Mugabe arranged Rhodesian bombing of guerrilla camp to oust Sithole

I was recruited by Dieter Kranz, a STASI high ranking officer, in October 1977.

Source: Mugabe arranged Rhodesian bombing of guerrilla camp to oust Sithole | Zimbabwe News

By Manfred Jaeger, former Rhodesian Intelligence officer

At that time I was almost 20 and had already completed my initial training and a 21mth deployment with the Rhodesia Light Infantry. Kranz was a highly experienced intelligence operative and unlike most of his colleagues, abhorred torture and hated the Russians! I was reeling from the news that my best friend Staff Sergeant Nyanguwo, Rhodesian African Rifles (3 years my senior) had been killed in mysterious circumstances that aroused my suspicions that Rhodesian Intelligence agents had been responsible.

Considering that only a couple of months earlier, he and I had been discussing our mutual serious misgivings with regard to the Rhodesian war-specifically considering the death and trauma being meted out upon innocent black villagers by both us and the ZANLA/ZIPRA combattants.

I had, upon learning of Nyanguwo’s death, made strenuous attempts to find out the details of the so called “contact” that led to his death, particularly since his devastated parents and siblings had described to me his mutilated corpse (he died while I was in the bush so I heard about it some 3 weeks after he was buried). Shortly after I started asking questions, I was paid a visit, while on R&R by two Special Branch goons who wanted to know what my interest in Nyanguwo’s death was. Suffice it to say that the “interview” did not go well and they left after having uttered threats of unspeakable action against “kaffir lovers” who stuck their noses where they didn’t belong.

By the time I met Kranz, I was more than ready for, basically, revenge. He knew that and could read me like a book and by January 1978 I was in the then West Germany undergoing intensive Intelligence and Counter Intelligence training. West Germany was chosen for several reasons; firstly I was pro American and therefore not prepared to join the STASI proper. Secondly, Rhodesian Intelligence was keeping a careful eye on the typical patterns of other operatives/trainees and entering East Germany would have likely as not compromised my cover. Thirdly, as I was good with languages, Kranz had already organised cover employment with West German companies who sanctions busted and did business with the Rhodesians (Mercedes Benz, Mannesman, Deutz etc). As a result from July 1978 until July 1980 I travelled to and fro to Rhodesia, translating for the German businessmen and, as a white, seen as “sympathetic” to the Rhodesian cause I was able to get invited to various functions, obtained access to Officers’ Messes, individual homes for “braais”, and as a result succeeded in obtaining information that would then be relayed to ZANLA and ZIPRA Commands, via Kranz. I have no idea how many other whites were operating against the Rhodesians as I never met any of them.

Of interest though is that early on in my training, Kranz warned me never to trust even those ZANLA and ZIPRA commanders who interacted with the STASI and strongly advised me to avoid any contact with them. He continuously reminded me that to trust any of them would ultimately lead to my capture and death and not necessarily at the hand of the Rhodesians. When I expressed my curiosity at his insistence he gave me what he termed a “text book example” of what to beware of.

According to Kranz, Morrison Nyathi, a ZANLA cadre, had been a double agent feeding information to the Rhodesians as far back as May 1975. Apparently, the Rhodesians were careful to cover Nyathi by not immediately acting on certain information he passed on- ie. if he advised them of the imminent deployment of a unit of guerrillas, led by cadres, the Rhodesians would allow the unit to penetrate Rhodesia and even allow some attacks to take place before springing the trap to try to capture the cadres and force them to reveal even more sensitive information. ZANLA Command would simply assume that the unit in question had, as was commonly the case, been sold out or exposed itself. At that time, Ndabaningi Sithole was the overall head of ZANLA and had such able commanders as Tekere and Nhongo with him. According to Kranz, Mugabe, with an eye to getting Sithole out of the way, saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

The Liberation Struggle wasn’t going so well, and as with all struggles, the International Community’s interest was waning, as was it’s willingness to fork out more money. It therefore occurred to Mugabe to strike a deal with Nyathi (Kranz claimed that Mugabe knew that Nyathi worked for the Rhodesians). He approached Nyathi and firstly disclosed that he was aware of Nyathi’s activities. Nyathi, obviously denied all implications vehemently but nevertheless knew that he was in a very dangerous situation if rumours that he was a traitor were to leak. As a result, he listened to Mugabe’s proposal, which, in effect suggested that they should work together to pull off an intelligence coup that would solve both of Mugabe’s problems, in return for which Mugabe would look after Nyathi.

Thus it was that Nyathi briefed the Rhodesian intelligence liaison operatives, in great detail, about the danger that Nyadzonya base would present to Rhodesian security and the exact lay out of the base. Furthermore, the base commanders were misinformed to expect a combined Frelimo/Cuban delegation at any time on an inspection of the base.

The results of the Rhodesian attack, in August 1976, are undisputed with an estimated death toll of over 1300 combined guerrillas, support staff and civilians, including women and children.

The results for Mugabe were however even more spectacular, in that he had timed the operation to coincide with Sithole’s absence from the ZANLA Command in Mozambique. As a result he was among the first to ‘commiserate’ with the survivors, vociferously denouncing the cowardly raid of the Rhodesians, all the while asking the ZANLA foot soldiers and Commanders whether they would not be better served by an overall Commander like him rather than an absentee one. International outrage was re-kindled and once again the coffers of the ZANLA and to a certain extent ZIPRA forces could look forward to replenishment.

Kranz explained that Nyathi, rather than being rewarded by either the Rhodesians or Mugabe, “disappeared” but follow up reports from other agents revealed to Kranz that the Rhodesians hadn’t realised that they had been set up to attack Nyadzonya and truly missed Nyathi. Kranz’s theory remained that Mugabe didn’t like loose ends.

Having served until after Independence however, I saw no reason to continue and resigned to work in the private sector and finally return to my home country, Zimbabwe.

I have always followed the developments in Zimbabwe with great interest, while believing that as a member of a minority ethnic group I would leave politics to the majority. The emergence of the Movement for Democratic Change under Tsvangirai was something of a reminder to me of the real objectives of the Liberation Struggle which, thanks to the character of the man who has been ”leading” the country for the past 30 years, have been forgotten.

What truly riled me is to hear self proclaimed “war veterans” spouting off about never accepting a leader who wasn’t from the Liberation Struggle. I’ve known all along that Mugabe was no Commander. People like Tekere were the real men in command of the armed struggle and did an admirable job under trying circumstances. Mugabe has always looked out for himself, ruthlessly and selfishly.

With the fall of the East Bloc and the reunification of Germany the shroud of total secrecy surrounding the STASI and similar organisations gradually lifted. I was recently able (Dieter Kranz died before the Berlin wall came down) to access Kranz’s files and was amazed and delighted to find that my mentor not only kept meticulous records of operations we worked on together but also had transcripts and tape recordings of meetings between Morrison Nyathi and other STASI operatives working on the Africa desk. One of these operatives is still alive today and was a wealth of information on the Mugabe/Nyathi coup that continued to have repercussions even in 1977 when in May-June of that year the Rhodesians repeated their Operation Maradon (An attack in October 1976 on Jorge do Limpopo) calling the operation Aztec and once again targeting Jorge do Limpopo.

I continue to research this in the hope that more evidence will come to light to a) show Zimbabweans and the International Community that Mugabe is no hero and b) bring him to book in the Hague.

However, whether the evidence comes to light or not, it is clear that we cannot make any progress whatsoever in Zimbabwe while Mugabe is allowed free reign. One way or the other, like Machel, he’s got to go. We’ve played by “democratic” rules too long, it’s time to get real and get tough.

I trust his colleagues will reflect on this at their next (imminent) Party congress.

Manfred Jaeger

Intelligence & Counter Intelligence Officer (Ret Col)

STASI Liaison


January 1978 – July 1980



  • comment-avatar
    Nyoni 5 years ago

    We knew of this way back. Unfortunately the majority were taken for a ride and still are. Wake up Zimbabweans wake up.

  • comment-avatar
    Morty Smith 5 years ago

    I bet this is only the tip of the iceberg.

  • comment-avatar

    Well done Mugabe – you are a hero in the eyes of Kissinger and Carrington – as you were with Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Thatcher.

  • comment-avatar
    amina 5 years ago

    Mugabe has always been a traitor, now all his dirty linen will be in the open. He is one old man quick to speak so strongly against traitors because he knows the evils of traitor acts. He practiced it and killed a whole lot and assumed presidency illegitimately.