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Jake Harper-Ronald as told to Greg Budd
Publisher: Galago Books (SA) 2009
Paperback: 372 pages – 32 pages of black and white photos
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A most topical work given the recent Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday. Jake Harper-Ronald wanted to be a soldier from childhood . In 1966 his ambition was fulfilled when he was conscripted as a National Serviceman into the Royal Rhodesia Regiment. He afterwards moved to the UK and passed selection for the ultra tough Parachute Regt — the famed red berets. The Paras were regularly deployed in Northern Ireland where a raging war was ongoing between IRA Provos and Protestant militants — with the security forces like piggy in the middle. On Sunday 30 January 1972, 1 PARA were deployed in Londonderry to deal with an IRA inspired ‘peace’ march, with Jake as the official photographer. The situation deteriorated and shooting broke out - the bodies of 13 dead marchers were later recovered. That day lives on in infamy as ‘Bloody Sunday’. Jakes photographs of this event are reproduced in this book.
When Jake returned to Rhodesia in 1974 UDI was nine-years-old and the Bush war was relentlessly raging. He passed selection for the Rhodesian SAS — sister unit of the British 22-SAS, and later transferred to the famed Selous Scouts. He took part in daring cross-border raids into external hostile countries while with both units. The Lancaster House Conference in 1999 and the British supervised elections in 1980 spelled the end of Rhodesia and resulted in a takeover by the Marxist dictator, Robert Mugabe, and his ZANU-PF. Jake transferred to Special Branch for a short time before accepting an appointment in Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation’s counter-intelligence division. In 1981 he was unjustly accused of spying for South Africa, beaten and imprisoned in the infamous Goromonzi Political Detention Centre. But after several months it was decided that he was innocent and he was arbitrarily released and reinstated in his CIO job.
This flagrant injustice prompted Jake to use his position to begin espionage operations for the benefit of South Africa, the United States and Great Britain. He finally cut loose from the ZCIO in 1989 when, in view of his British Army service, he was recruited by Britain’s MI6 to run militia’s to protect commercial developments in Mozambique by Lomaco — a sister company of Tiny Rowland’s Lonrho — from RENAMO rebels. He did this very effectively, even training a special forces unit for Lomaco which was eventually absorbed into Mozambique’s army.
Leaving Mozambique, Jake returned to civilian life in Zimbabwe for several years but he slowly began to sicken from cancer. After two spells working for a Private Military Company in Iraq, Jake was forced by his deteriorating medical condition to move to the UK where he died on 5 August 2007, aged 59.