Gert Strydom

(03 April 1964 / Johannesburg, South Africa)

With a glance on Cuito Cuanavale


Through the dense wilderness
where the red earth swallows everything
Ratel armoured cars burst through the bush
from Rundu to where
the Cuzizi and Lomba rivers cross
while scouts reconnoitre the enemy
and it unleashes a battle that lasts for days
that crushes and burns thousands of enemy soldiers
and everywhere around us there is danger,
there are enemies fighting and others deserting and running away
where we press them in between the two rivers
to where we make a death acre

while the enemy shoot with their battle tanks and armour,
Mig-warplanes every now and then drop their bombs,
South Africans pull the heart out of FAPLA,
out of the Cubans and the Russians
and the shadow of the South African soldier falls
over Africa and far away hangs
over Cuba and Russia
and mothers and wives in Angola and Cuba cover their faces
while they long for their husbands and boys
and suddenly the communists start to talk about peace,
politicians as if in rapture
make accords and do tolerate each other
as if we are brothers in the universe
and the world that had been disappears into the nought.


[References: "The battle at Cuito Cuanavale: "The results of the campaign up to April 1988 were 4,785 killed on the Cuban/Faplan side, with 94 tanks and hundreds of combat vehicles destroyed, against 31 South Africans killed in action,3 tanks destroyed (SADF tanks entered the war after the Lomba River campaign) and 11 SADF armoured cars and troop carriers lost. A total of 9 Migs were destroyed and only 1 SAAF Mirage shot down." (General) Jannie Geldenhuys. (1994) : At the front. Jonathan Ball Publishers. P240.

"The South African force, under the command of Colonel Deon Ferreira, was tasked with carrying out three operations (1) Operation Modular - The aim of which was to halt and reverse the FAPLA / Cuban advance on the UNITA strongholds of Mavinga and Jamba, (2) Operation Hooper - The aim of which was to inflict maximum casualties on the retreating FAPLA / Cuban forces after they had been halted and (3) Operation Packer - The aim of which was to force the FAPLA / Cuban forces to retreat to the west of the Cuito River." Nortje, Piet (2003) .32 Battalion. Zebra Press.

'In early October the Soviet-Fapla offensive was smashed at the Lomba River near Mavinga. It turned into a headlong retreat over the 120 miles back to the primary launching point at Cuito Cuanavale. In some of the bloodiest battles of the entire civil war, a combined force of some 8,000 UNITA fighters and 4,000 SADF troops destroyed one Fapla brigade and mauled several others out of a total Fapla force of some 18,000 engaged in the three-pronged offensive. Estimates of Fapla losses ranged upward of 4,000 killed and wounded. This offensive had been a Soviet conception from start to finish. Senior Soviet officers played a central role in its execution.... Huge quantities of Soviet equipment were destroyed or fell into UNITA and SADF hands when Fapla broke into a disorganized retreat... The 1987 military campaign represented a stunning humiliation for the Soviet Union, its arms and its strategy.... As of mid-November, the UNITA/SADF force had destroyed the Cuito Cuanavale airfield and pinned down thousands of FAPLA's best remaining units clinging onto the town's defensive perimeters.' Crocker, Chester A. (1992) High Noon in Southern Africa: Making Peace in a Rough Neighbourhood. (Crocker was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Reagan Administration.)

John Turner claims that: "following their losses, the Cubans were convinced that further military confrontation with the SADF would not succeed." Turner, John W. (1998) . Continent Ablaze; The Insurgency Wars in Africa,1960 to the Present. Cassell Plc.

Comments made by a Soviet adviser to the Cubans in Angola: 'The people's armed forces for the liberation of Angola have not been able either, even with the help of the Cubans, to decisively defeat the enemy and drive him out of the territory or the country." M. Ponomariov, Krasnaya Zvezda Magazine; 20 May 1988.]

Submitted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Topic(s): life


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