The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale paved the way for the liberation of Southern Africa, South Africa’s Arts, Sport and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said this week.
Minister Mthethwa was speaking at the commemoration of the battle at Freedom Park in Tshwane on March 23. The battle, which ended on March 23, 1988, expedited the liberation of Namibia, South Africa and the SADC region.
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was fought on the banks of the Lomba River in Cuito Cuanavale, southeastern Angola.
Mr Eduardo Kondua, representing Angola’s Ambassador to South Africa, said the outcomes of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale were important for the SADC region.
“Indeed the results of Cuito Cuanavale campaign were crucial in persuading the leaders of South Africa’s national party to cut their losses. They did so following talks with the Angolan government, Soviet Union, Cuba, Britain and the United States leading to a major strategic realignment with huge consequences for the whole Southern African region.”
Many people died on all fronts involved in the battle. The South West African People’s Organisation lost an estimated 11,400 guerrillas in combat.
Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Namibia Mr Vasco Samupofu said the battle paved way for Namibia’s Independence.
“The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale culminated in Namibia getting its Independence, through implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution which led to Namibia’s Independence on 21 March 1990. It put a final nail also in the coffin of apartheid South Africa leading to its demise and democratisation of South Africa in 1994, whereby ending the destabilisation of the region by the racist regime then.”
Cuban casualties in Angola totalled approximately 10,000 dead. The number included deaths, injuries and those missing.
Ambassador of Cuba Rodolfo Benitez said the outcomes of the battle changed the balance of power in the region.
“The defeat of the racist South African army in Angola fundamentally changed the regional balance of power. It forced the apartheid regime to the negotiation table with the ANC, with Angola and with Cuba and to make concessions that they have been rejecting for many years. As Mandela said, Cuito was crucial in bringing Pretoria to realise it would have to talk with us.
“The triumph of the revolutionary forces against the reactionary forces on the 23rd of March 1988 represented a watershed for the liberation struggle in the whole of Southern Africa. In the region, it was referred to as frontline states. Now SADC,” said Minister Mthethwa.
He said that the region would formally request the African Union to recognise the role that the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale played in the history of the continent. – SABC News