JOHANNESBURG – Former Zimbabwe international goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar has told how he shot a liberation war fighter in the 1970s war of independence, and on another occasion calling for air support from Rhodesian forces in a massacre of nearly 200 black fighters.
The shocking admission is contained in Grobbelaar’s new book, Life in a Jungle.
The former Liverpool shot stopper, capped 32 times by Zimbabwe, said as a teenager, he participated in the atrocities after being conscripted into the Rhodesian army.
He says the killings were “burnt into my memory” and admits being haunted by them.
This is an extract from the book which is being serialised by the UK Mail on Sunday newspaper:
“I still remember the first time I had to kill someone. I can still see his eyes. I’d been conscripted into the Rhodesian Army and thrown into the Bush War — an uprising against the white farmers in my native Rhodesia.
We’d been in the bush for about three months. I was a tracker and the corporal and leader of my group. We were dropped out in the bush and had to go and follow the enemy — the freedom fighters. You search in there to pick up the spore. Instead of following four, five or six sets of footprints, it could come down to two, where two have gone one way and four have gone the other way.
Now you’ve got to pick up what that really means. Do you follow these tracks, or the main pack? This day we followed the main pack.
You had to be careful when the tracks splintered, as they could try to ambush you and this is what happened this day. When we rounded the rocks he stepped out with his rifle, wearing camouflage. I looked at him, my pulse pounding in my ears and the first thing I had to do was just pull the trigger, then drop, because there were others hiding in the bush.
I felt nothing but relief that I shot him before he shot me. But if he had been in normal clothes, it probably would have been different. From my right my best army friend, Stewart ‘Stooge’ Ayre, hit someone and then he turned and there was one behind me too and he killed him as well. I owe my life to him.
What haunts me are the images burnt into my memory when we went into a raid in Mozambique. There were 16 of us against probably 200 of them. People got shot and maimed. We found out that they were burrowing and they had to come out somewhere and we worked out that was on the Pafuri River. We called for air strikes. They came and dropped the bombs in the river and killed most of them.
This is the image that haunts me most. We had to go into the river to get the bodies out, to see how many people had been killed. But their corpses attracted crocodiles, so while we were taking them up from the river, we had to put our guns under the water and shoot at the crocodiles.”-Zimlive