Rhodesia was able to withstand continued threats to its unrecognized sovereignty in the 1960s to the 1980s because of a combination of nationalistic brainwashing and the use of usual military tactics that physically prevented people from moving across its borders. Rhodesia's condition in the 1970s and even the 1980s was much better than how it was in the mid 1960s, when uprisings were a common thing and when the economy and security were uncertain. Rhodesia has gone through its period of great changes such that it was able to emerge as more secure than it was back in the mid 1960s (Cilliers, 1985).
However, from the perspective of the Rhodesian, the country remained vulnerable to outside threats. Even though the state made improvements to its military, such improvements are relatively small such that many areas of the state remain "risky". A principal factor that actually contributed to this risky condition is the vulnerability that the country sustains because of insurgency. The openness for attacks and international attacks led to greater challenges in strengthening the state so that it becomes at par with the security of the countries it deals with, especially the U.S. The Rhodesian faces challenges of maintaining security amidst the increasing threats brought about the increasing attractiveness of the state as a terrorist target, especially because of the continual control of the white minority over the African majority.
Therefore, it is arguable that the Rhodesian government's perspective and use of military force and intimidation, combined with nationalism, provided persuasive and effective counterinsurgency (Bruton, 2007). Such combination basically involved the use of the landmines along the border to prevent Rhodesians from crossing out of the state, the use of terrorist intimidation through the actions of pseudo-terrorist activity by Rhodesian government on the people of the state, and the control of the rural villages not just through armed government units but also through pervasive brainwashing of Africans about their right to be in and control of the land (Dozer, 2007).
One of the main factors in the establishment of hegemony in the region and around the state was nationalism. In this regard, nationalism is considered as one of the unifying factors that helped the Rhodesian government move as one in the fulfillment of its hegemonic aspirations. This is of special importance because of Rhodesia's land area, which can include provinces that are hard to reach because of lack of infrastructure and can readily oppose governmental control or state-initiated activity. There were two kinds of nationalism that can be considered, especially in the case of Rhodesia: "African nationalism" & "State Nationalism". "African nationalism" and "state nationalism" differ significantly in terms of medium and scope. It is arguable that, from one perspective, "African nationalism" is a smaller version of state nationalism, but both are potent and important drivers of societal change. Both of these nationalisms are frequently used to appeal to the masses.
The term "African nationalism" implicates the movement or activity of academics according to some codes or principles that are implemented by government or some other organization. For instance, governmental effort to appeal to the masses for its policies and strategies could require schools to teach Africans about the advantages that such policies/ strategies bring. However, it is not just the government that could utilize African nationalsm. For example, the rebels or leftists could make use of agents - usually Africans or professors/ instructors - in order to inculcate political principles to Africans, who are often either unwilling and ignorant of what actually happens in the big picture, or knowing and zealous about such political infusions into the academe. Moreover, Africans themselves could rise with their own interpretation of nationalism, especially according to what they are taught in the academe. Despite such differences, African nationalism in general serves as a means for arousing public interest and action towards some political goal.
It is important to note, however, that the African nationalism in the case of Rhodesia has an additional factor that is not necessarily found in African nationalism elsewhere. This factor is the political tradition that is embedded in the Rhodesian socio-cultural makeup. History reveals that the Rhodesian - particularly those in power or with significant connections to the academic system of the country - has repeatedly utilized the potential of African populations in order to satisfy political objectives. Also, Rhodesian Africans and teachers are known to have a tendency to be assertive of their political rights and leadership. The history of African politician activity readily inspires and encourages communities to act accordingly. It is this broad influence that attracted organizations, such as Rhodesia's Communist Party, to penetrate the educational system and use it for the achievement of their own political goals. Nonetheless, the scope of African nationalism is considerably limited by the potential of African populations, given that the medium is composed of the academics themselves.
State nationalism, on the other hand, is broader in scope when compared to African nationalism in that it is not limited to the potential of academics. The direct audience or target of efforts for state nationalism is the public itself - practically the country's entire population. Considered as a kind of "civic nationalism", it is a direct appeal to the masses and often makes use of cultural traits or traditional elements as the medium through which support from the public is acquired. For instance, commonality in ethnicity can be used as a means of encouraging support for some political goals (Noonan, 2009). Overall, it is notable that "state nationalism" implies that the public had become focused on the political goals of the state and contributed towards the achievement of such goals.
The government strategies in dealing with the insurgents failed because of strategies that were based on misinformation or not getting the whole information. The government had ignored the north eastern region that was dominated by the tribal group of Shona. The Shona dominated ZANLA while the Matebele dominated ZPRA.
Both movements had been operating from Zambia. But operating was Zambia faced a logistical problem because of River Zambezi. The river formed a barrier between Rhodesia and Zambia making it hard for the insurgents to launch attacks across the border. The area along the river valley was also not inhabited. This gave the security forces the advantage of being able to locate the insurgents, isolate them and deal with them. Therefore as far as the two groups of insurgents were operating from Zambia, the security forces of Rhodesia had an upper hand on them (Binda & Cocks 2008).
However, changes occurring in Portuguese led Mozambique would change the scenario. The Tete area in Mozambique bordering Rhodesia had fallen into the hands of FRELIMO an insurgent group fighting against the Portuguese. This area was inhabited partly by the Shona who lived on both sides of the common border between Rhodesia and Mozambique. The Shona supported ZANLA that was dominated by their tribesmen. With time ZANLA started moving operations in this area taking advantage of the fact that the area had little government presence and it suffered from neglect. Life here was largely uninterrupted and the tribal life was unaffected by the colonialist. They could therefore operate from the comfort of Tete which was in the hands of FRELIMO and make incursions into Rhodesia without government knowledge (Binda & Cocks 2008).
This gave them an opportunity to meet with the tribal men in the area and to establish rapport. They whipped the emotions of the local people against the Rhodesia government and convinced them to support their course. They won them. This was an achievement and a new change of tact by involving the local population in the insurgency. This cut the information flow to the Rhodesia government and ensured the insurgents would get food supplies and shelter when need be. The Rhodesia government response to the new development was by launching an attack code-named Operation hurricane (Petter-Bowyer 2005). The next move was to gather people into villages that limited their movement and created large depopulated areas. This, the government envisioned will be used to control movement and to track the insurgents in the depopulated areas. This too was not a success. The local population was moved by excess force while communal punishment was applied when an individual community member erred. This communal punishment was loathed by the communities which turned them against the government and increased the popularity of the insurgents (Petter-Bowyer 2005).
In Portugal, the army overthrew the government of President Ceatano in a coup de tat on 25 April 1974. General Antonio de Spinola became the new President and immediately announced independence for Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea (Opfell 2001). This gave the insurgents safe grounds to launch attacks from since the new government that came into being in 1975 Mozambique, in the east, and Angola, in the west, supported the liberation movements/insurgents. ZPRA set base in Angola while ZANLA set base in Mozambique with the help and support of the concerned governments. The Rhodesia security forces were therefore now facing insurgency from three fronts; Mozambique in the East, Zambia in the North and Angola in the west. By their numbers and the sheer extent of the area that they needed to cover, it was clear now that they were outnumbered and besieged.
The Rhodesia government reacted by recruiting new members into the security forces and by increasing defense expenditure. This enabled the government to launch attacks across borders in Mozambique and Zambia and internally (Binda & Cocks 2008). However this was not enough to stop the insurgents. All odds were against the Rhodesian government and soon it was forced to negotiate with the rebels. The pressure from the insurgents and the eminent defeat due to lack of cooperation from the black population and lack of support externally from Britain made Ian Smith the Prime Minister of Rhodesia then to agree to hold elections and allow majority rule.
Elections were held in 1980 which were won by ZANU headed by Robert Mugabe, the current President of Zimbabwe which was renamed so after independence.