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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 55
Paragraph Numbers 49 to 59
The State Security Council and Angola
49 With the accession to power of Mr PW Botha in September 1978, the war against Angola became a government priority. In March 1979, the State Security Council (SSC) adopted two strategy documents pertaining to Angola. One was a total national strategy encapsulating a long-term view; the other was a short-term strategy document. In the former, the government spelt out its goals as being to use all means – political, diplomatic, psychological, economic and military – to neutralise the Angolan government’s support for SWAPO as well as to bring down the MPLA government, if and when the assurance existed that a more friendly and stable government would replace it.
50 The short-term strategy document lists its objectives, stating that the political situation in Angola should be kept as unstable as possible, that support should be rendered to UNITA and other movements, and that clandestine operations should be launched against Angola with the aim of forcing the MPLA government into preventing SWAPO from operating in southern Angola.
51 In a section headed Opdrag en Take (Mission and Duties), four tasks are detailed:
a to subject southern Angola to a national strategy for as long as it takes to pressurise the MPLA to abandon its support for SWAPO;
b to enlist UNITA and other movements as partners (“bondgenote”) against the Marxist onslaught;
c to destroy SWAPO bases in Angola through co-ordinated actions;
d to make preparations for conventional operations against Angolan, Cuban and SWAPO forces.
52 With regard to the first two tasks above, the document talks of establishing a stable anti-Communist government in the south (a UNITA government) as soon as the political situation in the area has stabilised. All tasks and strategies in the short-term plan were to be directed to this end. In other words, the immediate objective of the SADF was to partition Angola and, in effect, to bring about the secession of the south of the country.
53 The importance of UNITA and its leader, Mr Jonas Savimbi, to South African strategy at this time was stressed in a letter from the chief of the SADF, General Malan, to CSOPS (chief of staff operations) Major General Earp, dated 6 March 1979, in which he states that “Mario [SADF codename for Savimbi] se voortbestaan raak direk die toekoms van Suidelike Afrika. Hy het so belangrik geword dat ons sy veiligheid sal moet verseker”. (His continued existence directly influences the future of Southern Africa. He has become so important that we will have to ensure his safety.)
54 Under economic action guidelines, the following steps were listed:
a to so disrupt the national infrastructure of Angola through clandestine operations, that an unstable situation in the country would be created;
b to disrupt, through clandestine operations, the main export harbours and railways leading to the south of Angola;
c to handle to the best advantage of South Africa all requests from the Angolan government in connection with electric power from Ruacana (the hydro-electric scheme on the Angola–Namibia border), as well as food supplies.
55 The document concludes by emphasising the urgency of the situation and the intensity of the Marxist onslaught in the region. It then goes on to argue that, owing to the abbreviated UN time-scale envisaged for South West Africa (a reference to the pending implementation of UN Resolution 435), the short-term strategy must be implemented as speedily as possible.
56 The implementation of this strategy was discussed at a series of meetings in March 1979. At a meeting between Savimbi, the chiefs of the defence force and the army and senior staff officer of special operations in the department of Military Intelligence (MI), it was agreed that UNITA’s priority would be to clear the MPLA and SWAPO out of Cuanda-Cubango province and “dele van die Cunene” (parts of the Cunene province) so that the nucleus of a UNITA government could be established and so that “die verbindingslyne tussen Angola en SWA weer daargestel kan word” (the lines of communication between Angola and SWA could be restored). A modus operandi was agreed whereby the SADF would take the initiative in Cunene province (see discussion on Operation Protea below) with support from UNITA, while the reverse would apply in Cuanda-Cubango. It was also agreed that, from this point, 32 Battalion would be semi-permanently deployed in southern Angola.
57 The post-1979 military strategy in Angola therefore took the form of a series of large-scale conventional military operations against pre-selected SWAPO and Angolan Army targets, while 32 Battalion formed the vanguard of a low-intensity counter-insurgency campaign. The third prong was Operation Silwer (see below), which provided ongoing logistical and other support to UNITA.
58 The Angolan war was an ongoing, thirteen-year-long occupation, enabling the SADF to achieve one of its aims, namely, the de facto secession of the south from central government control. This is certainly the view of former army and SADF chief, General Geldenhuys. Writing in his autobiography, he states:
A few specific cross-border operations made headlines … Each, in turn, had a positive influence on the course of the war … in the end … it was the overall effect of the almost unseen but incessant day-to-day general operations that brought us success.
59 The first big operation in this post-1979 phase of the war was launched in June 1980. Operation Sceptic began as a lightning attack on a SWAPO base complex called ‘Smokeshell’, 120 kilometres into southern Angola and developed into an extended operation which produced the first serious clashes between the SADF and the Angolan Army and mechanised elements of SWAPO. It ended by driving SWAPO from its forward bases; 380 guerrillas and seventeen members of the SADF were killed.