The Dirty Tricks Brigade

Lieutenant Edward Piringondo was my neighbour in the Selous Scouts barracks and one of the first Black Officers in the Rhodesian Army. Awarded the Silver Cross for his numerous exploits, he took professionalism to another level. He didn’t just watch a camp – he went right in. It’s one thing observing a base, but to go in alone requires a special touch.

 

On one occasion in Zambia he spent five days in a series of camps conversing with the inhabitants. He visited their command points, radio shacks, sleeping areas and defences. Such was his assertion no-one vaguely suspected who he actually was.

 

In a number of other occurrences he was seriously challenged. Once he was caught by surprise when he walked into a group of ZIPRA guerrillas. Immediately taking the initiative he verbally assaulted them for being in the wrong area. A bit intimidated, they took his advice and departed......as did he when they were out of sight with long, rapid strides. How did he get this self-assurance, this bold skilful approach? He simply became one of them.

Piringondo would spend an inordinate amount of time chatting to the TT’s about the training institutions in Tanzania and getting meticulous, detailed descriptions of camp layouts, personalities, training methods, routines, procedures and punishments. Question after question – until in his mind he had actually been there. He then went onto the routes used, transit camps and entry points. Edward sponged every item of information, no matter how irrelevant, into the life of a ZIPRA guerrilla. To do what he did his cover story had to be good – very, very good!

He looked the part as well. Filthy, long matted hair, beard, and dirty denim clothes. His body odour could have been patented for chemical warfare; but that is how ZIPRA were and he had to put himself in that position to achieve the infiltration.

Edward Piringondo’s intensity of professionalism and belief in himself permeated to his team and his style of leadership started with raising the bar to the peak by setting the ultimate example for his unit. When you see someone perform what he achieved, your attitude changes and you aspire to do the same. What’s more, if your attitude improves, your ability follows suit.

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