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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

South West African People'S Organisation (SWAPO)

South West Africa had been under South African rule, in terms of a UN mandate, since the end of World War II. SWAPO was formed in 1960 under Sam Nujoma to gain full independence from South Africa. SWAPO guerillas and SADF* forces first clashed in northern Namibia when South Africa invaded Angola in October 1975 to assist UNITA* and the FNLA. The South African government wanted to prevent forces of the pro-SWAPO and MPLA (the popular Angolan liberation movement) from taking power in Angola. An independent Angola, South Africa argued, would make it more difficult to defend her influence in South West Africa, the post-war mandate having meanwhile been terminated by the UN in 1971. Only in December 1975 did South African troops withdraw from Angola in the face of Cuban troops with sophisticated Russian weapons. The issue of Namibian independence from South Africa dragged on, however, with South Africa procrastinating on the implementation of the UN Security Council's resolution 435. In 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983 and again in the late 1987s the SADF intervened militarily to help UNITA against the Angolan army, and by May 1988 the MPLA and Russian-backed Cuban forces had moved ominously close to the Namibian border. A negotiated settlement was finally reached and resolution 435 implemented in terms of an agreement signed in December 1988. After an election in which SWAPO won 41 of the 72 seats, Namibia gained its independence on 21 March 1990.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.