THE SOUTH AFRICAN STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL OBJECTIVES IN ANGOLA, 1987–88
AbstractEver since 1988, a war of words has been waged about the question who<br />won the so-called Battle of Cuito Cuanavale – the SADF, or the Cuban and Angola<br />forces. A lot depends, of course, on what the South Africans’ strategic and<br />operational objectives were, and whether they reached these or not. On a somewhat<br />lower level, the debate has centred on the question whether the SADF wanted to<br />occupy Cuito Cuanavale. If they did, it becomes easier to argue that South Africa<br />was dealt a heavy reverse there; if not, such an argument becomes more difficult to<br />sustain. In this article, South Africa’s strategic and operational objectives are<br />analysed, based on archival sources. The basic conclusions are that the South<br />African government was realistic enough to see that it could not replace the MPLA<br />with UNITA by force, although it was hoped this might happen through elections.<br />As far as Cuito Cuanavale is concerned, the sources are unequivocal: Although the<br />occupation of the town was indeed discussed, it was never seriously considered. The<br />objective was simply to drive FAPLA over the Cuito River, to prepare the riverbank<br />as a defensive line, to turn it over to UNITA and then to pull back. By far most of<br />the South Africans’ objectives were reached.