Lieutenant General George Peter Walls (born in 1927) served as the Commander of the Combined Operations Headquarters of the Military of Rhodesia, and later Zimbabwe, from 1977 until his retirement on 29 July 1980 during the Rhodesian Bush War. He lives in exile in Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Walls trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, United Kingdom. He fought for the British in World War II. After the war he served in the Black Watch, but later resigned. He joined the Southern Rhodesia Army as a corporal and commanded Rhodesia's C Squadron in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency. He became the commanding officer of the IRLI in November 1964. In December Brigadier General Rodney Putterill reproached Walls for letting his men wear paper hats at a Christmas dinner with the words, "RLI for UDI." Walls became the General Officer Commanding the Rhodesia Army in 1972. In 1977 he became the Commander of Combined Operations, the head of the Rhodesian Army.
On 3 April 1977 Walls announced the government would launch a campaign to win the "hearts and minds" of Zimbabwe's black citizens.
In May 1977 Walls received reports of ZANLA forces massing in the city of Mapai in Gaza Province, Mozambique. Prime Minister Smith gave Walls permission to take out the base. Walls told the media the Rhodesian forces were changing tactics from contain and hold to search and destroy, "adopting hot pursuit when necessary." On 30 May 1977, five hundred troops passed the border and travelled 60 miles to Mapai, engaging the enemy with air cover from the Rhodesian Air Force and paratroopers in C-47 Dakotas. The Rhodesian government said the military killed 32 ZANLA fighters and lost one Rhodesian pilot. The Mozambican government disputed the number of casualties, saying it shot down three Rhodesian planes and a helicopter and took several troops prisoner, all of which Minister of Combined Operations Roger Hawkins denied.
Walls announced a day later that the Rhodesian military would occupy the city until they had eliminated ZANLA's presence. Kurt Waldheim, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, condemned the incident on 1 June and Rhodesian forces withdrew. The American, British and Russian governments also condemned the raid.
Walls said in September 1978 that there is "no single day of the year when we are not operating beyond our borders."
ZIPRA militants shot down The Umniati, a Vickers Viscount airplane, with a SAM-7 missile on 12 February 1979 in an attempt to assassinate Walls. The missile killed all 59 passengers, including Lieutenant Spike Powell. Walls and his wife were aboard a second Viscount which took off 15 minutes later, landing safely in Salisbury. ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo said Walls was responsible for the passengers' deaths because he is the "biggest military target." The Smith administration responded to the attack by bombing ZIPRA bases in Luso, Angola and Zambia.
The Rhodesian government offered amnesty to all militants on 18 March 1979, printing and distributing 1.5 million leaflets entitled "TO ALL ZIPRA FORCES." The leaflets were signed by Prime Minister Ian Smith, the ZANU founder Ndabaningi Sithole, United African National Council leader Abel Muzorewa, Chief Jeremiah Chirau and Walls. Militants who defected were given clothing, food, suffrage, and medical care. In April 1979 Walls ordered the Selous Scouts to train, organize, and support militants who defected to the Rhodesian government as part of Operation Favour.
The Rhodesian government began negotiating a ceasefire with ZANU and ZAPU on 23 November 1979. After one of the negotiating sessions Walls called the militants' request for status equal to the Rhodesian soldiers as "nonsense... If anybody shoots at us we will stop them from shooting any more." Patriotic Front spokesman Edson Zvobgo replied that "we are legal forces, we have equal status" and threatened "severe retribution" for those who would deny the militants equal status.
Upon coming to office Prime Minister Mugabe kept Walls as the head of the army and put him in charge of integrating ZIPRA, ZANLA, and the Rhodesian Army. While Western media outlets praised Mugabe's efforts at reconciliation with the white minority, tension soon developed.
On 17 March 1980, after several unsuccessful assassination attempts Mugabe asked Walls, "Why are your men trying to kill me?" Walls replied, "If they were my men you would be dead."
BBC news interviewed Walls on 11 August 1980. He said that he had asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to annul the 1980 presidential election prior to the official announcement of the result on the grounds that Robert Mugabe, his rival candidate, used intimidation to win the election. Walls said Thatcher had not replied to his request. On 12 August British government officials denied that they had not responded, saying Antony Duff, Deputy Governor of Salisbury, told Walls on 3 March that Thatcher would not annul the election.
Minister of Information Nathan Shamuyarira said the government would not be "held ransom by racial misfits" and told "all those Europeans who do not accept the new order to pack their bags." He also said that the government was considering "legal or administrative action" against Walls. Mugabe, returning from a visit with United States President Jimmy Carter in New York City, said, "One thing is quite clear—we are not going to have disloyal characters in our society." Walls returned to Zimbabwe after the interview, telling Peter Hawthorne of TIME magazine, "To stay away at this time would have appeared like an admission of guilt." Mugabe drafted legislation that would exile Walls from Zimbabwe for his life and Walls moved to South Africa.
The Herald, Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper, reported on 20 December 2000 that Walls had secretly returned to Zimbabwe and was seen fundraising for the Movement for Democratic Change. Obert Mpofu, ZANU-PF party Deputy Secretary for Security, said he saw Walls near the Victoria Falls. Walls denied the accusation, saying, "It's total utter bloody rubbish. I haven't been out of the Eastern Cape this year, except to go to Johannesburg once. I haven't been in Zimbabwe since I left in 1980. I have no connection with any group whatsoever in Zimbabwe." The Daily News later reported the government had confused Walls with Peter Wells, an English agronomist who visited Harare to assist poor farmers with water management.
Four men beat and stabbed Walls' son, George, at 10:30pm on May 18, 2001 in Harare. The men, who identified themselves as veterans of the Bush War, stopped Walls' car and demanded to know his father's location. They insisted Peter was hiding in Zimbabwe and began to kick and punch him, cutting his face with a stick and stabbing him in his right thigh.
|“||...real professional, a true and inspiring leader, a man of decision and action who radiates confidence.||”|