South African Defence Force (SADF) attacks a Namibian refugee camp in Cassinga, Angola

Cassinga massacre victims, 1978Cassinga massacre victims, 1978

Date: 4 May, 1978

On 4 May, 1978, more than 600 Namibian citizens, mostly women and children were killed by South African soldiers. This horrific incident happened when South African war planes flew over Cassinga, a Namibian refugee camp in southern Angola, dropping bombs. At the time of the attack, the refugees were gathered outside and saluting the flag, thinking that the aircraft were carrying members of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), on a visit to the movement’s supporters at the camp.

The South African planes dropped bombs, followed by ground forces to complete the massacre. A survivor of this gruesome attack recalls that at the time of the attack, they were gathered outside the camp to salute the flag when they saw white things falling from the sky. They thought that the planes were escorting SWAPO president Sam Nujoma  who was bringing them candy. They jubilantly shouted that "The president is coming! And he is bringing us candy!", not realising that the 'white things' were bombs."

A few weeks later, the first group of Namibian children, many survivors of Cassinga massacre, arrived in Cuba to study. The Cuban government generously opened its doors to more than 600 Namibian refugees.