The history of Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) is mired down with the blood of innocent souls, whether be it Ian Smith’s soldiers killing many black Zimbabweans prior to the country’s independence or the Gukurahundi massacre carried out by Robert Mugabe’s government on Matebele people post-independence. The army has been at the forefront of murders, raping, and brutalising civilians in many fights which were characterised by political war. In We Dared To Win, Andre Scheepers, a soldier who served in Smith’s regime recounts the war between the then government and liberation movements who were seeking self-determination for the majority of the people of Zimbabwe in the 1970s period.
Scheepers tells his story about how he joined the army in the fight against the “enemy”. From attacking the “terrorists” in Rhodesia or leading the operations to kill senior political leaders like Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo in Zambia and Mozambique. He does this with the help of his former colleagues in the Special Air Service and the Rhodesian Light Infantry.
Now, I need to admit that I tried keeping my anger controlled throughout and my neutrality in terms of not picking sides in how Scheepers narrates all the horror stories in this book. However, the way the author reflects on the killings carried in different operations really made my blood boil. The way he tells the stories, you get a sense that the life of a human being irrespective of their political involvement was not so much more important than the political mandate from the government of the time.
Now, in the spirit of fairness, the killings were from both sides of the camps, from the black liberation fighters led by who Scheepers refers to as ‘’terrorists’’ and the soldiers fighting for the white rule.
However, as I perused through the pages of this book, I got a sense that the author, and this is based on his confirmed Christian beliefs and values, believed that his side (that is the Smith-led government) were fighting the enemy (black liberation fighters) with God on their side. For example, he forever mentions how when he avoided or survived a killing that it was God who saved his life, as if God will allow other people to kill others in a fight which was racially and immoral charged.
Scheepers, without even being aware of his outrageous attitude, exposes his racist self in this book as he fails to understand and admit that the majority of Zimbabweans (he only mentioned Zimbabwe once in the book as he refers the country with its previous name, Rhodesia), were against the white racist rule of Ian Smith, which he fought on behalf of in the period leading to Mugabe’s win in 1980.
I need to admit that many black readers, especially those from Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique will have difficulty in reading this book without being livid and reminded about how their loved ones lost their lives because of people like Scheepers, who want to be recognised as heroes for fighting on behalf of a racist government. As I was going through all the chapters, I had hopes that Scheepers or any of his colleagues will apologise for their role in the killing of most black Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, and Zambians.
However, to his racist self, Scheepers laments how the likes of Mugabe and Nkomo stole their “country’’ and how “ we ( he and heavens know who else) helped bring the African into the modern world and end a form of barbarism.” This statement just confirmed to me that Andre Scheepers is an unrepentant racist who hides behind religion for his racist views that have no place in our modern society.
This is a kind of book that shows that a lot of people, especially those that aided colonists in the oppression of the black people were let scot-free for their previous sins during the colonial period in the African continent.