The Rhodesian Bush War and the Rise and Fall of Zimbabwe /// 55

The Rhodesian Bush War was just the start of modern Zimbabwe’s tragedy. In today’s special double episode we pick up where we left off: in the middle of the bloody Rhodesian Bush War. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the conflict. Hundreds of thousands more lost everything they owned in the struggle. Then came independence and Robert Mugabe took control of the nation.

One year after the Bush War, high-level espionage destroyed key Zimbabwean infrastructure. Two years later, Mugabe unleashed his Korean-trained Fifth Brigade on the Ndebele people: thousands of African nationalist kung-fu masters rampaged the Ndebele homeland, massacring thousands and intimidating hundreds of thousands. It was ethnic persecution, some authors say genocide, on a massive scale. The persecution was called Gukurahundi – the rain that washes away the trash.

Then Mugabe turned his attention toward the European minority beginning in 1990. Fifteen years later less than a few thousand Europeans remained in the country, down from 250,000 twenty years before – yet another massive population shift in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe’s long history of ethnic conflict.

Finally, Mugabe’s attention turned inward: wiping out all African opposition to his rule with yet more naked intimidation, disappearances, torture, and mass propaganda. The result is Zimbabwe today, a nation filled with homeless, where more people flee the country than graduate from university. Millions of Zimbabweans have fled their homeland. Their story is rarely told. Imagine all of these refugees and mistreated people gathered into a massive city – millions of them. See the women’s haggard, wrinkled faces, the children’s begging eyes pleading for help that doesn’t come – a city of people living on the margins, without even the hope of hope, so hungry they don’t even feel it anymore.

Here is their story.

Today’s special double episode is part four of a four part series. You can find part 3: here, part 2: here, and part 1: here.

Download episode 55: here

Maps and Illustrations

From (Meredith, 2007)
Operation Dingo: Attack on Chimoio (Pringle, 2014)
Operation Dingo: Attack on Tembue (Pringle, 2014)
A rare photography from inside a guerrilla training camp. Notice the traditional conical homes in the background. (Pringle, 2014)
The firestorm resulting from a Rhodesian air force bombing on an insurgent camp (Pringle, 2014)
Bomb materials from Rhodesian air force projectiles (Pringle, 2014)
Mugabe’s assault on Rhodesia from Mozambique (Ellert, 1989).


Collapse of Rhodesia by Josiah Brownwell

Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa: Lisbon’s Three Wars in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea 1961-74 by Al Venter. 

“Mugabe’s Misrule and How it will Hold Zimbabwe Back.” by Martin Meredith. Foreign Affairs. March/April 2018. 

The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe by David Coltart

Bitter Harvest by Ian Smith 

Mugabe by Martin Meredith (2007)

A Martyr Speaks by John Coey

Rhodes and Rhodesia: The White Conquest of Zimbabwe 1884-1902 by Arthur Keppel-Jones

A Short History of Mozambique by Malyn Newitt

Operation Dingo by J.R.T. Wood

Black Fire: Accounts of the guerilla war in Rhodesia by Michael Raeburn

Dingo Firestorm (2014) by Ian Pringle

Years of Renewal by Henry Kissinger

From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe by Lawrence Vambe

White Liberals Moderates and Radicals in Rhodesia, 1953-1980 by Ian Hancock

The Rhodesian Front War by H. Ellert (1989)

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James

Cry Zimbabwe: Independence 20 Years on by Peter Stiff

Mugabe: Power And Plunder In Zimbabwe by Martin Meredith 

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith

The Rhodesian War: A Military History by Paul Moorecraft and Peter McLaughlin

Bush War Operator: Memoirs of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scouts and Beyond  by Andrew Balaam

Fire Force: A Trooper’s War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry by Chris Cocks

Survival Course: Rhodesian Denouement and the War of Self by Chris Cocks

The Saints: The Rhodesian Light Infantry edited by Chris Cocks, Craig Bone, and authored by Alexandre Binda  

Masodja: The History of the Rhodesian African Rifles and its Forerunner, The Rhodesia Native Regiment by John Wynne Hopkins, Brig David Heppenstal, and Alexandre Binda

Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts by Ron Ried-Daly

Rhodesia: Last Outpost of the British Empire 1890 – 1980 by Peter Baxter

A History of Rhodesia by Robert Blake (1978).

Taming the Land Mine by Peter Stiff

Black Fire: Accounts of the Guerilla War in Rhodesia by Michael Raeburn

Rhodes: The Race for Africa by Antony Thomas

The Founder by Robert Rotberg

A Handful of Hard Men: The SAS and the Battle for Rhodesia by Hannes Wessels

Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia by Frederick Selous

Selous Scouts: Rhodesian Counter-Insurgency Specialists by Peter Baxter.

Rhodesian Light Infantryman 1961–80 by Neil Grant

White Liberals, Moderates, and Radicals in Rhodesia, 1953-1980 by Ian Hancock

The Iron Lady : Margaret Thatcher, from Grocer’s Daughter to Prime Minister by John Campbell and David Freeman

The Struggle for Zimbabwe: Battle in the Bush by Lewis Gann

The Struggle for Zimbabwe: The Chimurenga War by David Martin and Phyllis Johnson

Origins of Rhodesia by Stanlake Samkange

At the Going Down of the Sun by Charlie Warren

NATIVE POLICY IN SOUTHERN RHODESIA, 1890-1923 (sic). By DUIGNAN, PETER JAMES. Stanford University Doctoral Dissertation. 1961.

‘“It was Difficult in Zimbabwe”: A History of Imprisonment, Detention and Confinement during Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle, 1960-1980’ by Munyaradzi Bryn Munochiveyi. University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation. 2008.

History of Africa by Kevin Shillington

Cecil Rhodes: Flawed Colossus by Brian Roberts

The Founder: Cecil Rhodes and the Pursuit of Power by Robert Rotberg

“After Two Decades of Rot, Zimbabwe Is Coming Apart at the Seams” by Antony Sguazzin, Ray Ndlovu, and Brian Latham. 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. 36 Lectures by Patrick  Allitt. Produced by the Great Courses.

All our yesterdays, 1890-1970: a pictorial review of Rhodesia’s story from the best of ‘illustrated life Rhodesia’ by Various. 

End of Empire: Rhodesia. (1985). Produced by Grenada Television. Available here:

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