SADF advance is stopped
Scope of SADF-operations.
By the time FAPLA and the Cubans were able to turn more attention to the southern front after the battle of Quifangondo, the South Africans had gained considerable ground. On 6 and 7 November 1975 Zulu took the harbour cities of Benguela (terminal of the Benguela railroad) and Lobito which had been unexpectedly abandoned. The towns and cities taken by the SDAF were handed over to UNITA. In central Angola, at the same time, combat unit Foxbat had moved 800 km north toward Luanda.] By then it became clear that Luanda could not be taken by independence day on 11 November and the South Africans considered to break off the advance and retreat. But on 10 November 1975 Vorster gave in to UNITA's urgent request to keep up the military pressure with the aim of capturing as much territory as possible before the upcoming meeting of the OAU. Thus, Zulu and Foxbat continued north with two new battle groups formed further inland (X-Ray and Orange) and "there was little reason to think the FAPLA would be able to stop this expanded force from capturing Luanda within a week." Through November and December 1975, the SADF presence in Angola numbered 2,900 to 3,000 personnel.
Zulu now faced stronger resistance advancing on Novo Redondo after which fortunes changed in favour of the FAPLA and the Cubans. The first Cuban reinforcements arrived in Porto Amboim, only a few km north of Novo Redondo, quickly destroying three bridges crossing the Queve river, effectively stopping the South African advance along the coast on 13 November 1975. Despite concerted efforts to advance north to Novo Redondo, the SADF was unable to break through FAPLA defences. In a last successful advance a South African task force and UNITA troops took Luso on the Benguela railway on 11 December which they held until 27 December.
By mid-December South Africa extended military service and called in reserves. "An indication of the seriousness of the situation …. is that one of the most extensive military call-ups in South African history is now taking place". By late December Cuba had deployed 3,500 to 4,000 troops in Angola, of which 1,000 were securing Cabinda and eventually the tide turned in favour of the MPLA. Apart from being "bogged down" on the southern front, South Africa had to deal with two other major setbacks: the international press taking note of the operation and the shift in US policies.