The effect of the 1978 Cassinga raid on the Border War
The article analyses the importance of the South African Defence Force’s attack on a SWAPO base at Cassinga, Angola on 4 May 1978. It was one of the most militarily, politically, and symbolically decisive days of the Border War. Cassinga became a symbol both to Namibia’s liberation movement and South African soldiers, and both groups commemorate the event each year.
The article explores the tactical and political causes and circumstances of the raid and gives a detailed account of the military operation. Operation Reindeer, as the attack on Cassinga was called, had important military consequences, and very significant political repercussions. This study considers these effects with the help of media responses to the event (South African, British and Polish newspapers) as well as the reactions of politicians on both sides of the conflict. The claim by the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) that Cassinga was a refugee camp raised a storm of controversy. This article addresses the controversy and attempts to clarify who actually inhabited the base at that time.
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