- AL J. VENTER.
This is a completely fresh work running to almost 600 pages including 32 pages of colour photos, with the main thrust on events before and after the civil war that followed Lisbon's over-hasty departure back to the metropole. There are also several sections that detail the role of South African mercenaries in defeating the rebel leader Dr Jonas Savimbi (considered by some as the most accomplished guerrilla leader to emerge in Africa in the past century). There are many chapters that deal with Pretoria's reaction to the deteriorating political and military situation in Angola, the role of the Soviets and mercenaries in the political transition, as well as the civil war that followed. With the assistance of several notable military authorities he elaborates in considerable detail on South Africa's 23-year Border War, from the first guerrilla incursions to the last. In this regard he received solid help from the former head of 4 Reconnaissance Regiment, Colonel Douw Steyn, who details several cross-border Recce strikes, including the sinking by frogmen of two Soviet ships and a Cuban freighter in an Angolan deep-water port.
Throughout, the author was helped by a variety of notable authorities, including the French historian Dr Rene Pelissier and the American academic and former naval aviator Dr John (Jack) Cann. With their assistance, he covers several ancillary uprisings and invasions, including the Herero revolt of the early 20th century; the equally-troubled Ovambo insurrection, as well as the invasion of Angola by the Imperial German Army in the First World War. Former deputy head of the South African Army Major General Roland de Vries played a seminal role. It was he - dubbed ‘South Africa's Rommel' by his fellow commanders - who successfully nurtured the concept of ‘mobile warfare' where, in a succession of armoured onslaughts ‘thin-skinned' Ratel Infantry Fighting Vehicles tackled Soviet main battle tanks and thrashed them. There is a major section on South African Airborne - the ‘Parabats' -by Brigadier-General McGill Alexander, one of the architects of that kind of warfare under Third World conditions. Finally, the role of Cuban Revolutionary Army receives the attention it deserves: officially there were almost 50,000 Cuban troops deployed in the Angolan war, though subsequent disclosures in Havana suggest that the final total was much higher.
This is a heavy tome in more ways than one , the book weighs in at two kilograms loaded with photographs and detailed text . Al Venter is a leading documentor of the African wars he has been there and got the tee shirt so you can be sure that this is a person who knows what he is talking about especially as his profile gained him access to some of the key players in the wars . The book is broken down into easily readable chapters themselves the basis for a small book. He breaks down the complex political and military situations in to language which the Common Man on the Clapham Omnibus can understand .Without a doubt this will be the leading reference on the proxy cold wars fought in Africa and will be a best seller . An easy read about an uneasy set of political values; well worth five mushroom heads.