3. PSEUDO MODUS OPERANDI
on the specific circumstances that enabled a pseudo team to enter an area as
insurgent forces, pseudo methods and the deception employed varied widely from
one area to the next.
to then Major Reid-Daly the role of the Selous Scouts was to infiltrate the
tribal population and the terrorist networks, pinpoint the terrorist camps
and bases and then direct conventional forces in to carry out the actual
attacks. Then depending on the skill of the particular Selous Scouts’ pseudo
group concerned, their cover should remain intact which would enable them to
continue operating in a particular area ... perhaps
is essential in almost all types of pseudo operations. Arranging a meeting with
a real insurgent group could entail several weeks during which numerous letters
were passed back and forth via mujibas (insurgents’ youth supporters)
and contact men. If successful, a meeting would be arranged between the two
groups at a neutral spot in which the senior group was approached by the
juniors. Following this, the members of the two groups met and mingled.
Information would be exchanged, beer drunk and possibly some revolutionary songs
sung. Information gleaned at such meetings, as well as from other sources was
then passed back to Special Branch or directly to Fire Force, the
helicopter-borne reaction force, for action. One such specific type of
operation that proved to be highly effective, was termed the Observation Post
obvious reasons white pseudo team members could not come into direct contact
with members of the local population or insurgents. When a pseudo team thus
entered a village, the white(s) remained outside and as close as possible. After
contact had been made between village members and a pseudo team, for example,
the village would be kept under close observation. The reaction of villagers
very often gave a good indication of the presence and location of other
insurgent groups. Upon confirmation of such suspicion, the Selous Scouts team
leader would call in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group. To
facilitate this, observation posts were manned on high ground close to the
village. Former insurgent members with a detailed knowledge of both local
customs and insurgent practices proved invaluable in picking up the most
minute indications of insurgent presence. The use of observation posts was
especially suited to the rugged terrain in the Northeast of Rhodesia and
proved highly successful in these areas.
following capture and the traumatic memory of the preceding fire-fight, these
insurgents would be ‘turned’ by promise and threat. Along with a number of
Scouts these prisoners would adopt the identity of the former insurgent group
and function as they had done in an adjacent area sufficiently far enough
from the local population who could identify them. In this instance the
newly-turned insurgents would introduce the group to contact men and in
general establish their bona fides with the local population.
This method, however, relied upon total security, specifically in the area of
the contact. But even where a prisoner had become compromised he could still be
used as advisor or source of detailed local information.
further variation of pseudo work entailed what were termed ‘hunter—killer’
groups. In contrast to a purely defensive, intelligence-gathering role, these
teams were used aggressively. Having located a specific insurgent infiltration
route, pseudo teams were dispatched along it on the pretext of returning from
Rhodesia for resupply and retraining after an extensive operation. En route
further information was collected while the group, in contrast to its normal
intelligence function, eliminated all insurgents on the way.
Hunter-killer groups were first used north of Mount Darwin in the Mavuradonha area where the rugged terrain inhibited normal Security Force operations.
In relation to their numbers, the success of
it. Alternatively it could consist of select aggression against Security Forces or civilians. One such example was documented in Africa Confidential
during the initial years, many pseudo operations were conducted to sow distrust
between members of the local population and the insurgents. Rudimentary attempts
towards achieving this objective consisted for instance of theft or offending
local customs. Numerous further refinements were added. One such practice
entailed calling in an air strike or Fire Force on the insurgent group after
they had left a specific kraal. After two or three such occurrences the
insurgents invariably suspected the kraal members of informing Security Forces
of their presence. In revenge, and to forestall any repetition, innocent kraal
members were executed. This would normally put an end to any voluntary support
that the insurgents could expect from the kraal. (At the same time such
punishment could also intimidate the inhabitants from helping the Security
the short term benefits that were achieved by such illegal actions were
substantial, once the local population became aware of these practices, it could
only have had a distinctly negative effect on their attitude toward the
government in general. The task of government, i.e. judicious law
enforcement and maintenance of law and order, is incompatible with substantial
transgression of the law. Under these circumstances it becomes extremely
difficult for any such regime to claim legitimacy.
insurgent forces and their supporters became aware of pseudo activities, various
measures were instituted to identify any such teams. Specific bangles and pieces
of clothing were worn which would provide positive proof of identification. On
specific instruction, members of the local population changed their method of
aiding insurgent forces. Instead of leaving nightly food parcels at
spots, each insurgent received his food individually during daylight. Any
white member of such a team would thus be identified. It was only during 1979
that the Selous Scouts succeeded in fielding all-black teams to eliminate this
reaction to these changing means of identification, the Selous Scouts launched
an intensive intelligence effort to remain constantly aware of what these
entailed in any specific area.
further method employed in the Mount Darwin area entailed the intimidation of
known contact men to aid the Selous Scouts. Shortly after having called in
Fire Force on a group of insurgents in the area, the pseudo team visited the
contact man. It was made clear to him that failure to cooperate with Security
Forces would lead to his death. Thereafter his kraal was kept under constant
surveillance from an observation post. Each time an insurgent group entered the
area, the contact man would, for example, hang up a certain blanket after which
he would meet the Selous Scouts at a predetermined spot to exchange information.
Fire Force would then normally eliminate the insurgent group.
contact men recruited in this manner were code—named ‘Lemon’ and
‘Orange’ and collectively known as ‘Fruit Salad’. Since they were also
paid for their services, the sudden appearance of riches in both cases led to
insurgent suspicion and retribution. In his book Selous Scouts
Top Secret War
Lieutenant-Colonel Reid-Daly describes a similar operation code—named Market
Garden with the two compromised contact men known as Apple and Banana. This
incident occurred at the foot of the Mavuradanha mountains in the North—east.
stated above, the Selous Scouts eventually could claim the highest kill ratio of
all Rhodesian Security Forces. Although Fire Force, and First Battalion
Rhodesian Light Infantry, which constituted the quick deployment troops of Fire
Force, were physically responsible for most of these insurgent casualties, the
intelligence that had led them to the insurgents originated from the Selous
As a result pseudo operations again shifted in emphasis away from that of gathering intelligence to a more aggressive role where insurgent casualty figures became all-important. This process was aided initially when substantial bonuses were paid for insurgent casualties.