(Image Courtesey of Ben Carver: 6SAI – Grahamstown – 1985)

The word “reminisce” just does not see right for me. I dont know what the correct word would be for talking about this war.

What I do know is that, for me, there is an energy in these discussions. At this time, I am able to spend hours writing and talking about the war when I am otherwise exhausted and depleted. There are other things too in my life that attract a similary inner energy, or vibration. I am slowly learning to not be to worried about why these things give me energy when I allocate my time to them, but just to allocate my time to them.

I find I have a preference for reggae music, carpentry, pornographic movies, fishing and road running. All of these I have “energy” for. To be honest I don’t know where these preferences have come from or why they come with “energy”. They are just there, and I just go with them.

What I find perplexing though, is why so little is spoken of this war. We know more about the battle of Isandlwayo, Custer’s Last Stand, the Falklands War, Yon Kippur, 9-11 and “Bloody Sunday”, than we do about the Battle of Cuito Cuanavalle. How can this be?

I remember when I came back from Rundu toward the end of 1987. Coming back home was eary,… surreal. It was as if though to me the “real world” was happening back up there, north of here. This big war, this massive operation, day long convoys, body bags lined up on the tarmac, Migage F1’s shot down, airforce scrambling 3 times a day, red alert, readiness state High!….guys back from frontline with new browns and the “thousand yard stare”

But when I got back home, to my family, nobody new anything of what was happening. I was simply swept away in the curent of petty, sub-urban realities. Straight into first year at Varsity. Classmates straight out of school. Nobody had heard of Rundu, Grootfontein, Oshakati, Cuito, Operation Modular (remember it was just refered to as the “operational area” it was illegal for the media or anyone to be more specific). I did not feel sorry for myself, or did I in any kind of pain, I was relieved not o have had it as bad as those who were in the thick of the fihting, I was elated to be finished with my time and have it all (almost all) behind me. And for these reasons, there was not really much talk about the war at that time (and I suppose ever since).

But also I think, so little is known of the Angolan Bush War for the reasons that Michalel Graaf points out. ….”History is written by the victors”. And in this case neither the National Party or the ANC (the two major powers in SA since the eighties) can claim any stake in the victory. The National Party considered this as a defeat. This is evidenced by the fact that in spite of there massive propoganda machine, they made no attempt to popularise the “history” of the Angolan Bushwar.

What is more suprising though is that as the ANC became dominant, so liitle effort has been made to record and popularise this significant epsiode where conventional forces came head to head in Southern Angola in the late eighties, resulting in a bloody and crushing battle, which lead to a South African withdrawal from Angola, the acceptance of UN resolution 435 and the paving of the way for UNTAG to take control in Namibia. All this, a very significant blow to the forces of Apartheid, ….but no real contribution from MK and the ANC…..

Is it because the ANC cannot claim involvment in this defeat of the Aparthied System that we will pass slowly into the past without being acknowledged by “History”?

Author: Tim Hewitt-Coleman

The World can be a better place.... But how? Taking the debate beyond the political, beyond the theoretical into the real economy, into the physical and spatial dimension where cities, landscapes and livelihoods take form.

One thought on “A WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME”

  1. Howzit!! My name is Stephan Aucamp, from a small production company called Story Tree. We are busy with research for a documentary on the Angolan War, specifically Cuito. If anyone out there was there, please contact me on fbr@iafrica.com


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