On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X
OOSTHUIZEN, G.J.J.. The SADF/UNITA partnership in action: Operation Moduler (phases 2, 3 and 4), October to December 1987. Historia [online]. 2014, vol.59, n.1, pp.141-161. ISSN 2309-8392.
Early in 1987 the SADF received information that FAPLA and the Cubans were busy with intensive preparations to force UNITA out of southeast Angola. Upon request, the SADF formally decided to support UNITA in June 1987 with the intention of stopping the FAPLA offensive named Operation Saludando a Octubre (Salute October). From an SADF/UNITA point of view, the Battle of the Lomba River on 3 October 1987 ensured the successful conclusion of phase 1 of Operation Modular: the FAPLA advance to Mavinga was effectively stopped. However, the SADF/UNITA allies knew very well that the FAPLA forces were able to resume their assault on Mavinga in the near future. They therefore planned to destroy the FAPLA brigades east of the Cuito River, but this primary goal could not be realised because the SADF/UNITA allies were unable to force the FAPLA forces from their positions. The last SADF/UNITA offensives of 2 and 26 November 1987, during which UNITA battalions were applied as the principal force, were a total failure. The mechanised SADF battle groups were deployed in vain in the inhospitable terrain against the well entrenched FAPLA positions. This also prevented the SADF elements from providing indispensable support to UNITA. This article focuses on the contributions of UNITA to the alliance. Despite the SADF's criticism of UNITA as allies, the positive aspects of their contribution to Operation Modular far exceed the negative aspects. They were deployed primarily in a supporting capacity, but their contribution was multi-faceted, such as firing anti-aircraft Stinger missiles; collecting information; acting as a light infantry, vanguard or a shield force during attacks; and deception and sting attacks. In the process, UNITA suffered a severe loss of lives. Without these contributions, the limited SADF force of about 2 500 men would have faced a far more difficult task.
Keywords : Operation Modular; South African Defence Force; UNITA; MPLA; FAPLA; Cuba; Angola; Lomba; Cuito Cuanavale; Menongue; Mavinga; Jonas Savimbi.