Air Rhodesia Flight 825
Air Rhodesia Flight 825 was a scheduled passenger flight that was shot down by the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army on 3 September 1978. The aircraft involved, a Vickers Viscount named the Hunyani, was flying the last leg of Air Rhodesia’s regular scheduled service from Victoria Falls to the capital Salisbury. Of the 52 passengers and four crew, 38 died in the crash; the insurgents then rounded up the 10 survivors they could see and massacred them with automatic gunfire.
About Air Rhodesia Flight 825 in brief
Air Rhodesia Flight 825 was a scheduled passenger flight that was shot down by the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army on 3 September 1978. The aircraft involved, a Vickers Viscount named the Hunyani, was flying the last leg of Air Rhodesia’s regular scheduled service from Victoria Falls to the capital Salisbury. Of the 52 passengers and four crew, 38 died in the crash; the insurgents then approached the wreckage, rounded up the 10 survivors they could see and massacred them with automatic gunfire. Three passengers survived by hiding in the surrounding bush, while a further five lived because they had gone to look for water before the guerrillas arrived. ZIPRA leader Joshua Nkomo publicly claimed responsibility for shooting down the aircraft in an interview with the BBC’s Today programme the next day, saying the aircraft had been used for military purposes, but denied that his men had killed survivors on the ground. The attack on ZIPRA in particular brought great controversy as many of those killed were refugees camping in and around guerrilla positions. The majority of Rhodesians, both black and white, saw the attack as an act of terrorism. Reports viewing the attack negatively appeared in international journals such as Time magazine, but there was almost no acknowledgement of it by overseas governments, much to the Rhodesian government’s indignation. The Rhodesian Security Forces launched several retaliatory strikes into Zambia and Mozambique over the following months, attacking both ZIPRA and its rival, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army. In February 1979, ZIPRA shot down another civilian flight, in an almost identical incident.
Two rival communist-backed black nationalist groups initiated military campaigns to overthrow the government and introduce majority rule: the ZANLA and the ZAPU. In March 1978, Smith and ZANU agreed to a joint transitional government. This created the “Patriotic Front” in which non-white and non-militant groups headed by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Jeremiah Chirau, and Jeremiah Nabaningi Sithole, became the black–white government. In October 1978, the two groups agreed to attend a joint conference as the “Internal Settlement Settlement”. This created what became the ‘Internal Settlement Government’ in which the black-white government would become the ‘Patriot’ government. The ‘Patriot’ government was dominated by the country’s white minority, so the unilateral declaration went unrecognised internationally. In November 1965, the colonial government, headed by Prime Minister Ian Smith, unilaterally declared independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965. The idea of “no independence before majority rule” had recently gained ground in Britain and elsewhere amid decolonisation, and the government wasdominated by the white minority. The resulting conflict began in earnest in December 1972, when ZanLA attacked Altena and Whistlefield Farms in north-eastern Rhodesia. After the leftist Carnation Revolution of April 1974 caused Portugal to withdraw its key economic support for Smith’s administration, and led to Mozambiques’s independence the following year as a communist state openly allied with ZANCA.