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Title: Black soldiers in the Rhodesian Army, 1956-1981 : the loyalties of professionals
Author: Howard, Marc Tomás
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 631X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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During Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, the regular Rhodesian Army was, paradoxically, dominated by black soldiers. These soldiers have long been chastised as collaborators and ‘sellouts’ of dubious motive, or their service rendered in neo-Rhodesian accounts as an endorsement of Ian Smith’s racist regime. This thesis argues that such conceptions are fundamentally wrong. Instead, it contends that these troops possessed a loyalties that were particular to regular soldiers. These comprised ‘regimental loyalties’, in which black soldiers’ allegiance was pledged not to the Smith regime, but instead to their unit, and only then to the wider Rhodesian Army. ‘Regimental loyalties’ were undoubtedly important, however during combat they were superseded by another set of solidarities at the micro-level. I argue that black Rhodesian soldiers abided by an ethos of what I term ‘professionalism’, in which their military efficacy was inextricably linked to their deep bond with their comrades. These ‘professional’ loyalties were forged only once within the military milieu, through intensive and lengthy processes of training and military socialisation. These ‘regimental’ and ‘professional’ solidarities distinguished black Rhodesian soldiers from other types of combatants during the war. Despite the systematic racism of the Rhodesian Army, these loyalties remained strong, largely as the regiment in which most served, the Rhodesian African Rifles, possessed a distinctive military culture. I argue that, as the conflict wore on, experiences of combat, and guerrilla targeting of black soldiers and their families, cemented these loyalties. My interviewees characterised their service as ‘apolitical’, and I contend that it was both this ‘apolitical’ status and their military proficiency that led to black Rhodesian soldiers being retained by Robert Mugabe’s government after independence. During Zimbabwe’s tumultuous first two years they played a key role fighting for a government headed by their erstwhile wartime enemy, which my interviewees argued demonstrated the enduring power of their soldierly loyalties.
Supervisor: Alexander, Jocelyn Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology of war ; Military history ; Politics ; International development ; War studies ; History ; Sociology