South African Border War

  • south african border war
    part of the cold war and the decolonisation of africa
    saborder war montage1.jpg
    clockwise from top left: fapla mig-21bis on an airstrip; sadf convoy patrolling namibian roads; 1981 protests against sadf aggression in angola; soviet adviser with fapla soldiers; untag peacekeepers just prior to namibian independence; sadf expeditionary troops loading a mortar in the operational area
    date26 august 1966 – 21 march 1990
    (23 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 2 days)
    location
    south west africa (namibia), angola, zambia
    result

    military stalemate[8][19]

    • angolan tripartite accord, leading to:
    • withdrawal of south african forces from namibia; withdrawal of cuban forces from angola
    • 1989 namibian parliamentary election by direct universal suffrage
    • swapo government assuming power in namibia
    territorial
    changes
    south west africa gains independence from south africa as republic of namibia.
    belligerents
    south africa
    transitional government of south west africa[1]
    •  portugal (until 1975)[2]
    • unita (from 1975)[3]
    • fnla (1975)[4]
    • swapo (plan)
    • mpla (fapla)[4]
    •  cuba
    • swanu[5]
    • anc (mk)[6]
    •  zambia[7]
    commanders and leaders
    gerrit viljoen
    willie van niekerk
    louis pienaar
    b.j. vorster
    p.w. botha
    constand viljoen
    johannes geldenhuys
    magnus malan
    andreas liebenberg
    georg meiring
    cornelius njoba 
    jonas savimbi
    sam nujoma
    tobias hainyeko 
    peter nanyemba
    dimo hamaambo
    peter mweshihange
    solomon huwala
    agostinho neto
    josé eduardo dos santos
    antónio franca
    iko carreira
    fidel castro
    strength

    ~71,000 (1988)[3][20]

    south africa:
    30,743 sadf troops in angola and namibia
    south west africa:
    22,000 swatf troops
    8,300 swapol police

    ~122,000 (1988)[21][22][23]

    flag of south west africa people's organisation.svg swapo:
    32,000 plan guerrillas
    cuba:
    40,000 far troops in southern angola
    angola:
    50,000 fapla troops
    casualties and losses
    2,038[24] – 2,500[25] 11,335[26]
    2,016–5,000 (including angolan civil war casualties)[27]
    namibian civilians dead: 947–1,087[28]

    the south african border war, also known as the namibian war of independence, and sometimes denoted in south africa as the angolan bush war, was a largely asymmetric conflict that occurred in namibia (then south west africa), zambia, and angola from 26 august 1966 to 21 march 1990. it was fought between the south african defence force (sadf) and the people's liberation army of namibia (plan), an armed wing of the south west african people's organisation (swapo). the south african border war resulted in some of the largest battles on the african continent since world war ii and was closely intertwined with the angolan civil war.

    following several decades of unsuccessful petitioning through the united nations and the international court of justice for namibian independence, swapo formed the plan in 1962 with material assistance from the soviet union, china, and sympathetic african states such as tanzania, ghana, and algeria.[29] fighting broke out between plan and the south african authorities in august 1966. between 1975 and 1988 the sadf staged massive conventional raids into angola and zambia to eliminate plan's forward operating bases.[30] it also deployed specialist counter-insurgency units such as koevoet and 32 battalion trained to carry out external reconnaissance and track guerrilla movements.[31]

    south african tactics became increasingly aggressive as the conflict progressed.[30] the sadf's incursions produced angolan casualties and occasionally resulted in severe collateral damage to economic installations regarded as vital to the angolan economy.[32] ostensibly to stop these raids, but also to disrupt the growing alliance between the sadf and the national union for the total independence for angola (unita), which the former was arming with captured plan equipment,[33] the soviet union backed the people's armed forces of liberation of angola (fapla) through a large contingent of military advisers and up to four billion dollars' worth of modern defence technology in the 1980s.[34] beginning in 1984, regular angolan units under soviet command were confident enough to confront the sadf.[34] their positions were also bolstered by thousands of cuban troops.[34] the state of war between south africa and angola briefly ended with the short-lived lusaka accords, but resumed in august 1985 as both plan and unita took advantage of the ceasefire to intensify their own guerrilla activity, leading to a renewed phase of fapla combat operations culminating in the battle of cuito cuanavale.[32] the south african border war was virtually ended by the tripartite accord, mediated by the united states, which committed to a withdrawal of cuban and south african military personnel from angola and south west africa, respectively.[35] plan launched its final guerrilla campaign in april 1989.[36] south west africa received formal independence as the republic of namibia a year later, on 21 march 1990.[19]

    despite being largely fought in neighbouring states, the south african border war had a phenomenal cultural and political impact on south african society.[37] the country's apartheid government devoted considerable effort towards presenting the war as part of a containment programme against regional soviet expansionism[38] and used it to stoke public anti-communist sentiment.[39] it remains an integral theme in contemporary south african literature at large and afrikaans-language works in particular, having given rise to a unique genre known as grensliteratuur (directly translated "border literature").[32]

  • nomenclature
  • background
  • the insurgency begins, 1964–1974
  • the angolan front, 1975–1977
  • external south african operations, 1978–1984
  • drawdown in angola, 1985–1988
  • namibian independence
  • see also
  • notes and references
  • external links

South African Border War
Part of the Cold War and the decolonisation of Africa
SABorder War Montage1.jpg
Clockwise from top left: FAPLA MiG-21bis on an airstrip; SADF convoy patrolling Namibian roads; 1981 protests against SADF aggression in Angola; Soviet adviser with FAPLA soldiers; UNTAG peacekeepers just prior to Namibian independence; SADF expeditionary troops loading a mortar in the operational area
Date26 August 1966 – 21 March 1990
(23 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 2 days)
Location
South West Africa (Namibia), Angola, Zambia
Result

Military stalemate[8][19]

  • SWAPO government assuming power in Namibia
Territorial
changes
South West Africa gains independence from South Africa as Republic of Namibia.
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Gerrit Viljoen
Willie van Niekerk
Louis Pienaar
B.J. Vorster
P.W. Botha
Constand Viljoen
Johannes Geldenhuys
Magnus Malan
Andreas Liebenberg
Georg Meiring
Cornelius Njoba 
Jonas Savimbi
Sam Nujoma
Tobias Hainyeko 
Peter Nanyemba
Dimo Hamaambo
Peter Mweshihange
Solomon Huwala
Agostinho Neto
José Eduardo dos Santos
António Franca
Iko Carreira
Fidel Castro
Strength

~71,000 (1988)[3][20]

South Africa:
30,743 SADF troops in Angola and Namibia
South West Africa:
22,000 SWATF troops
8,300 SWAPOL police

~122,000 (1988)[21][22][23]

Flag of South West Africa People's Organisation.svg SWAPO:
32,000 PLAN guerrillas
Cuba:
40,000 FAR troops in southern Angola
Angola:
50,000 FAPLA troops
Casualties and losses
2,038[24] – 2,500[25] 11,335[26]
2,016–5,000 (including Angolan Civil War casualties)[27]
Namibian civilians dead: 947–1,087[28]

The South African Border War, also known as the Namibian War of Independence, and sometimes denoted in South Africa as the Angolan Bush War, was a largely asymmetric conflict that occurred in Namibia (then South West Africa), Zambia, and Angola from 26 August 1966 to 21 March 1990. It was fought between the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), an armed wing of the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO). The South African Border War resulted in some of the largest battles on the African continent since World War II and was closely intertwined with the Angolan Civil War.

Following several decades of unsuccessful petitioning through the United Nations and the International Court of Justice for Namibian independence, SWAPO formed the PLAN in 1962 with material assistance from the Soviet Union, China, and sympathetic African states such as Tanzania, Ghana, and Algeria.[29] Fighting broke out between PLAN and the South African authorities in August 1966. Between 1975 and 1988 the SADF staged massive conventional raids into Angola and Zambia to eliminate PLAN's forward operating bases.[30] It also deployed specialist counter-insurgency units such as Koevoet and 32 Battalion trained to carry out external reconnaissance and track guerrilla movements.[31]

South African tactics became increasingly aggressive as the conflict progressed.[30] The SADF's incursions produced Angolan casualties and occasionally resulted in severe collateral damage to economic installations regarded as vital to the Angolan economy.[32] Ostensibly to stop these raids, but also to disrupt the growing alliance between the SADF and the National Union for the Total Independence for Angola (UNITA), which the former was arming with captured PLAN equipment,[33] the Soviet Union backed the People's Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) through a large contingent of military advisers and up to four billion dollars' worth of modern defence technology in the 1980s.[34] Beginning in 1984, regular Angolan units under Soviet command were confident enough to confront the SADF.[34] Their positions were also bolstered by thousands of Cuban troops.[34] The state of war between South Africa and Angola briefly ended with the short-lived Lusaka Accords, but resumed in August 1985 as both PLAN and UNITA took advantage of the ceasefire to intensify their own guerrilla activity, leading to a renewed phase of FAPLA combat operations culminating in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.[32] The South African Border War was virtually ended by the Tripartite Accord, mediated by the United States, which committed to a withdrawal of Cuban and South African military personnel from Angola and South West Africa, respectively.[35] PLAN launched its final guerrilla campaign in April 1989.[36] South West Africa received formal independence as the Republic of Namibia a year later, on 21 March 1990.[19]

Despite being largely fought in neighbouring states, the South African Border War had a phenomenal cultural and political impact on South African society.[37] The country's apartheid government devoted considerable effort towards presenting the war as part of a containment programme against regional Soviet expansionism[38] and used it to stoke public anti-communist sentiment.[39] It remains an integral theme in contemporary South African literature at large and Afrikaans-language works in particular, having given rise to a unique genre known as grensliteratuur (directly translated "border literature").[32]