Dyck’s new Mozambican wild adventure

A BAND of hired combats – some say  mercenaries – working for a former commander of Zimbabwean military paratroopers, Colonel Lionel Dyck, are holding fort trying suppress a growing  Islamic insurrection sweeping through northernmost Mozambican region of Cabo Delgado.
This has been going on for the past three years as the international community increasingly gets concerned by the fragile security situation – which is a threat to neighbouring countries including Zimbabwe – in the country.
Unprepared and ill-equipped, desperate Mozambican authorities have been soliciting support from various parts of the world, but so far only the Dyck Advisory Group (DAC) has heeded the call – for business and money.
Last month, Mozambique wrote to the European Union begging for military assistance as it tries to quell the growing and increasingly brutal uprising that is wreaking havoc in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique.
Maputo has also notified the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) of its problems, and regional leaders —at their last  heads of state and government summit in August – pledged to “support” Mozambique without specifying how.
Just before the summit, the United States Special Operations Command (Africa) commander, Major-General Dagvin Anderson, was beating the drums for a multi-nation military intervention.
South Africa, on its part as the region’s economic powerhouse, has said it can only offer intelligence support — the same support Zimbabwe has offered. South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said:
“If it is more intelligence support, if it is the South African navy patrolling the coast, if it is assistance from our defence force, we as South Africa stand ready, but we must have that indication from the government of Mozambique. Mozambique is a sovereign country, if it needs assistance from any of us it would ask for it.”
This effectively leaves Dyck and the Mozambican security forces at the frontline. By his own admission, the insurgents are organised and using quite sophisticated equipment and are organised.
This puts Zimbabwe at risk as the uprising spreads down south to the central port city of Beira, which is critical for regional trade.
It is an ocean terminus for railways and cargo from South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
Beira is Zimbabwe is nearest and most reliable gateway to the ocean. Most of the fuel – 90% – to Zimbabwe comes through the 408 kilometres Beira-Feruka pipeline, which the connects from near Mutare to Harare. It is vital for Zimbabwe’s national survival. Dyck is clear about the stakes involved.
“The stakes are extremely high,” Dyck told a South African publication, Africa Unauthorised, in a recent interview. “This enemy is organised, motivated and well-equipped. If we don’t get on top of this, it’s going to spread south fast and that will be a catastrophe for the entire region.”
The Mozambican conflict has serious regional implications, with Zimbabwe most vulnerable. But Dyck is operating on a shoe-string budget. The extremists brought down one of his helicopters and he has had to rely on two Gazelle helicopter gunship, two Bat Hawk microlights with front-guns, an old Alouette helicopter armed with 20-millimetre canon and two fixed-wing aircraft.
With a total compliment of less than 30 men, he has no ground forces and his intelligence-gathering capability is very limited.
Dyck says he has been approached by influential figures in Britain offering assistance, but is wary.
“I just don’t trust them; they never tell you the whole story and there is always another agenda in play with them. I feel we must go it alone at this stage with the little we have and turn this around. It’s going to be hard, but we have to win this,” he told Africa Unauthorised.
Who is retired Colonel Lionel Dyck?
WHILE Western powers and African countries, especially in the region, are still hand-wringing over how to contain the Islamic insurgency in Mozambique, which has had devastating human life and economic consequences, as well as far-reaching geopolitical ramifications, one man has stood up to fight – in a money-spinning guns-for-hire deal – retired Colonel Lionel Dyck.
Dyck, a former Rhodesian and Zimbabwe National Army commander – has a colourful personal and military history; bloody works and good deeds all rolled in one.
Dyck’s James Bond-style life history spans conscription in Rhodesia; dismissal from the army  for a drunken accident; going to South Africa for school and becoming a teetotaller; returning to Rhodesia and fighting in the liberation struggle; the Entumbane battles featuring Rhodesian forces; Zipra and Zanla; the military lockdown in Matabeleland in the run up to Gukurahundi; then the Fifth Brigade massacres; and now combating jihadists in Mozambique where he had previously been to fight rebel group Renamo.
The irony is Renamo was formed by Rhodesians to destabilise Mozambique during Zimbabwe’s liberation war. In 1980, it was handed over to apartheid South for the same mission. In-between the years, Dyck was involved in a global de-mining business and anti-poaching activities in South Africa in which he made millions. Dyck has more than 30 years experience leading special forces in Zimbabwe, dealing with explosive disposal, security issues and animal conservation, as well as involvement in private military companies or private securities companies business.
Research by The NewsHawks reveals a dramatic and exhilarating story behind the 76-year-old military veteran – a dog of war of note; a description he may surely not like. His life story can be written into one of the most fascinating books to be published on military adventures.
Initially Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi had considered various private military options – soldiers of fortune or mercenaries – to quell the jihadist uprising. The first option was to engage shadowy Russian paramilitary organisation Wagner Group to fight the insurgents. Wagner, as a private military outfit, has close ties with the Kremlin.
Founded by former Russian military intelligence officer, the paramilitary group debuted on the international stage in Ukraine in 2014.
Composed of former military personnel, Wagner provides combat advising, foreign internal defence – training of local forces – and direct action services. It often works with Russian intelligence services and special operations units.
After Wagner’s disastrous Mozambican campaign sustained casualties, the Russians withdrew. Insurgents had beaten them to the game by applying guerrilla tactics – attack, retreat, attack, retreat, attack — creating the surprise element. And the Russians were caught unaware and surprised by the level of sophistication and weapons used.
However, Dyck, through his company the Dyck Advisory Group (Dag), came in at of the height of the insurgency in March. Typical Dyck, in the middle of a crisis. Research, including information corroborated by military sources, shows Dyck joined the Rhodesian Light Infantry, a division in the Rhodesian army, when he became eligible for compulsory conscription in the late 1950s.
However, but did not last long after he was expelled for gross indiscipline.
“The story, as we know it, is that Lionel Dyck was an officer with RLI and one day he got drunk; rolled a Unimog (an all-wheel drive military truck) and killed a troopie,” a military source said.
“This got him court marshalled and he was subsequently forced to leave the army. Before that had joined internal affairs with, I believe, tsetse fly control, before eventually leaving for South Africa to further his education.”
In South Africa, he went to school, abandoned drinking to become a teetotaller and turned his life around. Then he returned to Rhodesia to rejoin the army in the 1960s, just in time for the beginning of a protracted Zimbabwean liberation war which ended in 1980. Dyck distinguished himself as a soldier and won several awards. After Independence in 1980, when Rhodesia transitioned into Zimbabwe, Dyck took command of the Zimbabwe parachute battalion, a mix of former RAR (Rhodesian African Rifles), Selous Scouts and other former adversaries from the Zanla and Zipra guerrilla armies, which were integrated to form the Zimbabwe National Army.
Dyck lived on the edge – as he still does – and was to never shied away from controversy, as events were to later show.
In the book: The end of an era? Robert Mugabe and a conflicting legacy, Dyck is described as a shrewd commander of the Zimbabwean paratroopers.  He played  a key role in the Gukurahundi genocide in the 1980s where he befriended current Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who at that time was State Security minister. Initially after the war, he was close also Mnangagwa’s deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, who at the time was commander of One Brigade Infantry Battalion in Bulawayo.
Dyck’s paratroopers played a decisive role in containing the 1981 Entumbane battle between Zipra and Zanla which resulted in over 300 people dead. His troops stopped Zipra at Milton High School as it marched into Bulawayo after a series of fights in the camps with Zanla that threatened to plunge the country into a civil war. Dyck, as an RAR commander, a white-dominated unit then fighting for the Robert Mugabe government, destroyed Zipra personnel armoured carriers which were moving in from Essexvale (Esigodini) to take over Bulawayo.
For helping contain Zipra during the Entumbane battle from 8-12 February 1981, Dyck was ironically given an award by Mugabe – one of the leaders of forces he had fought, together with other former Rhodesian soldiers, both black and white.
Mugabe was now in alliance with them to fight a new enemy: Zipra.
Over the years Dyck became friends with Mnangagwa and senior Mugabe regime members.
Mnangagwa’s relationship with Dyck is captured in a 2008 Wikileaks cable in which they are described as business partners.
“Colonel Dyck started a lucrative mine-clearing company called MineTech, which today is owned by Exploration Logistics whose chairman is Alastair Morrison, thus cementing the ties between big business in Zimbabwe, British Intelligence and Organised Crime as the core value that the CIO rendered the Government of Britain, (Ian) Smith and Zimbabwe was shadowy business deals, sanctions busting and gun-running,” the cable said.
“This created a world class intelligence outfit with the sole aim of doing illegal deals and today Mnangagwa is the Minister of Defence, the de facto chief of the CIO and the only contender to run for President and he has made no secret of his ambitions.”
Dyck’s last years in the Zimbabwean army saw him leading paratroopers in a hard-fought campaign against Renamo rebels in Mozambique, which earned him the respect and trust of the Frelimo administration. Tragically, two of his fighters Colonel Derek Flint Magama, who was Chiwenga’s deputy in Bulawayo, and Major Judgemoire Cheuka died in helicopter crash in Mozambique. Renamo claimed it down the helicopter, although official explanations were that it crashed due to engine failure. Magama was notorious for torture and killings during Gukurahundi when he was based in Bulawayo. Has was responsible for the gruesome killing of vocal Zapu MP Njini Ntuta.
Thus it came as no surprise when the Nyusi administration turned to Dyck for help at a time of need.
Dyck made his fortune in the de-mining business, getting lucrative state contracts in Zimbabwe, Angola, Kosovo, Mozambique and Kenya with MineTech. He also got similar contracts in Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia and Lebanon. On anti-poaching missions, Dag was hired South Africa and Mozambique to tackle the problem.
The company used a mix of experienced game-scouts and former special forces personnel obtained from various countries. Working in many cases with tracker dogs and air support, Dyck and his men proved highly successful – routing poachers – while cementing his credentials and record as a military and security animal. – News Hawks