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 termin South Africa. Hundreds of thousands of young white men were called up formilitary service, and many served in some or other capacity in Namibia – then SouthWest Africa – often in the so-called operational area, often as combat troops. Theseyoung men were told that they were there to fight communism and that Swapo (theSouth West African People’s Organisation), the enemy, had to be bested for peaceand freedom to come to the southern African subcontinent.Nevertheless, when the UN-supervised elections came after years ofinternational wrangling, Swapo won handsomely, obtaining 57 per cent of the votes.The South African Government and South African Defence Force (SADF) wastaken aback, because they really had believed that the anti-Swapo coalition wouldget a majority.2 The question therefore is: How was this possible? Did the SouthAfricans, who developed a sophisticated strategy to counter-revolutionary guerrillawarfare and really were convinced that they had Swapo on the run, make mistakesthey were not aware of? Did they disobey in practice the rules they supported intheory? It will be the purpose of this analysis to answer this question.
Published
2011-08-03
Section
Articles