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International Socialism, January 1977


Notes of the Month

Southern Africa


From International Socialism (1st series), No.94, January 1977, pp.8-9.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Henry Kissinger’s efforts to stabilise Southern Africa have not halted the armed struggle inside Zimbabwe. As the leaders of the main African Nationalist groups conferred in Geneva with the representatives of the Smith regime and of the British government, the Rhodesian settlers launched a series of raids across the border into Mozambique in early November.

The target of these raids seems to have been a number of the guerilla camps from which the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) operates. November is the month that the rainy season begins in Zimbabwe, covering the country with thick green foliage that is perfect camouflage for the guerillas. The regime clearly hopes that through a series of pre-emptive strikes across the border it will be able to sabotage the guerilla build-up and thus nip the offensive in the bud. This is unlikely to succeed – already in October there were more incidents than in any month since the war began in December 1972. By November 12, less than two weeks after the raid, a spokesman for the regime admitted that there were over 2,000 guerillas inside the country.

The regime is stepping up its reign of terror agianst the African population. A special unit, the Selous Scouts, was reponsible for the raids into Mozambique. It consists largely of black mercenaries who often disguise themselves as guerillas; when these troops attacked Nhazonia refugee camp in Mozambique last August they disguised themselves in Frelimo uniforms.

Over 600 of the unsuspecting refugees died in the ensuing slaughter. Undoubtedly many of the atrocities against African peasants attributed to the guerillas are in fact the work of the Selous Scouts masquerading as Zipa men.

Meanwhile, the Geneva conference began on schedule on October 28. Both sides seem to want to spin out the talks as long as possible. Ted Sutton-Pryce, Deputy Minister in Ian Smith’s office, told a closed meeting of the ruling Rhodesian Front on October 7, that the negotiations were a way of buying time. Even if an agreement were reached the all-white Parliament would not be dissolved during the interim period, defined as two years by the Smith-Kissinger deal, before majority rule and could reject the agreement if it wanted:

‘At worst, we would be in a better position to fight the war than at present. We would have ... two years’ trading on an open market. Revive the economy with the two million development fund. Two years to build up arms and war materials and the armed forces. The market for recruitment into the armed forces would be widened’ (Financial Times, 1 November 1976).

The nationalist leaders also see the question of who holds power during the transition period as crucial. All are opposed to the provision of the Smith-Kissinger agreement under which the portfolios of Defence and Law and Order would remain in white hads. But they would probably support a solution under which a British Governor-General and possibly British army officers would step in to take over from the regime and its commanders during the transition period. This solution has been canvassed by the governments of African states like Tanzania and is known to be favoured in Washington. The British Cabinet is resisting this proposal since it is worried about its military commitments in Germany and Ireland and does not want to get lumbered with Zimbabwe as well. But since the US Treasury will have to main voice in deciding the terms of the international loans needed to prop up the British economy, there is not much that Callaghan and Crosland can do.

The idea of British intervention in Zimbabwe would be supported by all those who hope to see a ‘moderate’ black government headed by someone like Joshua Nkomo. Such a solution would provide a perfect cover for attempts to crush Zimbabwean radicals and force the Zipa guerillas into line. Any agreement that does not provide for immediate independence under a black government, the dissolution of the Rhodesia Army and the British South Africa Police, and the rapid election of a constituent assembly on the basis of universal adult suffrage, must be resisted.

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