The UNITA Insurgency and the South African Threat
In addition to severe economic disruptions, in the late
the Angolan government was also challenged by the UNITA
UNITA was able to survive after the war for independence,
because of the continued loyalty of some of its
Ovimbundu supporters, but, more important, because of
logistical support from South Africa. Pretoria established
relationship with UNITA for several reasons. Vehemently
anticommunist, South Africa felt threatened by the MPLA's
toward the Soviet Union and its allies. The South Africans
wished to retaliate for Luanda's support of SWAPO.
helping UNITA shut down the Benguela Railway, which linked
mining areas of Zaire and Zambia to Atlantic ports,
these two countries more dependent on South Africa's
system and thus more responsive to South African wishes.
In support of UNITA leader Savimbi, the South African
Force (SADF) set up bases in Cuando Cubango Province in
southeastern Angola. Savimbi established his headquarters
and enjoyed air cover provided by the South African air
bases in Namibia
fig. 16). The SADF also trained
guerrillas in Namibia and provided UNITA with arms, fuel,
On occasion, South African ground forces provided direct
during UNITA battles with FAPLA.
Damaging though the UNITA assaults were, the greatest
Angola's security in the late 1970s was posed by the SADF.
Following its withdrawal from Angola in mid-1976 after its
involvement in the war for independence, the SADF
launched small-scale incursions from Namibia into southern
in pursuit of SWAPO guerrillas. The first large-scale
incursion into Angola took place in May 1978, when the
a Namibian refugee camp at Cassinga and killed hundreds of
By the end of 1979, following the SADF bombing of Lubango,
capital of Huíla Province, an undeclared border war
Africa and Angola was in full force.
Data as of February 1989