way. They arrived 30 minutes later, bearded young men, no older I guessed, than 20 to 22 yet they carried themselves with the assurance of combat veterans.
That day the PATU stick, Don, his assistant Trevor, aged 21 (who had served for three years in the crack regiment, The Rhodesia Light Infantry) and six militia, tracked the terrorists for 25 kilometres before losing their spoor close to a farm run by one of the country's leading cattle men, and late that afternoon when Don radioed in that he was ready to be picked up, I went along for the ride.
Don and Trevor had pulled back their militia trackers to the farmhouse just before sunset for after that there was little possibility of picking up the tracks again ... not that day anyway.
"I reckon they've moved into your compound, I heard Don tell the farmer. "That's unlikely, Don," he replied. "I've got a pretty loyal labour force. You know, they've been with me for years."
We knew they were heading away from us. Tragically, that farmer was not to know how close they were to him. He and his 16-year-old son died in an ambush near his farm exactly eight days later.
We drove back to Don's farm in silence. They were both whacked out. After an early dinner, they chatted briefly about the next day's chores and before taking themselves off to bed, they radioed neighbouring farmers to tell them the terrs had been tracked but not contacted.
"We are losing too many good men, leaders of agriculture who cannot be replaced," commented RNFU president Denis Norman when he was told of the two deaths. The element of surprise is still with the terrorist, however well farmers arm and protect themselves ... hit and run.
Don is typical of the new breed of young farmer. Tired of the military he applied for the job as farm manager through an advertisement in the local newspaper. He was the lucky one of dozens of aspiring farmers who applied, again mostly young ex-servicemen willing to risk themselves and their young families for a stake in the land.
Don, his wife and young daughter live in a spacious colonial type house which comes with the job. If he stays on in Zimbabwe Rhodesia, and he intends to, he will probably own his own farm one day. The house is surrounded by a high diamond mesh fence and there are grenades placed around the garden. These can be detonated from inside the safe area of the house. He is never without his FN automatic by day, and at night it lies next to him. http://www.rhodesia.nl/farmeratwar.html
Gwen Archer of Rhodesia's Women's Services sets off on a convoy to the Inyanga area.
These regular servicewomen were supplementary to almost 1,000 female civilian volunteers who contributed much of their time doing such duties as radio watches, manning operations rooms and driving military vehicles.
The Rhodesian Women's Services were very much a part of a modern and sophisticated army and their initial training was based largely on that provided for women recruits in the British Army.
The two-week course of basic training included a fair deal of square bashing, pistol firing and weapon maintenance, military law and regulations, organisation and, for those who want it, accounting.
When the aircraft were ten minutes from the target area, the Selous Scout commander would begin to verbally guide the K-Car commander in by radio, precisely describing the terrain and highlighting any recognizable features that would aid navigation. Once the target had been identified the command helicopter would propel steeply upward from treetop level to a height of about 250 meters (or 800 feet above ground, the height at which the 20mm gun was calibrated), while the G-cars effected an anti- clockwise rotation of the contact area in order to pen the enemy in with mounted machine-gun fire. Once the Fireforce commander had taken stock of the situation and established the best troop drop-off positions the K-Car would commence an assault with its 20mm cannon. In the meanwhile, a Cessna Lynx, circling the contact area at a height of about 1,000 meters, would be available to engage the target with SNEB rockets, golf bombs or frantan, a locally produced napalm. Troops would be deployed in stop groups to engage guerrillas attempting to flee the scene. Paratroopers would be available if reinforcements were required, and if it was a large target, the attack would be preceded by a softening up by Hunter strike jets or Canberra bombers. As all this was underway the Selous Scout call-sign would monitor the contact and pass developing information on to the Fireforce commander in the K- Car. (It should be added that the K-Car pilot was equally adept at controlling a Fireforce action as his army counterpart sitting next to him.)
Air Rhodesia Flight 825 was a scheduled passenger flight that was shot down by the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) on 3 September 1978
A group of ZIPRA guerrillas, armed with a Strela-2 launcher, waited in the bush beneath Flight 825's flightpath, and fired on the Hunyani about five minutes after it took off, while the aircraft was still in the climb phase of its flight. The heat-seeking missile hit the plane's starboard wing and exploded, causing the inner engine to also explode. A fuel tank and hydraulic lines ruptured, creating a fire that could not be put out. The second starboard engine failed almost immediately, leaving Hood with only his two port engines. Heaving wildly, the Hunyani began to descend rapidly.
At 17:10 Captain Hood sent a distress call to air traffic control, informing them that he had lost the two starboard engines and was going to crash. "We're going in," he radioed. Telling his passengers to brace for an emergency landing, he aimed for an open field of cotton in the Whamira Hills, in the bush to the west of Karoi, intending to belly land the craft. The landing was relatively stable until the Hunyani hit a ditch, cartwheeled and exploded. The remaining fuel tanks ruptured and caught fire, setting the wrecked cabin ablaze
Of the 56 people on board, 38, including Hood and Beaumont, died in the crash. Eighteen survived, albeit with injuries, and climbed out of the wreckage. After briefly settling the others, one of the passengers, Cecil MacLaren, led four others—young newlyweds Robert and Shannon Hargreaves, Sharon Coles, and her four-year-old daughter Tracey—off in the direction of a nearby village in search of water. The other 13 remained close to the wreckage. Meanwhile, nine guerrillas made their way towards the crash site, and reached it at about 17:45. Three of the 13 survivors remaining at the crash site hid on seeing figures approaching: Rhodesian Army reservist Anthony Hill, 39, took cover in the surrounding bush, while businessman Hans Hansen and his wife Diana did the same. This left 10 passengers in full view near the wreckage, including four women and two girls (aged 11 and 4).
The guerrillas, who were armed with AK-47 rifles, presented themselves to the 10 passengers as friendly, saying they would summon help and bring water. They spoke in English, both to the survivors and among themselves. They told the passengers to congregate around a point a few metres from the wreckage; when the survivors said that some of them were too badly injured to walk, the insurgents told the able-bodied men to carry the others. The passengers were assembled into an area of about 10 square metres (110 sq ft). Standing roughly 15 metres (49 ft) away, the cadres now raised their weapons. "You have taken our land," one of them said. "Please don't shoot us!" one of the passengers cried, just before they were killed by a sustained burst of automatic gunfire. Those that survived the initial bursts were bayoneted (including a mother and her 3-week-old baby).
Having collected water from the nearby village, MacLaren and his companions were almost back at the crash site when they heard the shots. Thinking it was personal ammunition in the luggage exploding in the heat, they continued on their way, and called out to the other passengers, who they thought were still alive. This alerted the insurgents to the presence of more survivors; one of the guerrillas told MacLaren's group to "come here". The insurgents then opened fire on their general location, prompting MacLaren and the others to flee. Hill and the Hansens also ran; they revealed their positions to the fighters in their haste, but successfully hid themselves behind a ridge. After Hill and the others had hidden there for about two hours, they saw the attackers return to the crash site at about 19:45. The guerrillas looted the wrecked cabin and some of the suitcases strewn around the site, filled their arms with passengers' belongings, then left again.
Cuban anti-aircraft crew wave their weapons to the camera on top of a ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" AA vehicle during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Calueque, Angola, 1988.
Cuban tank crew at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, 1988
There was no actual battle at Cuito Cuanavale itself.
The battle was tactically inconclusive, but both sides declared victory. FAPLA and its Cuban allies declared victory because they were able to hold their defenses around Cuito Cuanavale. UNITA and its South African allies declared victory because the initial FAPLA offensive had been shattered and the participating enemy brigades had suffered heavy losses.
Fidel Castro claimed that "the overwhelming victory at Cuito Cuanavale...put an end to outside military aggression against [Angola]," asserting that South Africa had suffered such a catastrophic setback as a result of the battle that it "had to swallow its usual arrogant bullying and sit down at the negotiating table". On a visit to Cuba, Nelson Mandela told the Cuban people that the FAPLA-Cuban "success" at Cuito Cuanavale was "a turning point for the liberation of our continent and my people" as well as the Angolan civil war and the struggle for Namibian independence.
Soviet foreign policy expert Peter Vanneman stated that no decisive victory was won by either side. In his analysis of the campaign, Fen Osler Hampson, Director of Global Security Research at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, concurred with this perspective. Hampson asserted that "although there was no decisive battle at Cuito Cuanavale, Cuban president Fidel Castro successfully exploited the situation for propaganda purposes". Hampson criticised Cuban sources for painting the battle as a single decisive engagement, asserting instead that the battle was better described as a prolonged stalemate in which two modestly sized opposing forces kept each other in check for nine months.
A summary of the battle in Krasnaya Zvezda, the official periodical of the Soviet Ministry of Defence, noted that the FAPLA-Cuban coalition had failed to "decisively defeat the enemy" and described the end result as "frankly speaking, an impasse".
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale is commemorated in several countries in southern Africa. The 20th anniversary in 2008 was especially celebrated in Namibia.
"On the 'Road of Death' between Menongue and Cuito-Cuanavale", original photo caption showing two Soviet military advisers in Angola, 1988.
On the left is military translator Alexander Shishov, standing next to Davydovsky Anatoly Pavlovich, advisor to the head of the political department (political commissar), of the 13th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade (13 otdel'naya desantno shturmovaya brigade, 13 DShbr) of Magdagachi, during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.
Taking place between August 14, 1987 and March 23, 1988, the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was the biggest battle to take place in Africa since World War II. The function of the Soviet advisers was to train and advise the Communist forces of the MPLA, from basic training, equipment use to planning operations. They are wearing the Cuban camouflage pattern, used by the 50,000 Cubans in Angola and by Angolan soldiers.
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