The biggest weapon that an outnumbered force needs is intelligence. In a day and age that was devoid of UAV drones, sophisticated SIGINT and sizeable Recce capabilities, the Rhodesians were essentially playing a game of ‘Whack the Mole’. They needed an equalizer. A human bugging device. The Scouts began providing that in spades.
Small secure forts were set up in operational areas that were off limits to anyone without the proper clearance. If the Scout had a family, they would provide them with food and housing. Not only did this enhance the community Esprit De Corps but it kept a stranglehold on any operational leaks. In spite of all the procedures taken to seal things up, several Scouts were sent packing for loose lips and bravado in a pub. Reid-Daly tried to be familiar with all the men in his unit and their families.
For the first two years of their operational existence, they focused on Intel gathering. One or two white Scouts would take out their small teams and drum up business. There was plenty of work to be done inside the borders of Rhodesia. An area was mapped out and missions planned to go into areas that SB believed harbored Terrorist activity.
The white Scouts experimented with various methods to blacken their exposed skin on the face and hands. From Charcoal to Shoe polish, nothing worked quite as well as a South African product the Rhodesians dubbed ‘Black is Beautiful’. The cream worked well enough for whites to appear black at a distance but up close, it was next to impossible to pass as a black man except at night.
Once the teams had been inserted, reconnaissance would begin. Working from hilltop hide sights, they would watch villages and likely trails used by the enemy. The black Scouts would separate from the Controllers and make their way to villages and pose as transient fighters, looking for groups to hook up with or try to find out who was the man in charge of Terrs in the area. This was a common occurrence for fighters who would launch from their bases in Mozambique or Zambia, make their way into Rhodesia and find allies to fight with.
The Terr networks rarely used radios, so elaborate passwords, signals and other verification techniques were used to communicate who they were and what they wanted. Hence, the extreme value of a recently captured guerrilla fighter. They would have all of the latest information that would be of use to the Scouts. If the village was sympathetic to the cause, they would feed the undercover Scouts and give them directions or send one of their own to inform the local leader that new arrivals had made their way into Rhodesia.
All the while, the Controllers would be at a safe distance, either watching from an OP or waiting for their Scouts to return for a debrief on what they had learned. If the local leader was to come and meet them, a Fire Force would be put on call to strike once the Terrs gathered together. If the Pseudo-Operators were told where to go, the mission would go on with the Controllers trailing behind so as not to be seen with their men.
Once again, when a location of a Terrorist gang was found, a strike would be put on the camp of village that housed the enemy. Due to the Scouts small numbers in the field, they were mainly collectors of intelligence. Heavy engagement with the enemy was left to the RLI.
In order to avoid friendly fire incidents, great care had to be taken. When a Scout team went into a clearly defined area, it became frozen. This caused some frustration with other units operating nearby but they could seldom afford to lose a TT after the great effort spent on putting him back into the field under Rhodesia’s flag.
Most Fire Force strikes in these situations would be scheduled for first light. After spending the night carousing with their new found Comrades, the Scouts would slip away near first light and out of harm’s way. From their concealed vantage point, the Controllers would guide in the Alouette helicopters for a strike to contain the now awaking dead men. No doubt many men awoke to the sounds of helicopter blades and noticed their new friends had gone and they had been had.
This was the primary work of the Psuedo-Terrorist Selous Scout. Both white and black soldiers perfected their skills over the course of time. Walking into the Lion’s Den repeatedly, mission after mission was enough to secure their right as Legends and more importantly to instill fear into the heart of the enemy pouring across the border into Rhodesia.
They continued throughout their history to operate internally. These operations were mainly information gathering. Many of the men who signed up grew tired of simply doing internal Recce’s and not taking action but it was paramount to not blowing their cover. A large share of recruits had come from the SAS and were used to going external and engaging in combat, the reconnaissance only being a precursor.
However, the work of the Selous Scout was only beginning. Major Ron Reid-Daly foresaw a great versatility to the type of man he was commanding. The day was coming when they would not only be gatherers of intelligence but a lethal strike force deep into the enemy’s territory.
As the Portuguese left Mozambique, a civil war erupted in the power vacuum. The Liberation Front of Mozambique- FRELIMO took up arms to maintain power over the country. The once friendly nation now became an added enemy to deal with as they were partners with ZANLA and ZIPRA.
There is still a lot of secrecy surrounding the origins of resistance groups in Mozambique. After the exit of Portugal and the rise of FRELIMO, a rival group, the Mozambican National Resistance- RENAMO or MNR started to battle for power as well. It is unknown how heavily the Rhodesians supported the cause. Some believe it was an invention of the CIO and the SAS. Others believe that South Africa and the CIA were a part of it as well. It is known that American turned Rhodesian SAS Officer Robert Mackenzie was married to Sybil Cline, whose father was Ray Cline, former Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA. Both men lobbied in Congress for support of RENAMO. The results are unknown. However, Rhodesia certainly had an issue on its hands.
The outbreak of the civil war netted negatives and positives for Rhodesia. The three insurgent groups, ZANLA, ZIPRA and FRELIMO worked in concert and their attention was divided between trying to rule Mozambique and continue to attack Rhodesia. Never was there a more pressing time for external operations than now.