Cuito Cuanavale commemoration

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What has become popularly known as the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was commemorated this week at Freedom Park, the first heritage project to rise in democratic South Africa 17 years ago.

A statement issued by the Freedom Park Cultural Institution, as it is now known following the dissolution of the Freedom Park Trust, has it the engagement at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola during what is generally termed the Bush War, and was “a crucial event” of the Angolan civil war. Oliver Tambo reportedly referred to it as “the Waterloo of racist South Africa”.

The statement goes on “The battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Cuban intervention in Angola is one of the turning points in Southern African history”.

South African Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa was keynote speaker at Tuesday’s event which included a wreath laying ceremony attended by representatives from the Angolan, Russian and Cuban embassies.

A 2017 ministerial bilateral agreement between Angola and South Africa identified 23 March as a “day of reflection” with the heritage park, north of the Pretoria CBD and in direct line of sight with the Union Buildings, selected as the venue for a joint commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the battle.

The names of 2 070 Cuban soldiers who died in Angola between 1975 and 1988 are inscribed along with others on the Park’s Wall of Names, part of the S’khumbuto component. In addition to the wall it comprises the amphitheatre, sanctuary, eternal flame and the Gallery of Leaders.

Freedom Park chief executive Jane Mufamadi said of the Cuito Cuanavale lecture the battle was “significant” for South Africa and “a reminder “our freedom was hard earned”.