South Africa’s intervention in Angola: Before Cuito Cuanavale and thereafter

Labuschagne, Bernice (2009-12)

Thesis (MA (Political Science. International Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Since South Africa’s military intervention in the Angolan conflict twenty years ago, many scholars have written various conflicting accounts on the subject. Why did South Africa become involved in the first place, what made the SADF withdraw, and why did the country decide to become involved once again in a conflict that seemingly did not concern them? What happened at Cuito Cuanavale? These are the questions this study aims to address by drawing on the work of several influential authors. But why the differing narratives? Internal factors such as South Africa’s regional policies during apartheid as well as external factors such as pressure on the Nationalist government from the international arena, all played significant roles in the decision to become more deeply involved in Angola. South African regional policies during apartheid have been regarded in very different ways by various authors which this study will explore. SA’s policies during apartheid were characterised by anti-communism and influenced mainly by the thought that if SA supported a Western ideal, SA would be able to regain some international credit from Western powers. In addition, pressure from international actors increased on SA to protect the southern African region from communist domination. As a result, SA’s second intervention in Angola became prolonged as the clashes between the SADF/UNITA and Angolan/Cuban/Soviet forces grew in intensity. The battle/siege of Cuito Cuanavale is still considered to be the watershed moment that ended the Angolan conflict. The outcome of this battle, however, is still a very controversial subject to this day as some authors claim Cuba won, while others claim the SADF won. At the time there was no surrender. However, establishing exactly who the winner was is very difficult as every party to the conflict has its own ideas about what really happened. The military outcome and political consequences may have influenced this debate. For that reason it is imperative to remember all important influence that various schools of thoughts have on different observers and therefore accounts of the conflict as many of them were written in a time when Cold War and liberation sentiments thrived. Twenty years later is a good time for better informed hindsight. iv

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Sedert Suid-Afrika se militêre betrokkenheid in Angola twintig jaar gelede, het verskeie kontrasterende verhale van dié konflik die lig gesien. Hoekom het SA in die eerste plek betrokke geraak, waarom het die SAW die eerste keer onttrek en hoekom het die land besluit om weer ’n keer betrokke te raak by ’n konflik wat op die oog af niks met hulle te doen gehad het nie? Wat het by Cuito Cuanavale gebeur? Dit is die vrae wat hierdie studie sal probeer antwoord deur gebruik te maak van verskeie invloedryke outeurs. Maar hoekom die uiteenlopende stories? Interne faktore soos SA se streeksbeleide tesame met eksterne faktore soos internasionale druk op die NP regering, het almal deurslaggewende rolle gespeel in die besluit om dieper betrokke te raak in Angola. Suid-Afrikaanse streeksbeleide gedurende apartheid word anders geïnterpreteer deur verskillende outeurs afhangende uit watter oogpunt hulle skryf, hetsy liberaal of realisties. Streeksbeleide gedurende apartheid was gekenmerk deur anti-kommunistiese sentimente en is hoofsaaklik beïnvloed deur die denke dat indien SA hierdie Westerse ideaal ondersteun het, die land dalk ’n mate van sy reeds kwynende internasionale aansien sou herwin. Hoe dit ook al sy, die druk op SA om Suider Afrika te beskerm teen die kommunistiese aanslag, het geleidelik vergroot vanuit die internasionale arena. Dit is dan ook die rede waarom SA se tweede inval in Angola ‘n meesleurende en uitgerekte saga geword het aangesien botsings tussen die SAW/UNITA alliansie en die Angolese/Kubaanse/Russiese alliansies meer intens en op ’n meer gereelde basis voorgekom het. Die laaste offensief by Cuito Cuanavale word dus steeds gesien as die oomblik wat die einde van die Angolese oorlog ingelui het. Die uitkoms van hierdie geveg/beleg word egter steeds in kontroversie gehul aangesien daar steeds nie konsensus bereik kan word oor wie die eintlike wenners was nie. Sekere outeurs voer aan dat die Kubane sonder twyfel gewen het, terwyl ander beweer dat die SAW gewen het. Op daardie punt was daar egter geen militêre oorgawe nie. Juis om daardie rede is dit baie moeilik om vas te stel wie die eintlike wenner was, aangesien elke betrokke party sy eie idees gevorm het oor wat eintlik gebeur het. Dit is waarom dit belangrik is om te let op die invloed wat verskeie outeurs kan hê op dié onderwerp aangesien baie daarvan geskryf is gedurende ’n tyd toe die Koue Oorlog en bevrydingsoorloë aan die orde van die dag was. Twintig jare later is dalk ’n goeie tyd vir ’n terugblik.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/1830
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