THE NAMIBIAN BORDER WAR: AN APPRAISAL OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRATEGY

Leopold Scholtz

Abstract


From the sixties to the late eighties, the border war became a household term
in South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of young white men were called up for
military service, and many served in some or other capacity in Namibia – then South
West Africa – often in the so-called operational area, often as combat troops. These
young men were told that they were there to fight communism and that Swapo (the
South West African People’s Organisation), the enemy, had to be bested for peace
and freedom to come to the southern African subcontinent.
Nevertheless, when the UN-supervised elections came after years of
international wrangling, Swapo won handsomely, obtaining 57 per cent of the votes.
The South African Government and South African Defence Force (SADF) was
taken aback, because they really had believed that the anti-Swapo coalition would
get a majority.2 The question therefore is: How was this possible? Did the South
Africans, who developed a sophisticated strategy to counter-revolutionary guerrilla
warfare and really were convinced that they had Swapo on the run, make mistakes
they were not aware of? Did they disobey in practice the rules they supported in
theory? It will be the purpose of this analysis to answer this question.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/34-1-15

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Copyright (c) 2018 Leopold Scholtz


ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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