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May 24

Written by: Dino Estevao
2013/05/24 12:38 PM  RssIcon

as I stood next to my father looking at the biggest military build up rolling past us into the beautiful town of Chiede, i did not know the extend and the damage but I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet. Was I scared? Hell, no!

I stood next to my father looking at the biggest military build up rolling past us into the beautiful town of Chiede, i did not know the extend and the damage but I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet. Was I scared? Hell, no!

I stood next to my father staring across the field towards the road, the sandy road that crawled past the small church that my grandfather built. This road was rarely used, with the exception of few commercial trucks that went from Chiede to Milunga and to the border of Namibia. But that day in 1975 what we were witnessing was the biggest military convoy that ever drove into the small town, north east of the Namacunde. This was the first SADF invasion into Angola and I was five years old. The beginning of what is known today as the Border war or the infamous ‘bush war.’ When the SADF arrived at Chiede the town was empty, all the shops and buildings were cleared and the inhabitants withdrew from the town, leaving only what they could not carry… the buildings. This part of the country was a rural with strong tradition in cattle farming, known as the "heartland of cattle farming"(Chiedi she e ngobe). The town of Chiede was a small with a school, hospital and couple of residential houses on one side of the main road and the administration, justice and about four shops to the other side of the main road, the airstrip on the eastern side. There was only one vehicle next to the school that failed to start, the owner abandoned it and took off on foot and when The SADF members arrived in the town, they also tried to start that vehicle and after failing they set it alight. That was the only incident of violence that occurred in 1975 at Chiede. The convoy continued into the rest of Angola, leaving a handful of soldiers to patrol this part of countryside on horseback. The local community went on their routine, herding the live stock and working on their fields and interacting with the new authority only when the circumstances or out of necessity. With the arrival of the SADF in this part of the country, UNITA took the full advantage of the situation and regrouped and strengthen their position and rounding up those that were outspoken MPLA sympathizer, those that were know as the vanguard, "Cabeçarios." The community withdrew deeper to their farms, while UNITA build up, recruiting and holding rallies whenever there was a festival or gathering. Although the SADF were giving the guidance and training, they seldom intervened in UNITA’s activities. This part of the country was mainly MPLA dominated but because of the closeness to the Namibian border, the cultural and family tie and complexity of the relationship between SWAPO and UNITA especially in 1960s early 1970s. This relationship was to frustrate the SADF in this part of the world… that they will have to attack some of UNITA’s key positions in Cunene in 1980s(the attack at Chitumba is an example). This relationship was far complex in the province of Cunene, as such a nightmare in to the beautiful friendship between the SADF and UNITA. One of the architects and a man to be credited for this relationship was, Antonio Vakulukuta was a charismatic leader with a strong follower in the southern part of Angola(in my future posting I will try and analyze the subject and his fate)

In 1975, at the age of five

Early in 1976 the SADF withdrew and UNITA dispersed in small groups into the bush before MPLA arrived. If the Cubans arrived at Chiede then it must have been hush hush for their presence was not noticed. Meanwhile MPLA started with the new reforms being introduced in the rest of country, school was open, the shop. Those that left during the SADF/UNITA returned to take up their position in the new system, amongste them, the man who abandoned the landrover in1975... UNITA was to regroup in the northeast of Chiede in the area called Chitumba where they were to form a strong line of defence.

five years later at the dawn, in 1980 the SADF came down with two fighter planes, Helicopters and a company or more of men…this time at the age of ten I was scared, what followed was the worst, untold military on slaughter on the civilians.




1 comment(s) so far...


Re: The outbreak for the border war

This is a great information about the history you put in here. thank you go to website

By Chris on   2018/12/16 07:14 AM

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Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
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Duncan, I remember you well!

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By Johan du Preez on: Thursday, May 17, 2018
Re: Operation Savannah - The battle of the casualties of the war
Hi Johan
You mentioned 1 Mil in your story. I was there 15th Nov 1975 spent 9 mths-also very secretive. Lost both my arms. You mention a Major Kruger -Social Welfare. She was a wonderful person. Would you by any chance know if she is still alive and if so, how to contact her. I last met her in 1980 at 1 Mil.
Great site
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By Dino Estevao on: Monday, April 30, 2018
Re: The Battle of Mongua: From Ondjiva to Preira d’eça
I must say i'm so happy to see my great grandfathers name being mentioned in the books of history. i grew up hearing of his names in stories (folk tails), know i have discovered myself his name and his contribution to the world history and the shaping of the Namibian and Angolan borders of today
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Hi Johan
I drove 72C in smokeshell, Kobus Nortje who has put up a number of Photos was in 72A
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Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Hilton, I could not find the exact reference in my notes, but I suspect it was Lt Paul Louw as I do remember reading about that report. As soon as I pint it down i will get back to you again...As to the photographs, none of them belong to me. Many come from the 61 Mech site and you may be able to obtain high res ones directly from them.There has been too many holdups and issues re the publication (mostly from my side) so I would have to re-approach the publisher to do it "my way" as previously they wanted me to reduce a 200-page manuscript to 64 pages to fit to the standard format of the publisher's series. It was not exactly what I had in mind, so I put it on ice...
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Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell)
Hi Johan,
Thank you for the wonderful service you provide for Bush War vets.

1. Can you tell me which officer said during the attack on Smokeshell, "My troops are bleeding!" It might have been Maj Fouche.

2. An old friend of mine, Brian Davey, is writing his memoir of National Service, including Smokeshell. He was driver of Ratel Seven-one Charlie. I am doing the editing, and would greatly appreciate permission to use some of the photographs you have here.

3. When do you think your book will be published?

Thanks again
By Hilton Ratcliffe on: Tuesday, March 06, 2018