The Battle of Quifangondo, the final battle of the Angolan War of Independence (1961-1975), occurred on November 10 1975, the day before nationalists declared independence and the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) began.
The coalition of rebels under Holden Roberto defeated the MPLA and its allies at Porto Quipiri before marching to Quifangondo on their way to Luanda.
Less than 24 hours before independence, Roberto, ignoring advice that a frontal assault would not work, decided to launch an attack against the capital, Luanda.
At Roberto's request, the SADF provided three 140mm howitzers and about 50 troops under the command of Brigadier General Ben Roos to support the attack, located on high ground at Morro da Cal, as well as an opening air strike by Canberra bombers. Two 130 mm Zairian Army guns of North Korean origin would also be brought to bear.
Recently-arrived Cuban special forces had been assembling in the area, and notably included the first six BM-21 multiple rocket launchers to arrive in Angola, which were brought into position at the last minute. (The launchers delay had been caused by logistical problems in obtaining fuses for the weapons - in any event their late deployment prevented their detection and ensured complete surprise.)
The SAAF air strike went ahead as planned, and the artillery pounded the area overnight. However the ground attack was not pressed in immediately afterwards. The attacking force marched in a single line along the Bengo River and faced a force of 1000 Cuban and FAPLA troops across the river. The Cubans and MPLA defenders waited until the entire attacking force was boxed in the killing zone between the coast and the lagoon, before bombarding the them with mortars and 122mm rockets, destroying most of the FNLA's armored cars and six Jeeps carrying recoiless rifles in the first hour of fighting. Witnesses estimated the Cuban-led force shot 2000 rockets at the FNLA. Cubans then drove forward, launching RPG-7 rocket grenades, shooting with anti-aircraft guns, killing hundreds. The SADF gunners were powerless to help, as their World War II-era guns were significantly outranged by the Cuban rockets.
Furthermore, when one of the Zairian Army's North Korea 130mm guns which could shoot the distance was fired for the first time, the breach exploded, killing the Zairian lieutenant commanding the two guns, and his men refused to fire the other gun after that. The Zairian gun crew was so incompetent that they had forgotten to charge the artillery pieces' recoil mechaisms with lubricant, which caused the gun's breech to erupt on the first firing. Additionally, the guns' firing tables were in Korean and could not be read or used by the guns' French-speaking Zairian crew.
Roberto spent the night of Angola's independence, November 10, at his base in Ambriz, about 70 miles north of Quifangondo where he had maintained his command in the previous several months. When Roberto arrived near Quifangondo the next morning, he discovered some of his forces in disarray retreating northeast in fragmented groups. The capital's skyline had lit up with fireworks at midnight on November 10 in celebration of the country's independence from Portugal. FNLA troops on the ridge northeast of Quifangondo, who had never previously seen fireworks, saw the skyrockets on Luanda's skyline and panicked again, thinking they were more of the dreaded Cuban 122mm rockets that had hit their advancing column hard in the valley earlier in the day.
Colonel Santos e Castro's Portuguese Angolan commando force was also in disarray due to the loss of most of their Panhard armored cars and the death of some of their crews in the previous day's battle. They had consolidated a short distance northeast of their earlier occupied position on a ridgeline, leaving the SADF guns and a small SADF force there to protect the SADF's guns as the most forward element and vulnerable to any MPLA-Cuban ground attack. SADF Brigadier General Ben Roos threatened to withdraw his artillery guns immediately from northern Angola if his guns were not protected by a line of troops forward of the guns. Roberto was furious at the Portuguese Angolan officers for leaving the SADF guns exposed.
No further FNLA effort was made to advance through the Quifangondo valley to Luanda.
The defeat at Quifangondo became known amongst the FNLA as "Nshila wa Lufu" (English: "Battle of Dead Road").
The South African gunners eventually withdrew via Ambrizette to SAS President Steyn, a South African Navy frigate, thereby ending Operation Savannah. The Cuba-MPLA victory in Quifangondo largely ended the FNLA's importance.