South African Border War (Summary)

The South African Border War, also known as the Angolan Bush War, was a protracted armed conflict between South Africa’s forces and Marxist guerrilla armies that fought for the independence of South West Africa and Angola. It broke out in 1966 and ended in 1989, being a low-intensity type confrontation. The cause of the war dates back to World War I, when South Africa occupied the German South-West Africa (present day Namibia) in 1915. Since then, this former German colony had been run by the South African government, under the League of Nations’ mandate. In 1960, the South-West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) was created. It was a political party, whose main objective was the complete indepence of the country. In 1962, its members decided to form the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), which was this leftist party’s armed wing.

In August 1966, the first military engagement took place, when a South African police force, supported by a helicopter, attacked a PLAN’s guerrilla camp, killing two men and taking nine prisoners. In the following weeks, the insurgency’s units carried out unsuccessful attacks on police’s outposts. Later, South Africa would send a paratroopers Brigade, a battalion, and a special forces unit to Namibia to fight against the insurgency, which conducted hit and run raids from camps in Zambia and Angola. The government of Pretoria would also create an anti-insurgency paramilitary force that operated in the territory of South-West Africa. Portuguese forces and two other Marxist guerrilla armies would soon take part in the war. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (PMLA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (NFLA) fought against the Portuguese Army, which, in turn, fought alongside the South African forces until 1975, when the new Portuguese socialist government decided to grand Angola political independence. However, South Africa military would continue to engage the leftist insurgency, this time backed up by Cuban troops shipped over to Angola by Fidel Castro.

The war had raged on for more than twenty years, when the UN Security Council forced the South Africa’s government to demobilize its counter-insergency paramilitary army, called Koevoet. In November 1989, general elections were held in Namibia (South-West Africa), under the auspices of the UN and a Constituent Assembly’s members were elected by the people as the country’s Constitution was approved. The following year, Namibia celebrated its independence.



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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.