Written and Produced by Richelle Seton-Rogers, Skeletons of Cuito Cuanavale tells the story of the biggest battle since World War II to have been fought on African soil. Today, almost 30 years after the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola, mechanical skeletons litter the landscape and deadly landmines remain hidden in the soil, taking their toll on innocent civilians.
The battle played out against the backdrop of the Angolan Civil War and the ending of the cold war between America and the former Soviet Union. During the battle, the USA and apartheid South Africa were supporting UNITA, an anti-communist opposition army led by Jonas Savimbi. In 1987 the liberation forces (FAPLA) received extensive support from the Soviet and Cuban governments, allowing them to take on UNITA with renewed vigour. The South African Defense Force (SADF) came to UNITA’s aid. This led to the largest land battle fought in Africa since World War II.
Many commentators and historians believe that the battle had a direct influence on the liberation of South Africa. Almost 30 years on, there is still no consensus as to who won the war, with all sides claiming victory.
Many white, South African men, 18 and older, who were conscripted into the army, fought in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. 46-year old Johan Booysens still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of what he experienced. He and other former SADF soldiers who fought there, were compelled to make the difficult journey back to Cuito in order to reconcile their past experiences and reach out a hand of reconciliation to the people living there. Despite being advised against it, they travelled the difficult roads on motorcycles.
In Part II of The Skeletons of Cuito Cuanavale, we travel to the site of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola with members of the Ex-Combatants Group, made up of former MK and SADF soldiers who fought in Angola. We see for ourselves, the visible devastation that remains from the war. Landmines which remain submerged beneath the soil and are, to this day still being cleared and remains of the machinery of war, litter the landscape whilst the locals, get on with their lives.
Watch Part II of The Skeletons of Cuito Cuanavale written and produced by Richelle Seton-Rogers on Special Assignment – Sundays on SABC 3 at 20h30. Repeated Mondays at 23h30.