On February 21, he cabled Ochoa in Luanda: "We have lost many days and cannot understand how our
instructions, or simply our points of view, are conveyed to our people in Cuito. We do not know who the
person responsible for receiving and implementing our instructions is… something is wrong with the
line of communications for passing on our orders.
"The area commanders are not aware of the political, military and moral consequences that a disastrous
confrontation with the forces to the east of the river could cause. These forces would not even have a
few ships to do something comparable to what the British did with its fleet at Dunkirk."
With the arrival of General Cintra Frias, the defenders at last managed to get their act together, digging
themselves in along the river protected by minefields in front and artillery and anti-aircraft cover from
the rear to the west of the bridge. The South Africans launched several unsuccessful assaults but then sat
back to bombard the town from a distance.
While the South Africans had not scored the strategic victory that might have been possible had they
managed to cut off the Angolans before they regrouped, they had effectively run the Fapla to ground.
The Angolans were no longer a factor in the war. On the other hand, the Cubans had secured their flank
for the next move.
It was time for Castro’s grand, solo stroke – the gesture that would save Cuban honour unhampered by
Angolan incompetence, and the reason Castro had been so adamant Cuito should not fall.
On March 10, under Generals Cintra Frias and Miguel Lorente Leon, a newly reinforced Cuban main
force was ordered south to the Namibian border from Lubango. "The most important of all strategical
operations had begun."
By early June. The Cubans, having met virtually no resistance, had constructed a fortified airbase at
Cahama, and were at work on a second at Xangongo. Advance units were at least as far south as Chipa,
about 50km north of Calueque. Castro now believed – three weeks before the second round of tripartite
negotiations in Cairo – "that the peace process had become irreversible."
His one major concern was that the South Africans would mess up his gesture by giving battle. He
cabled Ochoa on June 7: "News of a possible South African surprise air attack…should not be
underestimated…be ready to counter-attack with as many aircraft as possible to completely destroy the
Ruacana water reservoirs and transformers…plans should also be prepared to hit Oshakati and nearby
airbases…the Cahama group and everything that is available will have to be used for this…do not wait
for orders to carry out the attack if there is a strong enemy attack against our troops."
These instructions were apparently given without prior consultation with the Angolan Government,
which had reached a tacit understanding with Pretoria that the Ruacana complex was not to be touched.
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