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Apr 30

Written by: Dino Estevao
2018/04/30 07:11 PM  RssIcon

Suddenly the stretch between Namacunde and Chiede became very dangerous to travel, let alone for those who lived there. The twenty-four kilometers roads became known as the road of death and only few dared to venture there in the years from 1978.
My last trip through that road was in 1978 with my mother and her sister my favourite aunt, Helena or maybe I was her favourite nephew. 
I was very sick and they had to take me to Namacunde hospital. Life in Southern Angola was becoming extremely difficult and the only vehicles reaching place like Chiede were the military trucks that brought supplies of the basic commodities. The vehicle was often escorted by FAPLA. 
We had to climb in those truck and travel for what seemed an eternity. The road was bad, part of it washed away by the rain and part of it was perceived to be a minefield.  We huddled together as my mother prayed for our safety throughout the dreadful journey. I was shivering due to the high fever but I could have been scared for I have heard of horror stories from those who have survived that road.
There were soldiers, ODEPE(civilian defence, I'll equipped and hardly trained but at least they had guns) and civilians everyone praying in their own way. I lied there with a fever of 120 degrees I could feel the fear and then one of the tire burst, the sound was so loud like explosion that everyone start crawling in the floor of the truck. 
Everyone thought that we were ambushed, fortunately the driver brought the vehicle to a standstill. For few seconds we laid still with our heart pounding in our hands.
Finally someone shouted, "é pneu!" It's a tyre!
Shoewww! Everyone let out a sigh of relief.
We had to climb off the vehicle and sat a distance away in the shade while the soldiers fixed the tyre. 
We also had to be very quiet to listen to any strange sounds, especially the sound of planes and helicopters.
You see the threats in this road between Chiede and Namacunde came in three folds:
1. Ambush
2. Air strike 
3. Land mine... All of them very lethal or take your choice!
After fixing the tyre we climbed back and drove to our destination.We stayed for a week at Namacunde and when I was better we went back. Travelling was only as last resort and if possible by foot. 
Because of these threats and constant harassment from the South Africans Security forces as well as the threat from Chitumba a decision was made to move my grandfather and grandmother from Ohongo to Chiede where we could be closer to each other.
Schooling was also another challenge, it was being disrupted every second day. A sound of a airplane was enough to send everyone running or nervous breakdown. What was happening between Chiede and Namacunde was either deliberately aimed to isolate the town and render it vulnerable or just creating chaos to the community. There were also theft of cattle and kidnapping of herdsman. People disappeared without trace, especially young men.
One day when we were at school two fighter plane came. Everyone started running tripping over each other, crying but the situation got worse when they started shooting. We were running north-East out of the town in the bushes. The plane's target was the building at the end of the town towards Namacunde. They shot the building into pieces and then left.
That afternoon mothers went about the places looking for their children. School was suspended indefinitely. 
After the independence my father's role was to coordinate logistics and education. He played a vital role in sending the first group of students to Luanda and Cuba and some like my elder sister was to end up in the small island near Miami. 
My father's experience as a comerciants was to earn him the position to oversee the stocking-up of the, "Loja do povo" which replaced all form of trading or business. "loja do povo, loja unica..." and other names that came with that system of thinking.
With the school suspended at Chiede, there was a plan to move the senior student north where they could continue with their studies. My brother Leo was part of this group. My father and Capunda met occasionally to discuss and plan to move the group of children to places of learning. Capunda was a dynamic leader, the right Comesario-politico for that period. Capunda and my father were friends from way back before I was born and his mother was one of the first people to welcome me back at Chiede in 1995. 
They eventually manage to get some learners to Namacunde for a short period but there was eminent threats, the possible attack in either town. 
But Southern Angola was getting extremely dangerous. There were too many air strikes, villages were burn down, herdsman disappearing and others tortured and released to spread fear and panic. 
One day two fighter planes came down at Ondjiva dropping bombs at the administrative building and hospital. Towns and villages  were no longer safe and gathering should be avoided.
During the day people avoided grouping, they would work on their fields and herd their livestock. Anything that resembled military or can be associated with military should be destroyed. At some stage I bought a toy plastic AK at the loja do poo and had a khaki trouser with pockets that looked like army trouser. My grandma took the toy and smashed into small pieces and then took my trouser and burned it.
 At home we had one of the oldest weapon that came from Mandume ya Ndemufayo's war against the Portuguese domination and finally against the English in 1917. The weapon was a symbol and family heritage and pride of our family history. The "spingarda" that my grandfather used to defend "oshilongo" was finally  burired in the field.
One early morning two helicopters flew from the border towards the East of Chiede. Not too close to town but also not too. They did not fly high, at the East of the town they started encircling a particular area. One helicopter went up and the other went down, for few minutes they repeated the excise. The two helicopters flew back towards the South following each other like two birds.
After few minutes everyone started coming from their hide out. Everyone was asking questions. 
We were living in a war zone. From a child to the elderly woman have learned certain skills to stay alive. We were living to survive. Chiede had never had a strong military presence and it's geographical location has made it even vulnerable. The man who defended Chiede until that day was Eusebio, under his command was a team of fifteen men. Well disciplined and well trained platoon of FAPLA that reported to Comesario-politico Capunda who was by then at Namacunde and Ondjiva.
Twice FALA from Chitumba attacked Chiede, every time with more intensity than the the previous. Every time they were repelled by Eusebio's men. Eusebio too tried to destroy Chitumba once or twice  but came back with their tails between their legs. 
Chitumba was a military nightmare for the FAPLA  in Cunene. Chitumba was later attacked by the South African Defence Forces. 

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Recent Blog Comments
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Remember that night and still hear the Red Eyes flying.
By Coenie (Sdpikes) Groenewald0 on: Sunday, November 22, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Hi Alistair, I have set up a Facebook page titled '3 SA Infantry B Company 1977 - 1978'. Feel free to check it out and join up. This applies to anyone else that may be interested. Thanks.
By Hugh L Hudson on: Saturday, October 31, 2020
Re: Exclusive Photo Gallery of Operation Protea added
I was at Ladysmith 5 SAI from July 1980 and was a rifleman in OPS Protea went through Ondjiva Xangongo and Pupu And was hoping to get some photos I could recognise I was in Charlie company i
By Steve Emond on: Monday, October 19, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 asking for more info and pictures of the incident
We want to do a short film about Katima and would like to have more information about the town of Katima and also your thoughts on what you think shaped the region
By frank Tapira on: Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
I was in the mortar platoon of B Company 3 SAI based in Wenela. We, along with all others, returned fire across the cutline at Katima Zambia. I will always remember this day, like any veteran remembers as one filled with noise, but you did your job. I don't have nightmares, I remember and honour those we lost.
By Alistair Jameson on: Monday, August 24, 2020
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Die beste is maar om vir my die fotos en jou stories per epos aan te stuur na johan@warinangola.com. Die WarBlogs is 'n heeltemal aparte portaal van die www.warinangola.com een, maar as jy daar geregistreer is kan ek altyd hier ook 'n rekening met dieselfde besonderhere skep... Laat my maar net weet. Ek kom net so eenmaal 'n maand hier om gou op te vang, terwyl ek elke dag op die War In Angola portaal is.
By SuperUser Account on: Friday, October 25, 2019
Re: Photo Gallery of Operation Sceptic (Smokeshell) added
Hi johan ek het probeer regestreer.Kan nie inkom nie was ook daar saam vegroep 3 ons bev was j Jacobs het ook n paar fotos wat ek graag sal wil opsit het ook n foto van ons bev. laat weet wat ek moet doen is nie rekenaar vaardig nie kan my sel net net help. groete
By A H Du Plessis on: Monday, September 30, 2019
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
41years later. Remember Lorry Lesch my driver, Erasmus Alpa gunner. Scary and prepare us for more later.
By Danie Rousseau on: Friday, August 23, 2019
Re: Operation Savannah
Will there be another reunion .?
By Jack on: Thursday, April 04, 2019
Re: 23rd of August 1978 01h15 I remember it distinctly.
Was a gunner in that attack . Was in 1SSB and slept in the isle on that night, in the bungalow .Ran out of the bungalow after first red eye was shot
Slept in a bunker after that attack.Still have nightmares about that attack.
By Barry Callaghan on: Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
hi to all
just wandering if any of you served with my dad , Derick Anthony Beard on the Angola border in the 70s .
he was in the Kaffrarian rifles unit according to my mom
My Dad passed away in 2016 August and would like to find out more about his amry days
By Bruce Berad on: Thursday, January 10, 2019
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: Sunday, December 16, 2018
1980 camp in katimo
My last 3 month camp in Katimo in 1980 after doing stints all over swa was the best of all. Slept in a bunker next to the river spying on the pont that was crossing over the zambesi river.cathing tigers in the river .
Would love to return to that erea of the world.
By Gordon Rudman on: Tuesday, October 16, 2018
I used to be able to log in but can’t do so any more.
Johan can you assist.
Thank you
By Rocky Marsicano on: Saturday, September 08, 2018
Re: An SADF Conscript Remembers the Early 70s – Part One
Very interesting read. I was also a Durban 1973 intake ( may 1973 to 4 SAI ) My experience of the whole 'boertjie - soutie ' thing was a little different. Right in the beginning there was a bit of " Wat kyk jy jou blerrie Engelsman" / " What's your problem clutchplate / dutchman" but I would say that by halfway through basic that had gone almost completely. The platoon I was in after basic was probably 70 % English 30 % Afrikaans but in reality there was no distinction at all among us. Our platoon had an Afrikaans lieutenant , the other two platoons in the company had English speaking lieutenants . There was not a man in either of those two platoons who would not have jumped at the chance to join our platoon. It sounds like a stupid war cliche but we really would have followed that man into hell and back. We loved that man and would have done anything he asked. He never shouted at us to do anything . Only ever asked and it was done. Just before we went to the border we lost him. He had to go home on compassionate leave and he never rejoined us. We all felt like we had lost a father. And here is the thing. He was also just a DP like us who started off the year before us and naturally being degreed was older than most of us. Anyway that was my experience. One other little thing. You mentioned that they were not allowed to hit you ?. No-one told the PTI's or PF instructors that at 4 SAL lol . I had the shit kicked out of me on the shooting range so hard I fell beneath the 'skietpunt'. When I clambered back the staff sgt inquired in a faux concerned way ' Het meneer seer gekry ?. Will meneer n klagte afle ?. Moet ek vir meneer n vormpie gaan haal. ??. I just managed to stammer 'Nee staff' to all three questions. I had stood up and turned around after getting a stoppage and got the man's point. Anyway this is your blog not mine. Thanks for your blog.
By john jones on: Monday, August 06, 2018