Guerrilla activity in north-eastern Rhodesia during the past fourteen months has put increasing pressure on the country's armed forces.
Guerrilla activity in north-eastern Rhodesia during the past fourteen months has put increasing pressure on the country's armed forces. The campaign has seen the deaths of more than thirty troops and earlier this year there were reports of a mutiny in the country's only Black African regiment. However, the Rhodesian authorities have been working hard to increase the size of the tiny army, whose front-line regular strength was estimated, last August, as being around one thousand.
In the same month, 110 recruits to the "Reinforcement Holding Unit" paraded for the first time at Inkomo Barracks outside Salisbury. What made the unit specially interesting was that most of the men were aged between 28 and 48, and nine out of ten had been in forces before. They had been re-recruited to ease the burden on the country's security forces. Another, indirect, recruiting drive began in January of this year. The "Settlers '74" campaign aimed at luring thousands of new white immigrante to Rhodesian cannot but help swell the ranks of the armed forces in a country where conscription is still very much part of the way-of-life. Although new settlers will be exempt from service for five years, they will enable Rhodesians to be released from their works for periods in the reserve forces.
Earlier this month the Rhodesian government announced plans to increase the size of the regular Army and double the conscription intake of territorial forces as a move to "eliminate the terrorists in the shortest possible time". The official statement issued at the time announcing the measures said they were designed to remedy "an unduly heavy burden" placed on reserve units. The conscripts now undergo one year's full-time training, and school-leavers are being drafted as soon as they can. Men over 25 are now required to enlist for up to a month at a time each year for "protective military duties". Some reservists have been spending, voluntarily, up to four months a year on army duty.
But the break-down in discipline amongst the predominantly black Rhodesian African Rifles complicated the problem of maintaining internal stability while waging a campaign against the guerrilla insurgents. The mutiny, as a result of which six non-commissioned officers have been court-martialled, shattered the idea that the loyalty of the troops to the Rhodesian government could be taken for granted. However, black recruitment still continues, and Black African soldiers are still being used in the front-line campaign against the guerrillas.
Besides their own effects at eliminating guerrilla activity in the north-east, the Rhodesians have been receiving outside help. Last year, there were reports of South African military helicopters operating in the country, ??? helping security forces in their campaign in the north-eastern Centenary area.
Although the "Settler "74" campaign will help increase the strength of the Rhodesian armed forces, the new immigrants are being allowed five years grace before being conscripted, because the Rhodesian government, worried about a relative decline in the White Rhodesian population in recent years, felt that prospective immigrants would be unwilling to settle in the country if faced with the prospect of an immediate tour of duty in the armed forces.
There have been mixed feelings to the new measures. Rhodesian industry has reacted warily to the changes, and some companies have begun studies on the likely effects they might have on productivity and efficiency. They see the call-up depriving industry of many key workers.