Welcome to The SAS Files: Interview with Rhodesian Operator Keith Nell – The Rhodesian 9/11

In this episode, Ness discusses the complex political and military dynamics in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) leading up to its independence, focusing on the violent tactics used during the liberation struggle. He refers to two major factions: one led by Robert Mugabe, representing the majority Shona population supported by China, and the other led by Joshua Nkomo, representing the minority Ndebele population supported by the Soviet Union. The strategic interests of these external powers in Rhodesia were primarily driven by the desire to gain a foothold in southern Africa, with an eye on South Africa’s mineral wealth and strategic maritime routes.

He explains how a Soviet KGB General, positioned in Zambia, was instrumental in advising Nkomo’s faction to adopt a missile campaign against civilian aircraft to demoralize the Rhodesian population and force the government to negotiate under less favorable terms. This campaign led to a significant increase in emigration from Rhodesia and eventually played a role in the Lancaster House Agreement, which facilitated the transition to majority rule.

Nell also mentions secretive actions taken by Rhodesian forces against the groups responsible for downing the aircraft, suggesting that had these successes been publicized, they might have bolstered the morale of the Rhodesian public and the effectiveness of their security forces. However, these actions were not made public, leading to speculation about the presence of a mole within the Rhodesian command structure who might have had an interest in suppressing this information to influence the outcome of the conflict.

In essence, Nell likens the impact of these events in Rhodesia to a “9/11” due to their significant and traumatic effect on the nation, altering the course of its history and leading to independence under Mugabe’s leadership. This story underscores the complexities of colonial legacies, international politics, and local dynamics in shaping the paths toward independence and conflict in African states during the Cold War era.

Be sure to check out the video to learn more.