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Cuito Cuanavale

The battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Cuban intervention in Angola is one of the turning points in Southern African History. It led to the movement of powerful Cuban armed force, into the west, towards the Namibian border. The fighting in the south western part of Angola led to the withdrawal of the South African, ANC and Cuban presence in Angola, and to the Independence of Namibia.

The battle of Cuito Cuanavale is, however, a contentious issue, widely discussed and debated by ordinary people, participants and historians. Depending on where you stand, Cuito Cuanavale is described as a defeat of the South African Defence Forces (SADF), a tactical withdrawal by the SADF, or, a stalemate.

Row of SAAF Mirage F.1AZs seen at the Oshakati AB, in 1985. (Picture: acig.org)

The battle, or more correctly termed the siege, of Cuito Cuanavale was fought on the banks of the Lomba River in the vicinity of Cuito Cuanavale, in south-eastern Angola, between UNITA (aided by the SADF) and the Angolan army (FAPLA) aided by Cuba, the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent East Germany. The stakes were high for both sides and the battle involved the biggest conventional operations of South African forces since World War II.