A podcast series
A podcast series about the Cold War Era low intensity border war fought between 1960 and 1989 and involving South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Russia, Cuba, Eastern Europe, United States and China. Found on all main podcast platforms including Spotify, Google Podcasts and iTunes.
Much has been written about the South African Border war which is also known as the Namibian War of Independence. While the fighting was ostensibly about Namibia, most of the significant battles were fought inside Angola.
This conflict has almost been almost forgotten as the Cold War ebbed away and bygones were swept under the political carpet back home.
Four years after the last shots were fired in that war, the African National Congress and the National Party negotiated a peaceful end to apartheid during the Congress for a Democratic South Africa or CODESA. At that congress it was decided that a Truth and Reconciliation commission would be setup to offer amnesty to all those who committed human rights violation during the armed struggle against apartheid – but only the incidents inside South Africa itself.
This left out a significant part of the story of what happened between 1960 and 1987 beyond the borders of the country – those events were quietly swept under the negotiation carpet. While this helped in some ways to reinforce the idea of a post-apartheid nation, it hindered closure for many involved.
The South African border was low-key most of the time and characterised by unconventional warfare. At times SADF soldiers would be on foot, searching for SWAPO guerrillas and vice versa. Like any other non-conventional war, it is extremely frustrating for an organised army when it fights against an army that prefers subterfuge to submarines.
Ironically, that’s exactly what the Boers had done to the British during the Boer War – frustrating the organised army of the empire as they darted about the veld refusing to stand and fight when they could inflict guerrilla warfare on the English.
But at other times, South African Border war battles were between motorised heavy vehicles, tanks, artillery, air bombardments and mechanised units rolling into attack each other using the latest military hardware.
It was MiGs against the Mirage and a great testing ground for the Russians and the Americans.
For some that was a nightmare, for others, freedom. At times youngsters from the suburbs of Pretoria or Durban were fighting experienced soldiers from Russia and Cuba. For South African vets the territory would come to be known as “Nam” as the type of warfare replicated the American’s experience in Vietnam to some extent.
Ironic then that the country is “Nam-ibia”.
The most violent battles were the long-range strikes deep into Angolan territory – full scale conventional warfare.
The Battle of Iona debris courtesy of Donovan Jooste.