THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL OBJECTIVES IN ANGOLA, 1987–88

  • Leopold Scholtz

Abstract

Ever since 1988, a war of words has been waged about the question whowon the so-called Battle of Cuito Cuanavale – the SADF, or the Cuban and Angolaforces. A lot depends, of course, on what the South Africans’ strategic andoperational objectives were, and whether they reached these or not. On a somewhatlower level, the debate has centred on the question whether the SADF wanted tooccupy Cuito Cuanavale. If they did, it becomes easier to argue that South Africawas dealt a heavy reverse there; if not, such an argument becomes more difficult tosustain. In this article, South Africa’s strategic and operational objectives areanalysed, based on archival sources. The basic conclusions are that the SouthAfrican government was realistic enough to see that it could not replace the MPLAwith UNITA by force, although it was hoped this might happen through elections.As far as Cuito Cuanavale is concerned, the sources are unequivocal: Although theoccupation of the town was indeed discussed, it was never seriously considered. Theobjective was simply to drive FAPLA over the Cuito River, to prepare the riverbankas a defensive line, to turn it over to UNITA and then to pull back. By far most ofthe South Africans’ objectives were reached.
Published
2011-08-10
How to Cite
Scholtz, L. (2011). THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL OBJECTIVES IN ANGOLA, 1987–88. Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 38(1). https://doi.org/10.5787/38-1-80
Section
Articles