THE ROLE OF THE MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS AND THE NATIONAL SERVICE UNIT
The Ministry, and its forerunner; the old Department of Native Affairs, have been involved in the development of this country, since its initial occupation. The role of the Ministry, since the occupation, has varied from one of paternalism, where the Department of Native Affairs was regarded as the father of the African people, to one of Community Development, where our priorities lay in devolving responsibility to local community level, with the primary objective of raising the standard of living of the rural population from a subsistence level to that of a cash economy. With the escalation of the war, circumstances have dictated changes in our administrative policies and priorities. Our role has emerged principally as a part of the security forces, whose task it is to negate terrorist pressures and activities, whilst winning over the confidence and support of the tribal population. The whole basis, however, of our Ministry’s operations has been, and must continue to be that of the primary link between the Government and the people.
Thus the Ministry has served the administration and the people by assisting both in all aspects of development, thereby endeavouring to create conditions conducive to the establishment of a better way of life for the African rural population.
With the advent of terrorism, which has escalated imperceptibly at times but relentlessly, the traditional role of the Ministry, the successful achievement of which is anathema to communist inspired terrorism, has had to undergo this fundamental change as described above. Fortunately this country has been able to draw on the lessons that have been learnt during similar upheavals in other countries.
It was particularly during the Malayan campaign that a strategy for successfully combating communist inspired insurgency was evolved. Many Rhodesians, black and white, served in this campaign and learned first hand the methods of tackling the problem. One of the thoughts of the late Chairman Mao gives us the key to the weakness in the terrorist philosophy: “Where the waters are life giving the fish will thrive. Where they are stagnant the fish will die”. In other words where the terrorist can enlist and maintain the full support of the people to his cause, he will thrive. Then both the traditional way of life of the people and the administration will wither and die. On the other hand, where the terrorist is unable to build up and maintain such support, and the people are hostile to his cause, he in turn cannot survive. Therefore while it is essential that the terrorist be sought out and destroyed, his destruction can only finally and permanently be brought about through alienating him from the people he seeks to subvert. Despite the lessons we have learned, however, we still tend to embrace the soldier’s solution – i.e. “guns and bayonets will do the trick”. This is not and can never be, in this kind of warfare, a lasting solution. We have had therefore to direct an increasingly large proportion of our efforts to conditioning the people, rather than chasing after the terrorist. This is why the role of our Ministry and the National Service Unit has been created to support it, has undergone fundamental change. This is also why the vital importance of the role of our Ministry and our objectives should be more widely understood, if we are to succeed.
To put all these points into perspective it is important at this stage to outline briefly the pattern which emerges from the onset of communist inspired terrorist activity.
1. The terrorists play on the grievances, real of imagined, of the people and makes outrageous promises of the better life to come if the people throw in their lot with this cause. At the same time their efforts are directed against the administrative processes and any agency supporting them. Dips and Council Offices are a primary target, but inevitably other arms of the Administration, even those which actively serve the people such as schools, clinics and bus services are attacked, disrupted and ultimately destroyed.
2. This invites the intervention of the Security Forces whose intention it must be to re-inforce the administration, and to destroy the terrorist. In the course of undertaking this task, pressure must inevitably be applied on the local population to give information as to the whereabouts and the modus operandi of the terrorist.
3. The terrorist reacts to this situation and attempts to defend his position by intimidating the people into supporting him, by committing acts of indescribable brutality, this immediately instilling fear into the people, which is an essential ingredient for the success of the operations at this stage.
4. The tribesman is now caught up in the middle between pressures applied by the opposing forces, and the following options are available to him:
a. Open support for the terrorists whom he hopes will protect him.
b. Open support for the security forces at the risk of incurring the wrath of the terrorist, which will jeopardise the safety of himself and his family.
c. Existing in a state of limbo in which he tries somewhat pathetically to play one side off against the other.
d. Unable to face the pressure he abandons his home and his traditional way of life and migrates to the main urban centres where he hopes to find employment and a place to live in peace.
When this happens on a large scale, neither jobs nor accommodation are available and he emerges disillusioned and bewildered and susceptible to anti-establishment influences.
Our modified role therefore is one of fundamental importance and can be described as follows:
Firstly the removal of terrorist influence and pressure. This has been achieved primarily through the establishment of protected villages, which are designed not only to deny the terrorist access to the people, but to form the basis of a new and different way of life. While this new way of life is admittedly fraught with certain hardships, it is undeniably a better and more honest alternative to the one being offered by the terrorists, which causes untold suffering and the bitter disillusionment of living a lie.
Secondly although the resistance to change which exists strongly in the African make-up, causes initial suspicion and resentment to a scheme which is promoted by the government, it has been proved beyond doubt, that once settled and established, the protected village becomes accepted as a means of providing protection and in some cases a growth point for a more prosperous future. The indictment: “concentration camp”, hurled by many at the protected village system, is a crude attempt to discredit a constructive and beneficial concept, both from the point of view of eliminating the terrorist influence and affording the people protection.
However, the protected village scheme should not be viewed in isolation. It is part of the overall plan to “render the waters stagnant, so what may thrive in the future will be a better way of life backed up by a solid and functioning administration, as opposed to the misery inflicted by terrorism.
It is for this simple reason that the Ministry and the National Service Unit must continue in their endeavours, in the first stage to provide the climate in which we can rid ourselves of the scourge of terrorism, and in the second stage to build up the administration and work towards the real hope of a stable future, which is indeed the ultimate hope of all members of the country, regardless of race.