Cassinga Day is a public holiday that’s observed in Namibia and remembers the victims of the Cassinga Massacre. This day is commemorated on the 4th of May each year. Approximately 600 people were killed in 1978 when the South African Defense Force attacked South West Africa’s People Organization (SWAPO) camp that was located at Cassinga in Angola.
This airborne attack was one of three major actions that occurred during Operation Reindeer of the South African Border War. According to SWAPO, the Cassinga Camp wasn’t a military base but was instead a refugee camp-and to this day disagreements over whether this actually was the case continues.
The History Of Cassinga Day
During the 1960s, SWAPO emerged as the major nationalist organization for the people of Namibia. During the Namibian War of Independence-also known as the South African Border War-they would assume a major role in the conflict. In 1975, Angola offered SWAPO the opportunity to open bases in their land where they could attack the South African military.
On May 4, 1978, the South African Defense Force launched a major airstrike on a SWAPO camp near the village of Cassinga, Angola. This initial airstrike was then followed by an assault of paratroopers. This action resulted in 611 people being injured and approximately 624 people being killed. Among the people killed, 289 were children and teens, and 167 of them were women.
According to SWAPO, the camp wasn’t a military base but was instead a refugee camp. The South African regime debated this assertion, and even to this day, the nature of the camp is up for debate. Regardless, the massacre at the camp proved to be a political nightmare for the South African regime and only increased international resistance to the South African war effort.
In 1990, the SWAPO government of Namibia would declare every May 4th as Cassinga Day. A public holiday that commemorates all of those who lost their lives during the 1978 raids. It’s been celebrated as a holiday ever since.
Observing Cassinga Day
Cassinga Day is a national public holiday, so government offices and many businesses are closed. Also, there are usually official commemorations that take place at Heroes’ Acre-the official Namibian war memorial. On social media, the hashtag #CassingaDay is used to circulate this holiday.