South Africa. People's Republic of Angola. South West African People's Organisation. African National Congress.
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It led to the movement of powerful Cuban armed force, into the west, towards the Namibian border. The battle of Cuito Cuanavale is, however, a contentious issue, widely discussed and debated by ordinary people, participants and historians. The stakes were high for both sides and the battle involved the biggest conventional operations of South African forces since World War II.
The battle lines were drawn along ideological conviction. The Angolan government received support from the Soviet Union, Cuba and other liberation movements from the African continent. Because of international interference Angola became a battleground of the cold war. A scene from the battle. Several other FAPLA brigades wilted under heavy bombardment but managed to retreat to Cuito, a minor town near the confluence of two rivers that constitute its name, set in the remote expanse of south-east Angola, a region the Portuguese referred to as the Land at the End of the Earth.
Cuito could have been overrun then and there by the SADF, changing the strategic situation overnight. But, for whatever reason, the SADF failed to seize the initiative. This allowed an initial contingent of Cuban troops to rush to the town from Menongue, kilometers to the north-west and help organize the defences. It is from this point in the battle that opinions and interpretations of events differ. How the battle is seen, depends on how the intention of the South African regime is perceived.
Following the battles at the Lomba River in November , battles on 13 January and 14 and 15 February followed. It is argued that the actions of the SADF prior to the 23 March are clear evidence of their determination to break-through to the town. The SADF forces attacked Cuito with the massive mm G-5 guns and staged attack after attack led by the crack 61st mechanized battalion, 32 Buffalo battalion, and later 4th SA Infantry group. On the 23rd March the battle reached a halt. In the words of 32 Batttalion commander, Colonel Jan Breytenbach.
According to this view, the SADF failed in its intention and was successfully thwarted by the combined Angolan forces. The second school of thought maintains that the SADF had only limited objectives, namely, to halt the enemy at Cuito, to prevent its airstrip from being used, and then to retreat. Further action would have undermined negotiations between Cuba, Angola and South Africa, which began in London early in and continued in May in Brazzaville, Congo, and Cairo, Egypt.
By this time, the South African government had already recognised the political change in Russia and the ending of the cold war. Jannie Geldenhuys, Chief of the SADF, stated that the most important battle in the campaign was when the Cubans were defeated at the Lomba River and Cuito Cuanavale was simply part of a mopping up operation after this battle.
This view is also supported by Gen. Magnus Malan, South African minister of defence at the time. This was successfully accomplished. James and others. Whether it was a tactical retreat by the SADF or an Angolan forces victory one cannot contest that the battle at Cuito Cuanavale was a turning point that brought the border war to an end and led to the peace negotiations that saw the withdrawal of the SADF, MK and Cuban forces from Angola and Namibia and led to the independence of Namibia.
The 20th anniversary of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale was commemorated this year. It is fitting that at Freedom Park, outside Pretoria, the 2, names of Cuban soldiers who fell in Angola between and , are inscribed along with the names of South Africans who died during our liberation struggle. It was agreed during his visit that the graves of MK cadres who died during this battle should be identified and a monument be erected in their honour.
It was further proposed that their remains be brought to South Africa for reburial. Breytenbach, W. Cuito Cuanavale revisited, Africa Insight, vol. Gleijeses, P. Liebenberg, B. Mills, G. Van der Walt, S. Dit gaan oor meer as net Cuito Cuenavale. Beeld, 16 Januarie, p.
Roots of the conflict The battle lines were drawn along ideological conviction. The SADF forces: school of thought on the intentions and the outcomes of the battle The second school of thought maintains that the SADF had only limited objectives, namely, to halt the enemy at Cuito, to prevent its airstrip from being used, and then to retreat.
Conclusion Whether it was a tactical retreat by the SADF or an Angolan forces victory one cannot contest that the battle at Cuito Cuanavale was a turning point that brought the border war to an end and led to the peace negotiations that saw the withdrawal of the SADF, MK and Cuban forces from Angola and Namibia and led to the independence of Namibia.
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