Rhodesia - The Propaganda War
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Rhodesia - The Propaganda War
Alternative title Rhodesia - The Propaganda War
Author/Creator Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
Contributor Catholic Institute for International Relations, Africa Fund
Publisher Africa Fund
Resource type Pamphlets
Coverage (spatial) Zimbabwe
Coverage (temporal) 1960 - 1977
Source Africa Action Archive
Rights By kind permission of Africa Action, incorporating the
American Committee on Africa, The Africa Fund, and the
Africa Policy Information Center. Reprinted by permission of
the Catholic Institute for International Relations.
Description War. Civil War in Rhodesia. Emergency Powers Act.
Propaganda Attempts to Isolate Guerrillas. ZANU. ZAPU.
Protected Villages. Rhodesian army pursues policy of
systematic torture. Security forces inflict burns. Two case
studies of the killing of civilians by Government forces.
Security legislation. Sister Janice McLaughlin.
Rhodesia The PropagandaWar
This latest report from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in
Rhodesia highlights the extent of the propaganda war being waged by the
Rhodesia Front regime. It also illustrates the contradictions of the propaganda
campaign-to assuage white fears on the one hand and on the other to terrorise the
black population in an attempt to isolate the guerrillas. As support for the
nationalist cause has increased, the propaganda has become increasingly strident.
It takes several forms-displaying the mutilated corpses of guerrillas and
distributing photographs of them accompanied by threats, warning the black
population that if they cooperate with the guerillas they will be killed. The latest
element in the psychological warfare is the mass distribution of crude leaflets
depicting guerrillas as 'mad dog terrorists', responsible for killing, rape and
spreading venereal disease. At the same time the government has issued
regulations which make it an offence to publish or distribute anything which may
contribute to the spreading of alarm and despondency. Whilst the regime is thus
actively engaged in spreading alarm and despondency among black Rhodesians, it
is going to inordinate lengths to prevent white Rhodesians from knowing the truth
of their situation.
International coverage of the war in Rhodesia is at best mediocre. There is a
dearth of foreign correspondents inside the country so that several newspapers
have to rely on the same reporter writing under different names. Foreign
correspondents have to be careful not to be too critical of the Rhodesian regime.
Those who are too critical either have to leave the country or are deported.
Recently the BBC correspondent Brian Barron has been refused an extension of
his work permit because when he reported on a massacre of 23 blacks in
northeastern Rhodesia he said "Well, we only have the Rhodesian security forces
version of the massacre..." Few journalists are permitted to enter the operational
areas and those who are allowed to do so are subject to censorship. As a result,
most reporters are dependent on government statements and few have any
opportunity for rounded background investigation. In consequence the realities of
the war are distorted.
This report includes an analysis of the Rhodesian regime's policy of rounding up
rural Africans into "protected villages". It is estimated that these villages now
contain half a million Africans in conditions of great hardship. This inhuman
policy has gone largely uncriticised in the media. Indeed Rhodesian propaganda
presents these villages as havens of safety and welcomed by the local people.
It is clear that some of the atrocities of the war are committed by the Rhodesian
security forces. Indeed the judgement of many missionaries on the spot is that the
army is responsible for the bulk of the terrorising, brutality and killing of
civilians. Rarely, if ever, is this conveyed in the international press. One incident
described in this report tells of the killing of 35 civilians, most of them women
and children and the serious wounding of another 31 by the security forces. The
initial report of this incident in London's largest evening newspaper, the Evening
News, stated "guerrillas kill 34". According to the first report in the Evening
News "Security chiefs (said) the civilians were lined up and shot with automatic
weapons". In later editions the story had altered to the "killed in crossfire" account
which also appeared in other British newspapers. The security forces, who
claimed they were merely engaged in a normal follow-up operation of nine
guerrillas, described the incident as "an unfortunate set-back". Eventually the
truth of what had happened was conceded but dismissed as "unfortunately
inevitable in fighting of this nature". (Rhodesian Herald Editorial, May 11 1977.)
The fact is, far from protecting black civilians, the Rhodesian security forces
place little value on their lives. In view of such incidents it is understandable that
nationalists accuse the Rhodesian security forces of shooting anything black that
moves. Nor is it surprising that the control of the army and police is a crucial
factor in any negotiations for a settlement.
Evidence of the kind of lawlessness which is being legitimised by the Rhodesian
government is continually emerging. In the most recent example, the Rhodesian
Minister for Justice and Law and Order, Hilary Squires, assured white vigilante
groups that they would be indemnified against any legal repercussions if they
killed anyone whilst recovering stolen cattle (The Times, July 28 1977).
Statements from the Rhodesian government about the importance of maintaining
law and order in the 'interim period' sound hollow under such circumstances.
CIR LONDON September 1977
This Report was reprinted by permission of The Catholic Institute for
International Relations. The text has not been altered in any way but some
graphics have been omitted.
Causing alarm or
despondency: a crime
Mimeographed papers titled "Makoni Gandanzara Military News" were dropped
from a light plane as it circled over Makoni Tribal Trust Land in Eastern Rhodesia
on Tuesday, 7 June 1977.
Typed in English, the single sheets carried a crude threat to all persons in the area
WARNING TO ALL
Sympathisers and feeders of terrorists.
Recruiters for terrorist training.
There are still some people who continue to help the terrorists and a few even try
to do their evil work for them. These people are counted as terrorists and will be
killed by the
The leaflets went on to boast that the majority of people now supply information
to the security forces. "This makes it easier to catch and kill the terrorists and their
'pet dogs';" it explained. Labeling the guerillas as cowards, who murder and rob
innocent people, the sheet stated that "the majority of the people are tired of the
terrorists and their pets." "You have now been warned," the message concluded.
"Beware of the anger of the people and the Security Forces."
The same week that this propaganda was being dropped on rural villages, the
Rhodesian Government issued more stringent emergency regulations. Rhodesia
has been in a state of emergency since just before UDI in 1965, and the
regulations have been amended 32 times. Besides giving the government more
powers to punish the guerillas and those who assist them, the new regulations also
further restrict the free flow of information. As the Rhodesia Herald of 11 June
reported, "It is also now an offence to 'communicate to any other person any
rumour or report which is likely to cause alarm or despondency.' This is
punishable by a fine of $100 or three months in jail. Anyone writing, publishing
or distributing anything likely to cause alarm or despondency, or to lead to action
which might be detrimental to national defence, public safety, public order or the
termination of the state of public emergency is punishable by a fine of $600 or six
months in jail."
Such contradictory actions within the same week highlight the double standards
which characterize the present situation. The government does not hesi-
tate to alarm the people of Makoni Tribal Tr