The SADF and Cuito Cuanavale
Jonathan Ball Publishers, February 2020
“A shooting war is often followed by a second war. This war is not fought with bullets or artillery shells, not with tanks or bombers, but rather with words. The war is, in effect, fought again on paper.”
In 1987–1988 the dusty Angolan town of Cuito Cuanavale was the backdrop for the final battles of the Border War. Ever since the war ended, the fighting around Cuito has been the subject of a fierce public debate over who actually won the war.
While the leadership of the former South African Defence Force (SADF) claims it was never defeated, the supporters of the Angolan MPLA government, Cuba and SWAPO insist that the SADF was vanquished on the battlefield. They contend that the SADF wanted to overrun Cuito Cuanavale and use it as a springboard for an advance on Luanda.
But was Cuito Cuanavale ever really an objective of the SADF? Leopold Scholtz tackles this question by examining recently declassified documents in the SANDF archives, exploring the strategic and tactical decisions that shaped the six main battles, from the SADF’s stunning tactical success on the Lomba River to the grinding struggle for the Tumpo Triangle.
His incisive analysis untangles what happens when war, politics and propaganda become entwined.