History Monday: Gukurahundi Part 5

Hi, this is from Nehanda Radio. Continued from last History Monday

B.) “Operation Drama”

“Operation Drama” was the South African code name for the undercover support of Zimbabwean dissidents. It was carried out under the direction of Col Moeller and Col Jan Breytenbach.

Operation Drama’s primary role was the formation and funding of “Super ZAPU”. This was a small band of dissidents, recruited from refugee camps in Botswana and trained in four camps in the Transvaal. Super ZAPU operated in southern Matabeleland in 1983 and 1984, exacerbating the security situation already in existence.

Precise numbers of Super ZAPU and the degree of material support offered by South Africa to Zimbabwean dissidents remain largely conjecture, although it is clear the Zimbabwean operation was far less extensive than those in Angola and Mozambique, which operated concurrently. Those interviewed about the South African involvement in Zimbabwe all commented that it is noteworthy that far less is known about South Africa’s military destabilisation policy in Zimbabwe than about its Mozambique or Angolan operations.

The lack of available knowledge suggests that fewer personnel were entrusted with information about “Operation Drama”, which in turn suggests that the Zimbabwean operation was not only smaller, but regarded as more highly sensitive.


South Africa’s policy of simultaneously destabilising Zimbabwe by military means, while blaming ZAPU for the actions of South African agents whenever possible, helped escalate the irrevocable breakdown between ZAPU and ZANU-PF in the early 1980s.

This in turn led to the decision of Zimbabwe’s Government to retain the State of Emergency throughout the 1980s, and more significantly, to impose massive troop numbers and restrictive curfews on Matabeleland.


1. Nehanda Radio (2012) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: The role of South Africa (Part 3)’

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