It is widely understood that the Angolan Border War or ‘Bush War’ was part of the ‘Cold War’. The Soviet ‘domino effect’ in Africa (the progressive movement south of Communism down Africa) was a real concern to many South Africans in the 1980’s and one of the primary reasons underlying South Africa’s involvement in Angola. South Africans only had to look north to Zimbabwe see the wealth grabs of capital and farms and witness the economic and social dangers of communist philosophies in an African context.
To give context to this, and the influence of Soviet Communism in sub saharan Africa, here is the 1987 Soviet Mission to Angola, this picture was taken at Lubango — starting from left to right – Lt. Igor Ignatovich, the interpreter, Dr. Sam Nujoma, Colonel Vladimir Shayda Commander of the Soviet Mission (SWAPO 1985-1988) and Peter Mweshihange.
To understand the “Cold War” in the 1980’s, at the time that this photograph was taken there was virtually no “Western” diplomatic contact with the Soviet Union at all. It was truly a firm stand-off between two super power blocks with the threat of nuclear attack a constant and present danger. The Soviet Union and NATO states (USA, UK and Western Europe) were literally in an eye-ball to eye-ball stand-off, each side of a “iron curtain” that split central Europe down the middle.
South Africa, even as an Apartheid State, saw itself as a “Western democracy” allied to the “West” and as a consequence in direct opposition to the spread of Communism. The National party often positioned South Africa as leading the “Cold War” fight against Communism in Africa. The National Party – from the very beginning of their accent to power in 1948 were fiercely anti-communist in their philosophy and by 1987 the “Rooi Gevaar” (Red Danger) warning was very central to their political rhetoric.
That “Soviet Communism” was going to come to a spectacular end with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was still a couple of years off, and it was this event and the collapse of Soviet communism that was to be the major catalyst for the withdraw of South African forces from the Angolan/Namibian border.
Photo courtesy Outapi War Museum and Igor Ignatovich,