Battle of Cassinga - Background


Starting in 1976, SWAPO PLAN combatants regularly travelled south by road from Huambo through Cassinga, an abandoned mining town that was located about halfway to the battlefront at the Namibian border. The town had about twenty buildings that previously served the local iron-ore mine as warehouses, accommodation and offices.

A group of PLAN soldiers led by Dimo Hamaambo occupied Cassinga (codenamed "Moscow") some weeks after they began using it as a stopover point; according to both Charles "Ho Chi Minh" Namoloh and Mwetufa "Cabral" Mupopiwa, who accompanied Hamaambo when the village was first occupied, the first Namibian inhabitants of Cassinga consisted entirely of trained PLAN combatants. Not long after the establishment of the PLAN camp at Cassinga, it began to function also as a transit camp for Namibian exiles. The Angolan government allocated the abandoned village to SWAPO in 1976 to cope with the influx of thousands of refugees from South West Africa, estimated in May 1978 to total 3,000 to 4,000 people.
Two days before the raid, UNICEF reported of a "well-run and well-organized" camp but "ill-equipped" to cope with the rapid refugee increase in early 1978. The Cubans, who set up a base at nearby Techamutete when they entered the war in 1975, provided logistical support to the SWAPO administration at Cassinga.

According to SADF intelligence, "Logistic planning and the provision of supplies, weapons and ammunition to insurgents operating in central and eastern Ovamboland were undertaken from Cassinga. Medical treatment of the seriously wounded as well as the repair of equipment and the assembly of newly trained insurgents on their way to bases in the East and West Cunene Provinces all took place in Cassinga."

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