By Tom Dare
THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY of the SAS fighters who fought to stop Robert Mugabe’s rise to power in Zimbabwe, and the role Britain played in putting him into power, has been told in a new book this week, in a fascinating look at the struggle between Black Nationalism and white supremacy in Zimbabwe that led to the election of one of the most brutal dictators in history.
Images from ‘We Dared to Win: The SAS in Rhodesia’ by authors Hannes Wessels and Andre Scheepers show the brutal realities of some of the more intense fighting from the Rhodesian Bush War of the late 1970s, with one image showing a casualty being loaded into the back of a helicopter, while others show author Andre Scheepers out in the field with his men.
Further images from the book show the Rhodesian SAS out on parade during the conflict, with another captures the moment a group of SAS men were forced to carry one of their fallen comrades on a stretcher.
The Rhodesian Bush War, a civil war in what is now Zimbabwe which took place between 1964 and 1979, was essentially a struggle between pro and anti-apartheid forces over who would govern the former British colony.
It all started in 1964 when Ian Smith, the white-minority leader of Rhodesia who believed he should be given outright independence from the British Empire, declared independence from it. The UK leadership was thought to favour a return to African majority rule in Rhodesia, and Smith felt this would threaten the security and prosperity that he and the white-minority government had helped to establish in Rhodesia for over 50 years.
But, while Smith was insisting on independence from the British Empire, many African-Rhodesians were insisting on independence from the white minority established there after the country became a British colony in 1895. There were two sides to the African independence movement, the Zimbabwe National African Union, led by Robert Mugabe, and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, led by Joshua Nkomo.
In the midst of this conflict, the Rhodesian SAS found itself fighting for the white minority government; their job being to maintain the status quo and prevent any insurgencies or uprisings against the government. In addition to this, the men of the Rhodesian SAS were tasked with several covert operations. Among them; assassinate Robert Mugabe. Andre Scheepers was an officer in the Rhodesian SAS in the late 1970s, and he writes:
“By late 1978 a decision had been taken to kill Mugabe in Maputo.
“Following rehearsals the operation commenced mid-February and following a two-day voyage from Langebaan in a strike craft the ship took up a position below the horizon with the lights of Maputo brightening the distant sky. At sunset a signal from an intelligence operative was received indicating the “target” was in residence.
“Travelling in three Zodiac inflatables the SAS men boated into shore paddling the last few hundred metres to maintain maximum silence knowing the harbour mouth was heavily defended.
““We came down the rope-ladders and on to the inflatables and made for the beach,” recalls Rich Stannard. “There was a bit of a scare when we ran into some fishermen and I heard the ‘Recce’ guys speaking in Afrikaans saying we had been compromised but the fishermen did not appear to be too alarmed and we decided to carry on.
““We left a landing party on the beach and headed for the target. We approached the house with no problem as we knew the route from our rehearsals and none of us saw any sentries. I was carrying a bomb big enough to sink a ship. As we neared the house, Keith said to me, ‘good luck Sir this is going to be quite something.’ Billy Grant and Keith jumped up on to the wall with RPGs ready to initiate but nothing happened because they could see no sign of life. I jumped up to look and could see through his bathroom window and I could see a small red light but it was clear the place had been abandoned and only recently.
““I was itching to blow the place to pieces anyway and damn nearly pulled the pin and threw it for the hell of it. We all felt that he had been warned we were coming. It was a huge disappointment.
“We checked a few things out for future reference on the way back then made it to the beach and the boats without incident.”
“Wing Commander Peter Petter-Bowyer later told the BBC’s Mike Thomson. “We had absolute proof. The guy who lived across the road from Mugabe, happened to be a South African. I met the man, confirmed that Mugabe was at home and all was well. But, when we got there, [he had] gone. No question, Mugabe was called, there’s no doubt. That’s exactly what happened.”
“Asked who he believed called Mugabe, Petter-Bowyer was in no doubt; “The Brits,” he replied firmly.”
We Dared to Win: The SAS in Rhodesia by authors Hannes Wessels and Andre Scheepers is published by Casemate Publishers, and can be purchased here: https://www.casematepublishing.co.uk/we-dared-to-win.html
For more information see www.mediadrumworld.com