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Features

Cuito Cuanavale

A Tribute to Fidel Castro and the African Revolution

Horace Campbell

2008-06-03, Issue 377

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/48547

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In March 2008, the President of the African National Congress of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, led a high level delegation of South African parliamentarians to the site of the victory of the forces of liberation at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola. This visit was linked to the numerous ceremonies in Angola to commemorate the victory Angola, Cuba and the forces of SWAPO and the ANC over the apartheid army. What was significant was that while the leader of the ANC took this much publicized visit to Angola, the present ANC government has not moved decisively to carry out far more public education on what happened at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988. Thousands of youths in Southern Africa do not know what happened at Cuito Cuanavale and the linkage between the decolonization of Southern Africa and this historic battle.

Between October 1987 and June 1988, in one of the fiercest conventional battles fought on African soil, the troops of the South African Defence Forces (SADF) fought pitched tank and artillery battles with the Angolan army (FAPLA) and her Cuban supporters at Cuito Cuanavale. This small base located in Southeastern Angola (in the province of Cuando Cubango) became important in the military history of Africa, for the South African apartheid army, supposedly one of the better equipped armies in Africa was trapped more than three hundred miles from its bases in Namibia, a territory which it was illegally occupying.

Failing to take Cuito Cuanavale with over 9,000 soldiers even after announcing to the world that Cuito Cuanavale had fallen; losing its superiority in the air; and faced with mutinies from the black troops of the pressed ganged battalions, the operational command of the SADF broke down and the president P.W. Botha had to fly to the war zone inside Angola. Botha, it was later revealed had flown in to intervene in a dispute among the South African military high command on whether the apartheid army should use tactical nuclear weapons. Botha decided against the use of nuclear weapons because at that time apartheid South Africa was a pariah state.

With Cuban reinforcements, the Angolan fighters withstood major assaults by the South African military on January 23, 1988, February 25 and finally on March 23. The South Africans were repulsed with heavy losses as the Angolan/Cuban forces seized the military initiative. The Angolan army, for the first time since Operation Protea (the code name for the conventional attack by the SADF) in 1981, was able to reoccupy the area of Southern Angola adjacent to the Namibian border. In the space of less than three months the engineering units and construction workers of the Angolan/Cuban forces were able to build two airstrips defended with anti aircraft weapons to consolidate their recapture of the Southern province of Cunene. Bogged down with their conventional weapons by the terrain and rainy season, the South African army made one desperate attempt to break the encirclement on June 27, 1988. They were once again trounced, with the Angolan pilots in firm in control of Angolan airspace.

After the June battles, the South Africans asked for peace. Chester Crocker and the US government stepped in to save the face of the humiliated South African army. It was only after this military defeat that the apartheid forces agreed to the resolutions of the United Nations and acceded to the timetable for the independence of Namibia. Within a year the military and political edifice of apartheid crumbled. Nelson Mandela was released twenty months after the South African army retreated in disorder at Tchipa.

WARFARE AND MILITARISM IN THE ERA OF DYING APARTHEID

It is important that the younger generation is reminded of the depth of the destructive machinations of the Apartheid regime in the ten years prior to the battles at Cuito Cuanavale. This reconstruction of Apartheid's history is important for a number of reasons.

The first reason lies in the fact that South African military writers proclaim that the South Africans were not defeated at Cuito Cuanavale but withdrew in order to support peace and negotiations. Numerous text-books used by teachers endorse this view.

The second reason emanates from the fact that the USA and neo-conservative supporters of apartheid have sought to rewrite the history of military destabilization to argue that Constructive Engagement supported peace and sught to end apartheid. Chester Crocker, the Assistant Secretary of State during the period of Ronald Reagan has rewritten this period to favor this view in, “High Noon in Southern Africa: Making Peace in a Rough Neighbourhood.”

Thirdly, the so called security experts who were consultants for the apartheid military have now recast themselves as peace experts and are cheer leaders for the US War on Terror and the proposed Africa Command Center (Africom).

It is for these reasons that it is urgent to spell out the varying forms of warfare that were used against the peoples of Africa struggling against apartheid as a crime against humanity. This is necessary so that younger persons can evaluate the new forms of struggle necessary for the present day liberation struggles in Africa.

There was a low intensity war going on in Mozambique where the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR) - also known as Renamo had been unleashed against the Mozambican society by the apartheid government. In this low intensity war Renamo efforts were in concert with the economic war being waged by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank against the Mozambique government. The political war financed by the apartheid state sought to decapitate the leadership of FRELIMO. Eventually, this was to lead to the downing of the aircraft carrying Samora Machel in 1986. Joseph Hanlon has documented this period of destabilization in the book, “Mozambique: Who calls the Shots?”

Space does not allow for the elaboration of the full extent of the destruction but one of the tasks of the South African parliament should be to declassify the files of apartheid South Africa's destructiveness across the region; military interventions in Lesotho and the Seychelles; attempted coups in Tanzania; and the support of armed elements in Zimbabwe. The South African army also carried out raids in the capitals of Maputo, Harare, Gaborone and attacked refugees in Swaziland. The relevant Truth and Reconciliation Commission files should be opened. Desmond Tutu has in fact termed this aspect of the TRC as “unfinished business.”

Twenty years after the battles of Cuito Cuanavale the region of Southern Africa has not recovered from this period of massive social, economic, political and military dislocations. Yet the foreign policy of the South African state is to promote the same capitalist companies that profited from destabilization. South African corporations now dominate Southern region, except in Angola.

ANGOLA IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

Angola is one of the most resource-rich countries in Africa. In fact Angola remained one of the leading oil producers in Africa throughout the war. It is a society with massive agricultural potential, fisheries resources and a territory generally under populated since the time of slavery. The atrocities the Portuguese commited in Angola were so extreme that they proved to be a model for the genocidal Belgian colonialists in neighbouring Congo. By 1957 there were three principal liberation movements in Angola.

1. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) - Linked to the intelligentsia, the educated mulattoes and the mass of workers in the segregated ghettoes of Luanda.

2. UPA/FLNA - The attempt by sections of the Kongolese aristocracy to link up with the rebelling masses working on the coffee plantations of the Northwestern regions adjacent to Zaire. Holden Roberto wanted to link the claims of Kongolese Kingdom to the struggle. At the All African Peoples Conference in Ghana in 1958 Holden Roberto was warned that an anti colonial movement cannot be based on ethnic groups so changed its name and called itself Front for the Liberation of Angola (FLNA).

3. The Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) - formed by Jonas Savimbi who had been the foreign minister of FLNA. In 1966, Savimbi accused the FLNA of ‘tribalism’ and broke away arguing that that the leader of FLNA was subservient to Mobutu and was financed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA.

Twenty years after Cuito Cuanavale the origins and outlook of these movements remain confused in so far as mainstream intellectuals seek to place an ethnic label on the origins of these movements. This intellectual culture holds that the MPLA had their base among the Mbundu, the FLNA among the Kongo and the UNITA among the Ovimbundu. John Marcum's work on the Angolan Revolution started this original falsehood and this distortion continues to surface in the literature on the decolonization of Angola. It is now an article of faith among some Angolan intellectuals that Jonas Savimbi represented the Ovimbundu, despite his clear alliance with the destructive apartheid army.

THE FIRST DEFEAT OF THE APARTHEID ARMY

Once Portuguese fascism collapsed in April 1974 the forces of US imperialism and the army of apartheid had to come out in full force if they were to perpetuate external control over Angola. The apartheid South African army intervened militarily in 1975 to stop the MPLA from coming to power after the poor of Sambizanga routed the FLNA forces allied with the army of Mobutu. At this point, the Angolans invited the Cubans to help defeat the invading apartheid, the Zairian army regulars, and the mercenaries employed by the CIA. This history is well documented by John Stockwell’s “In Search of Enemies.” More recently, in the USA, the scholar Pierro Gleijeses documented the history of Cuban involvement in the war of 1975-1976 in the book “Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa.”

Militarily, the South African Army was defeated in the battlefield in 1975/76. Politically, the apartheid regime was further isolated in the international arena. Diplomatically, Nigeria mobilized the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to resist the pressure from the USA to support apartheid’s proxy forces. In response, the President of Nigeria, Murtala Mohammed, was assassinated.

STAGES OF THE WAR: 1976-1980

The assassination of Murtala Mohammed and the alliance between the European countries, the USA and the apartheid state ensured that the struggle against apartheid became continental if not global. After the Soweto uprisings in 1976 the racist South African leaders were on the defensive politically and diplomatically. This was the period of the massive military build up in Namibia. The character of the war against South West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) changed with the conscription of youths, the build up of military bases and raids against SWAPO. Angola had become a rear base for the Namibian struggle as thousands of youths fled to Angola from Namibia.

One of the strange twists of the liberation in the region of Southern Africa is the fact that when UNITA had been formed in 1966, it was SWAPO that gave UNITA its first supply of weapons. And after UNITA became an ally of the apartheid state and the apartheid army, Jonas Savimbi and its forces were organized to fight SWAPO and to track down SWAPO leaders in Angola. These military exercises were coordinated with the South African Air Force. One of the most destructive attacks on the refugee camps of SWAPO took place at Kassinga in 1978. In the aftermath of this attack the UN Security Council passed Resolution 435 calling for the withdrawal of the apartheid regime from Namibia.

OPERATION PROTEA: 1981-1984

From 1981-1988 the racist army occupied the Angolan provinces of Cunene and Cuando Cubango. FAPLA, the Angolan army, was not prepared for this massive invasion of over 11,000 SADF troops with the most sophisticated artillery pieces. The SADF was seeking to perfect a form of air-land battle where the air force carried out operations in conjunction with the army. The provincial capital of Cunene at Ngiva was sacked. Over 100,000 peasants fled their homes. The South African army stole cattle which it carried off to Namibia to feed its troops. They had not withdrawn their troops contrary to the UN Security Council Resolution calling for withdrawal. Within the international community the South African aggression was condemned; but the US government mobilized a group of European states called the contact group (USA, Canada, West Germany, France and the United Kingdom) to protect the apartheid government internationally.

The next major South African invasion was at Cangamba in August 1983. Here UNITA had announced that Cangamba had fallen. But it was the SA airforce that destroyed Cangamba and gave UNITA the rubble to showcase it as its victory to pro-western journalists flown in from Zambia and Johannesburg.

By 1984 the peoples of the region of Southern Africa were suffering but were prepared to make sacrifices. That independence and sovereignty were linked to ending apartheid was clear, especially in Angola. Within Mozambique and the other frontline states ordinary men and women understood that the expansion of apartheid would have led to an erosion of independence.

REFORM AND PEACE MAKING LINKED TO WAR

After the reversals in 1984 the South Africans signed the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique and a peace Accord with Angola. But this peace was simply a ruse to get breathing space in order to seek for more weapons and financial support. In September 1985 FAPLA forces started their drive against Jamba. The South Africans intervened but with the uprisings of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in South Africa, the SADF could not carry the battle and called on the USA for help. It was at this time that the Pentagon supplied Stinger missiles to UNITA. Jonas Savimbi was greeted in the White House by Ronald Reagan and UNITA was granted financial. Hollywood also made a film (Red Scorpion) about the brave struggles against communism in Africa. But UNITA did not have the administrative or military infrastructure for the assistance it was receiving. It was a cover for the assistance to the apartheid forces.

In the second term of Ronald Reagan (1984-1988), and with help from the Thatcher government in Britain, support was stepped up for the SADF, UNITA, Mobutu and the anti-communist forces in Southern Africa. It should be stated here that at this time all African freedom fighters had been deemed terrorists. Both Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi were at this time allies of the USA in the fight against communism. While Savimbi was called a freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist by the USA and the South Africans. In order to fight terrorism then, the USA reactivated a military base at Kamina in Zaire to build a northern front in the war against the Angola. The CIA dropped supplies for the South Africans via UNITA. This period is most important in so far as the very same forces in Washington that supported Jonas Savimbi and Osama Bin Laden are the same political forces seeking to mobilize the world against today’s so called war on terror.

1987 – OPERATION MODULAR HOPE

The South Africans were emboldened by the financial assistance to UNITA by the Reagan administration. Moreover, the prospects for political change in South Africa seemed clearer with the formation with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the militancy of the United Democratic Front. The maturation of the popular democratic struggles in South Africa was making South Africa ungovernable and apartheid unworkable. It was in this context that the military and economic destabilization intensified. This struggle reinforced the point that military struggles had to be accompanied by popular democratic struggles by non-military forces.

Operation Modular was launched with the objective of seizing Menongue (in Angola) to set up a UNITA provisional government so that there could be increased western support. The build up for the Operation Modular went on for six months. Roads to transport heavy equipment for over 9,000 regular SADF forces were built.

The Angolan army (FAPLA) launched a pre -emptive attack on Jamba and the battle at Lomba River was the preamble to the big battle at Cuito Cuanavale,

SADF started the siege in November of 1987. When the apartheid army faced the stiff resistance from the Angolans, the SADF operational command broke down. It required the personal intervention of the President, P.W. Botha, referenced earlier, to go to the front and boost the morale of those fighting, as well as settle the question of whether nuclear tactical weapons could be used.

CUBAN INTERVENTION

Fidel Castro and the Cuban leadership had been following the battles from the start. The bulk of the Cuban forces in Angola had been withdrawn in 1981. Fidel Castro and the Cuban leadership had disagreed with the conventional military formations of the Angolan generals. Some of the Soviet generals who were advising the Angolan army could only think of frontal conventional battles. But Fidel Castro, the Cuban military and the progressive men and women of Angola understood that defensive warfare was a more intelligent form of warfare than one that solely depended on advancing tanks and artillery. The Cuban leadership argued correctly that if the SADF broke the FAPLA defensive line, the Cuban position at Menongue would be threatened. The Cubans sent reinforcements comprising of the best troops, the most sophisticated weapons and anti-air craft weapons. It was significant that the anti aircraft weapons were under the control of women. It was the women who cleared the South African air force from the skies. The Siege of Cuito Cuanavale now involved the Angolans, the Cubans, Swapo, and the ANC all on one side defending African liberation and sovereignty against the SADF, the USA and UNITA.

The Angolan radar defensive positions broke the South African air superiority, Angolan and Cuban MIG 23 pilots proved equal and even superior to their counterparts in the South African Air Force. The SADF was reduced to shelling Cuito Cuanavale with over 20,000 projectiles per day. In major battles in January, February and March the South Africans failed to take Cuito Cuanavale. By the time of the March attack the battle conditions had begun to turn against the SADF. In the first place, there was a mutiny by the conscripted troops of the South West African territorial Force (SWATF). Secondly, the heavy equipment was bogged down on the Eastern bank of the Cuito River compounded by the rainy season. Thirdly, and more importantly, without air support the Angolans were equal to and could out gun the South Africans. By the end of March the siege was over and the South Africans were effectively trapped.

This was when the South Africans started the talks that would eventually comprise of the principal combatants, the Angolans, the Cubans, the South Africans and the USA. So confident were the Cubans and the Angolans in their repulsing the South Africans that in the space of two months they built two airfields to consolidate their control of the Southern Provinces. At this time the USA attempted to open a new front in the North with UNITA The USA military carried out exercises called Operation Flintlock to drop supplies for UNITA. Here UNITA clashed with ANC guerrillas.

The fate of the South Africans was sealed at Tchipa on June 27, 1988. Here the SADF tried to open a new front to give relief to the troops who were trapped at Cuito Cuanavale. In this decisive battle the FAPLA forces confirmed their air superiority. When the news of the defeat at Calueque dam reached South Africans, more young whites protested the draft in South Africa. The End Conscription Campaign saw an increase in the number of white youths resisting the draft. A major South African newspaper called the battle of Tchipa 'a crushing humiliation.’ The South Africans had two choices: begin talks or surrender.

The Siege of Cuito Cuanavale ended after the SADF agreed to withdraw from Namibia. There was still dithering at the diplomatic level up to December 1988 but the Siege of Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point.

Subsequent to the negotiations after the defeat of the South Africans, Namibia gained its independence in March 1990. One month earlier the struggles of the South African peoples led to the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the liberation movements. Between 1990 and 1994 the peoples of South Africa continued the struggle to end white minority rule. Nelson Mandela became the first African President of South Africa in May 1994. The siege of Cuito Cuanavale changed the military balance in Southern Africa on the side of liberation.

LESSONS FOR THE AFRICAN REVOLUTION

Most school children would have heard the axiom that each generation rewrites its own history. But it does so not merely by giving different answers to old questions of exploitation but by posing entirely different questions. When one understands this, it becomes clear why South African parliamentarians would be travelling to Cuito Cuanavale without encouraging the writing of the texts that can explain to the youths the realities of the battles to end apartheid. The leaders are afraid of this history because they fear that the youths will gain the courage to find new forms of struggle against the new ruling classes across Southern Africa. The absence of the memory of the victories over colonialism and apartheid stem in part from the bankruptcy of the political leaders in most of Southern Africa.

Today, African school children are no longer familiar of the stories of the struggles for independence. Instead, the Anglo American and other imperial media sources bombard our youths with stories that stimulate individualism, greed, insecurity and a longing for the glitz and glamour of western countries. This psychological bombardment has reached such proportions that most of our youth dream of leaving Africa instead of fighting to transform the conditions of exploitation.

In Angola the war continued until 2002 when Jonas Savimbi was killed. Since that time Angolans have found peace but the wealth of the country has not been used for the poor and exploited. There is reconstruction in Angola but reconstruction for the establishment of capitalism. All over this region, leaders who had been part of the liberation struggle have become leaders who flaunt their wealth while the majority of the people continue to live in conditions of intense exploitation.

Yet, as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the banks fail in North America the present neo-conservative forces in the US government view Africa as the basis for future exploitation. So the United States plans an Africa Command to fight terrorism. The US military planning and US military relations with Africa can be compared negatively to the role played by the Cubans at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988. Throughout these celebrations many will remember the words of Fidel Castro, “The history of Africa will be divided into before and after Cuito Cuanavale.”

WILL THE REAL REVOLUTIONARIES STAND UP IN AFRICA TODAY?

It was during the same week that Jacob Zuma led a delegation to Angola that President Gadaffi of Libya noted that ‘revolutionaries’ such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda should hold on to power because ‘revolutionaries never retire.’ Is it possible to note that leaders such as Mugabe, Museveni, Meles Zenawi and Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma have cheapened the concepts of liberation? Can these leaders be compared to Fidel Castro?

These named leaders have cheapened the ideas of African liberation and now stand in the path of the emancipation of the peoples. Within Southern Africa dictatorial practices by leaders such as Mugabe have only been surmounted by the promotion of Xenophobia among the working people. Gadaffi supported militarists and masculinists who wreaked havoc all across West Africa in the name of some mythical liberation that enriched a few military entrepreneurs while the masses of the peoples were in constant danger. Similarly, the record of Jacob Zuma brings to the fore questions of patriarchy and masculinity in the African revolutionary process.

The challenge in our analysis is to be able to simultaneously celebrate the victory of the Cubans and Angola at Cuito Cuanavale and at the same time break with traditional concepts of revolution, militarism and masculinity. Leaders such as Jonas Savimbi, Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe have made it clear that African liberation must entail a break with militarism, patriarchy and masculinity. At the same time, imperial domination, plunder and militarism have asserted themselves as a force of modernization in the world. The challenges of this moment are to our ability of transitioning beyond militarism in Africa.

For the battle for African revolution and transformation, in our celebration of the victory at Cuito Cuanavale we remember the sacrifices of our people.


*Horace Campbell is the author of the well known book, Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney. His latest book, Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation is published by David Philip of Cape Town, South Africa.

**Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/


Readers' Comments

Let your voice be heard. Comment on this article.

Let us bow our heads to all the Africans, be they FAPLA, UNITA, SADF or anyone who died between Mavinga and the Cuito River!
Let us also give thanks that the foreign invaders, like Cuba, USSR, GDR, and others were unable to force their one-party system on us and let us remember the oppressed people of Cuba, who still do not have a democracy thirty years later!

Christopher Szabo Freelance Journalist

I am often to rnnniug a blog and i really respect your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and preserve checking for new information.

Denpasar

The stated FAPLA/Cuban objectives for the Mavinga/Jamba campaign were: (1) to occupy the UNITA-held town of Mavinga and then proceed to Jamba; (2) to weaken UNITA by destroying its main base at Jamba, and (3) to open up the Namibia/Angola border in the northeast for SWAPO guerrilla infiltration into Kavango and Caprivi. They failed in all three objectives. The stated SADF/UNITA objectives were: (1) to halt and reverse the FAPLA/Cuban advance on Mavinga/Jamba; (2) to inflict maximum casualties on the retreating FAPLA/Cuban forces, and (3) to force the FAPLA/Cuban troops to retreat to the west of the Cuito River. This was exactly what had happened?

By around April 1988 “the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale” was over with fatal consequences especially on the “aggressor’s” (i.e. FAPLA/Cuban) side: At least one FAPLA brigade (i.e. 47th Brigade) was effectively annihilated; over 4 500 FAPLA soldiers were decimated; 94 of their tanks were destroyed (or captured and handed over to UNITA); 9 MIG jets were shot down. On the SADF/UNITA side: over 1 000 UNITA soldiers died; 31 SADF soldiers killed; 3 tanks destroyed; 11 armored cars and troop carriers lost; 1 Mirage jet shot down by FAPLA/Cuban forces.



If the FAPLA/Cuban forces won the battle, why is it that they did not capture a single SADF soldier during the entire campaign? [5] Why did the FAPLA/Cubans not capture Mavinga and immediately thereafter advance to destroy UNITA’s Jamba HQ? How on earth was it possible that, after MPLA/UNITA negotiations in the early 1990s, Cuito Cuanavale was on the list of UNITA-controlled towns where central administration needed to be re-established?

My inevitable conclusion is that the alleged battle of Cuito Cuanavale is a military hoax meant to justify an “honourable” Cuban withdrawal from Angola. There was neither a battle for nor a battle of Cuito Cuanavale. What happened is that a FAPLA/Cuban advance to Mavinga was stopped at the Lomba River and the government troops “obliged” to retreat 120 kilometers back to the western side of the Cuito River, after which the SADF destroyed the bridge to make sure FAPLA/Cuban forces won’t be able to cross the river again to the eastern side any time soon – then the SADF left.

Moreover, the actual FAPLA/Cuban defeat was a nightmare for Arnaldo Tomas Ochoa Sanchez "El Moro" commander of the Cuban Forces in Angola since November 1987. He complained that he was sent to “a lost war” so that he would be blamed for “the defeat”. [6] And indeed he was. General Ochoa was framed and executed on July 12 1989 following accusations against him by President Fidel Castro of “serious acts of corruption, dishonest use of economic resources, and drug trafficking”. [7] The naked truth is: he was made the scapegoat for the shameful Cuban defeat in Angola that is now sugar-coated and presented to the gullible international public opinion as the “victory of Cuito Cuanavale”.

Agnus

iam always amazed how UNITA soldier life was not worth a mention.when speaking of the FAPLA/CUBA soldiers killed we are always told it more than 4000, and for SADF ONLY '31' soldiers UNITA soldier of which more than 3000 were killed are not mentioned.

in my opinion UNITA soldiers are the only soldiers who realy fought on the south african side the number of their casualities tell a realistic story not the '31' soldiers crap.

simon flint

Cuito has been the subject of a lot of propaganda from both sides! Some of the things we do know is that FAPLA and The Cuban forces did not achieve their iniotial goal of Jamba. In fact they were smashed at Lomba.

We also know South Africa did not achieve superiority in the battle for Cuito. I know they deny that that was the target - be that as it may.

One of the reasons for SA not being able to press the advantage was a lack of troops!. Historians often divorce Cuito from what was happening in South Africa.

The program to make the country ungovernable was in full swing and this meant that the SADF had troops committed to the townships and therefor could move more men into the Cuito area.

End Conscription Campaign's work had also begun to have an affect. Upto 5% of conscripts failed to report for training or "Camps"

Who won - Nobody! It ground down to a stalemate that the leaders on both sides recognised and therefor negotiations were entered into.

One point I would make that undermines the conclusion of this article is that a "victorious" army does not shoot the General that supposedly won you that war and in their attempt to justify Gen Orchas Killing Castro blamed him for losing the war in Angola.

The real danger in all of this is that we begin to believe propaganda as historical fact!

I suppose we all won in the end because once the SADF pulled out of Namibia the technocrats within the Government could read the writing on the wall and we started to transition as a nation.

Chris Morley

Like the comanding officer of one of the SADF operations in Angola remarked "if you have lost almost 5000 soldiers during a battle, and the enemy only 50, and you still believe that you have won, then surly you have won!!!" Believe and procliam what you want, but the mass graves in Cuito will be there to remind you of the facts.

Martin

thank you very much Cde for telling it as it is. only a relatively small number have been xpoused to the truth as it was or still is,here in Namibia as well. i just descoverd the site and i will keep checking for new contributions. once more....Aluta....Continua...Forward....ever and Backward...... Never.

Iustine Iipumbu, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry

It amazes me how the truth can be attempted to be covered up by the most ridiculously far fetched propaganda imaginable! For a start, barely 3000 SADF troops were involved (limited due to political pressure), not 9000. Over 4500 Cuban and Fapla soldiers were killed, with barely 30 odd SADF losses. My friends and family involed in this battle talk privately of the horror of seeing the absolute decimation of whole Cuban and Fapla divisions, vehicles abandoned in terror, so quickly that the engines were left still running. If the ANC, Cuba and it's propoganda machine think this was a victory to them, it just emphasises what a complete bunch of idiots they are. Its like losing a soccer match 25-0 and still claiming you won!!!! What a joke.

Private Citizen

Since 1975 until the end of c.cuanavale apartheid army sadf never capture luanda. why?
mpla,swapo,ANC n cuba killed dutch boer,anglo dream
THANK'S to our freedom fighter here in southern africa we will not be like our dear brother aborigene

TOMALUTA

why ex sadf left sa?
we fight a cold war,why?
if commie was so bad why cuba were not bomb by usa?
usa use sadf to protect his interest and dump it..

zombo

Let your voice be heard?!?

What bullshit. You dont dare let the truth be heard, that is why you censor the messages. You must be a big fan of mugabe, because he also believes in your type of freedom of speech.

George

What a load a bullshit!! This person is an idiot and his lies are misleading many unsuspecting readers.

Colonel (ret) P.J. Roos

Dear Mr. Horace Campbell. In which delusional world do you live? Your comments are contrary to what world renowned historians wrote. You will find that it is much more difficult to maintain propaganda rubbish like you wrote than to maintain the truth.

Kamawana, Private

It is a pitty we still give credit to racist (Apartheid) lies and opinions which now are reflected as socalled "other perspectives" as if lies could ever be a perspective... The truth remains that the heroic battles wage by a combine Angolan, Cuban and SWAPO force at Cuito Cuanavale from Jan 88-23 Mar 88 laid the foundation of the end of Apartheid both in Namibia and later in South Africa...forget the opinion of racist apologist like Joe Vester who was to coward to live up to his racist crimes during TRC hearing in South Africa...but what is sad...the post Apartheid government both under Mandela and Mbeki decorated the racist in a post Apartheid era for their crimes against humanity in Angola, Namibia and South Africa with honoris crux decorations(SADF-Apartheid South Afrika's highest millitary order) sadly so...Aluta Continua

Colonel Patrick Ricketts

Yes of course the ANC won in Angola, and thanks to that South Africa today is a much safer and nicer place to live in than it ever was during the apartheid regime. Rape, murder, robbery, all crime statistics are way down. Hell, its almost non-existent in some areas. Not like the chaos and anarchy we had to live in during Apartheid. Thanks to the glorious victory's of the ANC in Angola we can all walk the streets alone at night without fear, we don't have to lock the doors to our homes anymore, and we can sleep peacefully at night knowing that the ANC will look after our safety and well being, just like they did all those years ago at Quito.

Thank you brothers!!!

George

Although there was no decisive territorial winner of the Cuito battle, the material and body count point to an overwhelming superiority of the SADF.
In the longer term, the SADF achieved the aim of preventing a Communist takeover of SA.Since majority rule in SA, we have had an incompetant capitalist government instead of the incompetant Communist one the ANC, SWAPO, Russia and Cuba were aiming for at the time.

Mike McWilliams

Once again the bag-carriers and water boys of the "international revolution of the proletariat" are attempting to reinvent the wheel. Bet you guys are really missing the USSR! You forgot to use the phrases "air pirate" and "running dog lick spittle capitalists". If the SADF had *REALLY* wanted to annihilate Angola, they could have easily done so via a naval blockade of the Angolan ports while 32 Bn, 1,4 and 5 RR conducted deep penetration raids and sabotaged key aspects of the Angolan infrastructure - and there is NOTHING that FAPLA could have done to stop it.

Joe Soap

I cannot believe this load of utter, unadulterated crap!!!
You poor idiots. Do you really think that by trying to alter the truth you will succeed?

Joe Verster

This article is riddled with factual errors. There are interpretations that are open for debate, but the facts should at least be correct. As an example, the number of SADF soldiers involved in the operations is public knowledge. Getting this wrong is inecusably sloppy reasearch. Then, the subject view taken in this article is problematic.. mostly i would guess because the sources used were all biased towards believing the propoganda on one side over the other.
All in all, a miserable attempt. I prefer what Ronnie Kasrils had to say where he at least was balanced on both sides of the divide...

John

this deals very clearly with some historical myths being perpetrated in the name of racial superiority.i have recently been checking out angola on google earth and all over it is tagged by some military nostalgists swarming about great victories of the s.a.d.f special forces and claims of non discrimination in those forces.came across an article where a black 32 battalion soldier was granted the honoris crux(South Afrika's highest millitary order)posthumesly by the A.N.C goverment that then still layed in the trenches across.Aluta Continua

nkwazi strandloper

Informative and timely article. I have met Cubans in Cuba who fought in Angola who have a clearer understanding of the significance of these battles than most africa leaders. The African Revolution is still unfinished.

amengeo amengeo

Great history review to combat the propaganda of mainstream. I was in a discouraged state about information prior to reading the post.

Kendrew Slater




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