It was fought between the South African Defence Force and the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia, an armed wing of the South West African Peoples Organisation. The South African Border War resulted in some of the largest battles on the African continent since World War II and was intertwined with the Angolan Civil War. Fighting broke out between PLAN and the South African authorities in August 1966, between 1975 and 1988 the SADF staged massive conventional raids into Angola and Zambia to eliminate PLANs forward operating bases. It also deployed specialist counter-insurgency units such as Koevoet and 32 Battalion trained to carry out external reconnaissance, South African tactics became increasingly aggressive as the conflict progressed. The SADFs incursions produced Angolan casualties and occasionally resulted in collateral damage to economic installations regarded as vital to the Angolan economy. Beginning in 1984, regular Angolan units under Soviet command were confident enough to confront the SADF and their positions were also bolstered by thousands of Cuban troops. PLAN launched its final campaign in late March 1989. South West Africa received formal independence as the Republic of Namibia a year later, despite being largely fought in neighbouring states, the South African Border War had a phenomenal cultural and political impact on South African society. It remains an integral theme in contemporary South African literature at large and Afrikaans-language works in particular, various names have been applied to the undeclared conflict waged by South Africa in Angola and Namibia from the mid 1960s to the late 1980s. Border War entered public discourse in South Africa during the late 1970s, due to the covert nature of most South African Defence Force operations inside Angola, the term was favoured as a means of omitting any reference to clashes on foreign soil. Where tactical aspects of various engagements were discussed, military historians simply identified the conflict as the bush war, the South West African Peoples Organisation has described the South African Border War as the Namibian War of National Liberation and the Namibian Liberation Struggle. In the Namibian context it is commonly referred to as the Namibian War of Independence. However, these terms have been criticised for ignoring the wider implications of the war and the fact that PLAN was based in. Namibia was governed as German South West Africa, a colony of the German Empire, until World War I, when it was invaded and occupied by Allied forces under General Louis Botha. Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, a system was imposed by the League of Nations to govern African and Asian territories held by Germany. Nevertheless, the bestowal of a mandate by the League of Nations did not confer full sovereignty, in principle mandating countries were only supposed to hold these former colonies in trust for their inhabitants, until they were sufficiently prepared for their own self-determination. Under these terms, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand were granted the German Pacific islands, and it soon became apparent the South African government had interpreted the mandate as a veiled annexation. According to Smuts, this annexation in all but in name
Image: SA Border War Montage 1
Sam Nujoma, founder and leader of SWAPO and its OPO predecessor.
Equipment of Soviet origin supplied to SWAPO. From left to right: satchel, Dragunov sniper rifle, PG-7V RPG projectile, and RPG-7 launcher.
SADF sentries on border duty, monitoring the "Cutline" for guerrilla cadres.