The modern Republic of Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia from 1965 until 1980. Prior to this it had been a British colony known as Southern Rhodesia. Following its Unilaterial Declaration of Independence (UDI), Rhodesia was plagued by a civil war on two fronts, with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army or ZANLA (armed wing of ZANU, the Zimbabwe African National Union) operating primarily out of neighboring Mozambique, and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army or ZIPRA (armed wing of ZAPU, the Zimbabwe African People's Union) operating out of training camps in Zambia. Although ostensibly both working towards a black majority rule government, the two guerilla armies did not cooperate and were, in fact, often at odds with each other as much as with the Rhodesian Security Forces.
Founded by Herbert Chitepo in 1965, ZANLA came under the command of Robert Mugabe in 1979. The movement, supported by the Shona majority, had aligned itself with FRELIMO (in Mozambique) and received considerable training and war materiel from Communist China and North Korea. ZIPRA, on the other hand, under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo, was primarily composed of the minority Ndebele tribe, and received most of its military aid from the Soviet Union and members of the Warsaw Pact. The Rhodesian Bush War escalated after 1972, and despite the military superiority of the Security Forces, lack of international support and a British-led embargo against imported goods forced the Rhodesian government to the negotiating table in 1978. After a brief transition as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia under Bishop Abel Muzorewa, "free" elections held in 1979 brought a resounding victory to Robert Mugabe and his ZANU party. In 1980, under the new Mugabe government, the flag and name of the nation were changed to Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe and his ZANU party ruled Zimbabwe from the time of his election in 1980 until he stepped down in 2017. His government has repeatedly been accused of voter intimidation and electoral fraud, but all political opposition has either been ignored or suppressed by government forces. The nation has meanwhile fallen into a steady decline, plagued by a gradual decrease in food production, the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS and cholera, a general degeneration of living standards, and one of the highest infant mortality rates in Africa.
The Zimbabwe National Army was originally created from elements of the old Rhodesian Army along with integrated elements of ZANLA and ZIPRA in 1980. Many units of the old Rhodesian Army were retained, including several of the old Brigades and the Special Air Service. The Rhodesian Light Infantry became the Commando Regiment, and a new Parachute Regiment was formed along the lines of the British regiment. The old Grey's Scouts became the Zimbabwe Mounted Infantry regiment. The Army has primarily been involved in border conflicts, particularly against Renamo operating out of Mozambique.
Camouflage Patterns of Zimbabwe
The Rhodesian Security Forces transitioned into the Armed Forces of Zimbabwe with very few initial changes. Most of the old Rhodesian units remained intact and continued to wear their old insignia and even to keep their old unit designations for several years, although units with particularly strong political associations to the Smith regime (Selous Scouts, RLI) were disbanded. Stocks of Rhodesian Army camouflage also continued to be worn until around 1983-84, particularly by units operating in Mozambique to protect the oil pipeline.
Possibly hoping to create a new identity for itself, the Army introduced a new camouflage design around 1984, worn throughout the 1980s and possibly later. Although certainly based on a brushstroke model, the Zimbabwean pattern had little resemblance to the Rhodesian brush camouflage, instead taking a vertical alignment. Two versions were produced, with green and brown stripes on a khaki background for the dry season, and on a pale green background for the wet season. The styling of all Zimbabwen military uniforms is virtually the same as those worn during the Rhodesian era, although there would be far less consistency to the camouflage designs, with some having lighter colors, darker colors, etc. Several sources in Africa have referred to this pattern as "monkey hand."
During the late 1990s, the Zimbabwean Army decided to reintroduce the old Rhodesian brushstroke pattern, which is now the general issue camouflage design. The design is obviously copied from the original Rhodesian version, but with brown printed over green.
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