Episode 111 - Two Scorpions in a bottle and peace after 23 years
It’s perhaps symbolic that we get to episode 111 at precisely the moment that the South Africans agree to peace after 23 years of fighting over South West Africa.
Within a few months the country will officially be known as Namibia, and soon all SADF troops will have been withdrawn.
I was working as a journalist starting in 1987 and had the honour to attend the tripartite signing ceremony in Brazzaville in the Congo, an experience that was strange, weird, otherworldly.
The Cubans, South Africans and Angolans signed the Accord, observed by the Americans and the Russians, afterwards everyone drank vodka and mampoer The Russians brought the Vodka, and threw away the bottle caps, the South Africans brought the Mampoer and did the same.
Chester Crocker had managed the impossible, but as he told people afterwards, the Cubans and the South Africans were like two scorpions in a bottle — both sides circling each other but not prepared to strike the killer blow.
More about this peace in a moment, but first the fallout from the terrible MiG-23 attack on Calueque Dam that killed 11 8SAI troops on 27th June 1988.
We ended last episode hearing how the MiGs had easily overcome the South African anti-aircraft defences, and damaged the Calueque Dam wall, hitting it with six 250 kilogramme bombs.
As the recriminations and finger pointing followed the blowing up of the Buffel near the dam that led to the deaths of so many young South Africans, Commandant Mike Muller of 61 Mech had a challenge.
His tanks and Ratels were stuck on the north side of the Kunene River, the earth ramp that had been built up to the Dam wall to allow the tanks to cross had been destroyed.
But just before midnight on Monday June 27 1988, Muller was ordered to withdraw all his forces from Angola. Commandant Jan Hougaard was also ordered to pull all his 32 Battalion units back to South West.
That was a surprise.
Suddenly, it was over.
This 23 year war that had started in Ovamboland, ended with the announcement that a peace agreement had been signed.
Sixteen days later on an island in New York harbour, South Africa, Angola and Cuba agreed on the terms of peace, with both the Cubans and the South Africans withdrawing troops from the region.