Cassinga Day

Cassinga Day is a public holiday observed in Namibia that 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 Defence Force attacked the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) camp 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 was not a military base but instead a refugee camp—and to this day, disagreements over whether this was actually the case continue.

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 assumed a major role in the conflict. In 1975, Angola offered SWAPO the opportunity to open bases on their land from which they could attack the South African military.

On May 4, 1978, the South African Defence Force launched a major airstrike on a SWAPO camp near the village of Cassinga, Angola. This initial airstrike was followed by an assault of paratroopers. This action resulted in 611 people being injured and approximately 624 people being killed. Among those killed, 289 were children and teens, and 167 were women.

According to SWAPO, the camp was not a military base but instead a refugee camp. The South African regime contested 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 declared every May 4th as Cassinga Day—a public holiday that commemorates all those who lost their lives during the 1978 raids. It has 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. Additionally, 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 information about this holiday.

Where is it celebrated?
Namibia (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
May 4 Saturday
Next year (2025)
May 4 Sunday
Last year (2023)
May 4 Thursday