Rhodesia - Intaf

Callsign - Lighthouse

Psychological Operations



This is a complex subject and many books have been written on the subject in general terms.  This page introduces the subject very briefly.  Much more could be said!


Rhodesia fought a multi faceted war which encompassed guerrilla warfare and the use of conventional military tactics adopted to fight the guerrilla.  The most important weapon of the guerrilla was and is still the use of terror.  The profound use of terror in its harshest form by the guerrilla, directly impacted on the level of success and eventual victory and therefore was used regularly.  It is the best tactic to use for the quickest results.  Having said this one must keep in mind that terror is used in conjunction with a set of combat rules.  ZANLA had a set of combat rules based on the teachings of Mao that included such tenets as -


Obey orders.

Do not steal anything – pay your way.

Speak with respect and authority.

Do not hit people.

Do not ill treat captives.

Do not take sexual advantage of the people.

Do not damage property.


The use of terror has a specific effect.  It was used against the local population to get them quickly “on sides”.  Once that had been accomplished then the combat rules could be used because the local population had already been coerced into supporting the terrorist!  There are countless examples of terrorist cadres using terror to get the people” on sides”.  However, once the terror phase had passed it was easy to maintain support by using the combat rules above.


The old adage of “When being troubled by an alley cat, get a bigger alley cat to deal with the problem” applies.  The Rhodesian security forces used such units as the SAS and Selous Scouts as “bigger alley cats” and such operations were extremely successful.  The eventual recruitment of guerrillas into Pfumo re Vanhu also had a good effect for the government.


The very essence of any psychological war is propaganda and its effects on both sides.  Intaf was responsible for maintaining the efforts of the Rhodesian government in all areas and especially the rural areas.  For this reason, they were at the forefront of the war and had a direct role to play in trying to maintain the support of the population.  Propaganda comes in different shapes and sizes.  It sets the scene for motivating the people to support either one or the other side in a guerrilla war.  In Rhodesia both the terrorists and the government used propaganda to pass on a message to encourage support.  The government and the terrorists used propaganda to justify their points of view, obtain support and obtain more support.


Propaganda by the government was used to improve security, motivate the population and the security forces and spur the nation on.  The terrorists used propaganda to put the government in a bad light and to point out how much better it would be for the terrorists to be in power.  It was used to justify the use of terror and effectively united people to support the terrorist cause, out of that very fear on occasion.  It also motivated the youth to join the terrorist cause, collect and pass on information and support them logistically.

Propaganda also influenced the international community into believing that the use of terror was justified and that the terrorists’ cause was just.  The post 1980 situation in Zimbabwe has vividly illustrated that the judgement of the international community was somewhat flawed!




In an effort to get the support of the local population the Rhodesian government devised a new tactic known as Interface Operations.  It was a bold attempt to make contact with the people, using some of the positive elements of the enemy’s tactics but to government advantage.  The concept was devised by the Psychological Unit of the army.


Intaf personnel (especially the ARU Troops) were in an ideal situation to conduct Interface operations as they were always in the area and they were the official representatives of the government.  The approach to Interface was that these types of actions were considered a positive offensive tactic against the enemy.


Tactical Interface operations were planned at Sub JOC level and such plans ensured that the operations were consistent and complied with the objects of each phase.  The phases were as follows:

Phase 1.  Subverted and un-subverted targets

Phase 2.  Neutral and subverted targets

Phase 3.  Protected Villages, neutral and un-subverted targets.


Motivation for doing Interface Ops


The enemy were using communist psychological tactics aimed specifically at the local population.  They worked to a thorough phased plan and chose some of their best people to become Political Commissars (PCs).  The objectives of the PC were clear-cut:

a. Obtain the commitment of the local population by persuasion.

b. Emphasis the soundness of the proposed political system.

c. Emphasise the benefits of the good life to come.


The PC knew that the positive attitude and support of the people could not be won overnight.  The process needed to be consistently applied for a considerable time.


To counteract and prevent the successful achievement of the enemy strategy government forces must do the following:

a. Develop a strategy which was thoroughly planned and able to be consistently applied in order to counter the enemy’s plan.

b. Increase the amount of face - to – face communication with the target population. 


Doing so has two advantages. 

a. It ensures that the enemy’s propaganda does no go uncontested and thereby delays the subversion of the target.

b. It causes the target population to question the propaganda being thrust upon it and thereby increases the possibility of confusion and polarity.


We must ensure that all available manpower resources are given psychological tasks in accordance with a specific operational plan which is supplementary to their military and other service objectives.


In Mao’s words, “Guerrilla Warfare will fail if the sympathy, co-operation and assistance of the people cannot be gained”.  It is said that the CT spends 90% of his effort on psychological warfare tactics.


To win this war, we must go onto the offensive psychologically.  This will increase our chances of killing CTs.


The vehicle for implementing this strategy is called Interface Operations.  The attached paper sets out a basic plan which forms that basis for the preparation of specific Operational Area plans.  These plans must be cohesive, inter-related and consistently applied.  This consistency can only be brought about by total commitment of all services involved at Combined Operations centres and JOCs.  It can only be implemented single service when there is no subversion of CT presence in the area.


Complete control of the countryside is absolutely necessary to anti terrorist activity.  Interface operations are complementary to an integral part of the normal military and other service operations.


It is essential for the Interface team to know its area and, more important, the people in it.  This means knowing everything about them – their names, their character, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and fears, and ambitions.  Identify the important people and the ordinary people, those with special skills and those who are educated.  These are the opinion leaders in the society.  In addition, gain their confidence and respect.  Aim to get them onsides through friendship if possible.  If not possible, put them in a position where they have no alternative but to give you information.  You must be strong when there is no co-operation.


If the right atmosphere is achieved, you will be able to move freely amongst them and they will welcome you.  Aim for a situation where no CTs can appear in your area without you knowing at once.  You will know by information received, by your own observation, or you will feel it by instinct.  Always be on your guard and, in particular –

a. Do not become too trusting.

b. Do not become overconfident.

c. Do not get into a set routine with your methods.

d. Vary your behaviour and tactics.

e. Plan each phase thoroughly.


The official Orders Aide Memoire for Interface ops was set out as follows


Mission.  Specific Interface tasks as per Strategic Plan.



1.  General Outline

Phase 1

a. Ferret information

b. Message – gain the confidence of the locals

c. Assess their attitudes


Phase 2

a. Determine current psyops in the area

b. Message – Divide the CT / locals confidence / welfare

c. Dominate the area

d. Erase confusion

e Tactics


Phase 3.

a. Consolidate SF / locals co-operation

b. Discourage CT recruitment

c. Encourage community development

d. Facilitate reporting of CTs activities

e. Continue with Phase 2 if necessary.


2.  Preparation

a. Ferret Packs (information files)

b. Determine the message to be carried over

c. Draw up Movement Plan

d. Insert Observation Posts


3.  Composition of Group

a. 6 – 8 men

b. SF envoy

c. Control element


4.  Duration – As required.  Could be up to 42 days


5.  Conduct of Meetings

a. Defence

b. Contact

c. Food

d. Message

e. Questions

f. Songs

g. Withdrawal


6.  Debriefings.  Ferret Packs


7.  Orders for Contacts / Ambushes.  Drills


8. Admin and Log

a. Transport

b. Dress

c. Rations / cash

d. Ammo

e. Medical


9. Command and Signals

a. Appointed commander

b. Radio callsigns





To win and keep the co-operation, goodwill and confidence of the local population and so help in capturing or killing CTs.




General Outline


Phase 1.

a. Collect Ferret Pack info.  Check that it is correct.  This deals with the geography of the area, the populations’ personal details, Registration Certificate (RC/situpa) numbers , e.g. births, deaths, health situation, and information about what the people do for a living in the area.

b. Convince locals that SF support the tribesmen and are interested in their welfare and are also there to protect them from CTs. 

c. Find out local’s attitude and work out which areas and which individuals need harassment and confusion tactics.


Phase 2.

a. To strengthen PSYOPS already in the area where necessary.

b. Make the CT look bad and cause bad feeling between the locals and the CTs.  Blame the CT for all their troubles, where possible.

c. Gather more up to date information for Ferret Packs.

d. Continue to support and help the locals.  Convince them we are interested in their welfare

e. Prove to the locals that you can move around freely in the area without any problems.

f. To implement harassment and confusion tactics.  No physical violence.  Targets must be specific (See Appx. A).  Individuals selected as harass/confusion targets must be authorised by an Officer of Company Commander rank or above.


Phase 3.

a. To build up good relationship between locals and SF.  Promote the benefits of peace.

b. To stop the recruitment of new CTs.

c. To encourage community development (e.g. self help).

d. Encourage people to help SF and to report to them.

e. To continue Phase 2 ops where necessary.




Study your Ferret Pack info (if available).  Discuss this with the local DC, Member in Charge (BSAP) and SB before moving into the area.

Obtain propaganda material for our message in your area (liaise with Sensor).

Move into and about the area secretly.  SURPRISE is most important.

Observe a kraal carefully before moving into it.

Do not visit kraals and regular times.  Vary your times.

Do not follow a regular pattern of movement from kraal to kraal.  Turn up where east expected.

Visit mainly at night, but also use dawn and daylight visits.




Small units of 6 – 8 men.

Mixed sticks (Europeans / Africans) from Army, Police, Internal Affairs or other services, depending on circumstances.

One African to be the SF envoy.

Stick Leader must keep a tight control on the stick behaviour and movement.




3 – 4 day operation, depending on local situation.




Contact Kraalhead to arrange meeting and provide food, if needed (Offer to pay for food in cash or kind).

Set up all round defence at the kraal in secret.

SF envoy plus one other member of the stick address the meeting, making sure local customs are followed.  Use the following plan


Introduction time.

Special message for the area.

General message.

Question time.








These will be done by the Company Commander, using the debriefing sheets as in Appendix II.  All debrief sheets will be collected and filed under respective kraals at GC bases and used to update Ferret Packs.  SB and Sensors to be involved wherever possible in debriefings.




As per Counter Insurgency operations.