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Apartheid’s Waterloo

The racist South African regime had chosen an area it considered favorable for its adventures in southern Angola, but it was precisely the battle of Cuito Cuanavale that, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “marked the turning point in the struggle to free the continent and our country from the scourge of apartheid”

Author: Iroel Sánchez | internet@granma.cu

march 23, 2021 08:03:14

“South African aviation on the ground and its tanks flying,” is the phrase loaded with sarcasm with which Fidel, speaking to a group of diplomats from non-aligned countries gathered in Havana, described what happened on March 23, 1988 in the Angolan locality of Cuito Cuanavale.

The racist South African regime had chosen an area it considered favorable for its adventures in southern Angola, but it was precisely the battle of Cuito Cuanavale that, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “marked the turning point in the struggle to free the continent and our country from the scourge of apartheid.”

The Cuban and Angolan forces had resisted, for long weeks, the racists’ constant bombardment, with their G-5 and G-6 long range artillery; while, in silence, they mined the terrain, to turn the advance of the enemy forces into a deadly ambush that, on March 23, trapped the South Africans between the mines and Cuban artillery.

By then, Cuban anti-aircraft gunners had put an end to the impunity of South African aviation, forced to forego their attacks to avoid losing white pilots under fire of blacks and mulattos skilled in the use of Shilkas and Iglas.

On the other side of southern Angola, the advance of Cuban tanks and the positioning of Mig-29s providing an advantage in that area, the racists were obliged to accept UN Resolution 435, which created the conditions for the independence of Namibia and would demoralize, forever, the apartheid regime, which had no use for the nuclear weapons Washington’s had facilitated for them.

Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro was the brilliant political-military strategist who made possible what international sanctions and speeches had not secured for the peoples of southern Africa.

Mandela made this clear when he visited Cuba and spoke on July 26, 1991, in the city of Matanzas: “The defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale made it possible for me to be here with you today! Cuito Cuanavale marks a milestone in the history of the struggle for the liberation of Southern Africa! Cuito Cuanavale marks the turning point in the struggle to free the continent and our country from the scourge of apartheid!”

Oliver Tambo, another prestigious anti-apartheid fighter, would define Cuito Cuanavale as “South Africa’s Waterloo,” a Waterloo in which the descendants of slaves uprooted from Africa returned to do justice for their own, and did so.

Source Granma English

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