It was a hot day in Cuito, on 22 March 2008, during the 20th anniversary commemoration of that last elusive battle that pitted whole tank and armored divisions against each other.
We stood in the dusty heat along with the diplomatic community waiting for the dignitaries to arrive at Cuito Airport. The smartly attired guard of honour fell in and dismissed with the arrival of each new plane. The shoulder to the airport apron was a sea of red and black, the official colors of the MPLA and Angola. Here and there were individuals wearing the colours of UNITA.
The generals arrived in batches, the Cubans, the Russians, the Angolans, the South Africans. The Cubans and Russians wore cool tropical khaki, really modern loose fitting, comfortable outfits. The South Africans still have the same old neo-fascist peaked caps and reams of medals – those unable to reach stardom pin themselves full of metals stars! General Sexwale, General Andrews etc.
The media rushed forward with the arrival of each delegation, a pack of baying hyenas wishing to tear apart the carcass of the bloody battle that was Cuito.
After viewing a patriotic Angolan account of the battle in one of the airport hangars we proceeded to the local soccer pitch to listen to speeches. The first a welcoming address by Unita’s General Black Power, now the Governor of Cuando Cubango Province, then the Russians, the Cubans, Jacob Zuma and so on. I sat with the dignitaries under a roofed area, about five rows behind the podium. I fixed my eyes on a sexy Angolan girl in tight white jeans standing on the roof of a white UN vehicle to the back of the sea of black and red and drowsed of dreaming of sweaty tropical sex.
I remember the jazzy nights in the UNITA base in 1978 when my platoon would sneak into the boma at the base… to listen to the UNITA band and dance with the UNITA women while their men were laying ambushes for Fapla far away.