Die Suid-Afrikaanse weermag en die "stryd" om Cuito Cuanavale: fases 2, 3 en 4 van Operasie Moduler, Oktober - Desember 1987 [deel 2]
Oosthuizen, Gerhard J.J.
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Several international events contributed to the fact that the struggle for South West Africa was not confined only to SWAPO and the South African forces. Because of a coup d’etat and the economic and moral burden which colonies entailed, Portugal withdrew from Angola and Mozambique in a rush in 1974. SWAPO, assisted by the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), established military bases in the south of Angola to invade South West Africa more effectively. It was therefore only a matter of time before the South African forces encountered not only SWAPO, but also the MPLA and Cuban forces. South Africa, however, did not take an attitude of wait-and-see, but wanted to retain the initiative mainly by means of so-called pre-emptive operations, such as Operation Savannah (1975-1976), which was the first of many cross-border operations. The general aim of these operations was to effectively curtail the infiltration of SWAPO from the south of Angola into South West Africa. During the first and only successful phase of Operation Modular (August-October 1987), the combined South African forces came to the aid of a beleaguered UNITA due to a Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola (FAPLA) offensive on the UNITA strongholds of Mavinga and Jamba. The Battle of the Lomba River on 3 October 1987 ended in the crushing of FAPLA’s 47 Brigade and ushered in the successful completion of phase one of Operation Modular. The objective of this article is to analyse the strategic position of Cuito Cuanavale during phases two, three and four of Operation Modular (October-December 1987). In particular, this article focuses on the objectives of the SADF regarding Cuito Cuanavale. The conclusion is that, although fiercely denied in certain circles, the SADF most definitely wanted to conquer Cuito Cuanavale.