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GUERRILLA BROADCASTERS AND THE UNNERVED COLONIAL STATE IN ANGOLA (1961–74)

  • MARISSA J. MOORMAN (a1)
Abstract

This article explores the relationship between Angolan guerrilla broadcasts and their effects on the Portuguese counterinsurgency project in their war to hold on to their African colonies. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA's Angola Combatente) and National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA's Voz de Angola Livre) broadcasts allowed these movements to maintain a sonic presence in the Angolan territory from exile and to engage in a war of the airwaves with the Portuguese colonial state with whom they were fighting a ground war. First and foremost, it analyzes the effects of these rebel broadcasts on listeners, be they state or non-state actors. A reading of the archives of the state secret police and military exposes the nervousness and weakness of the colonial state even as it was winning the war.

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I thank my colleagues in the NIHSS-funded Comparative Workshop on Liberation War Radios in Southern Africa, 1960s–1990s, held at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in February 2017 and at the Universidade Pedágogica in Maputo, Mozambique in November 2017 for engaging my work and allowing me to cite their work in this article. I am grateful to David Morton and to the anonymous readers and editors of The Journal of African History, who pushed me to clarify my argument and tighten my writing. This piece is part of a forthcoming book Powerful Frequencies: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola, 1931–2002, under contract with Ohio University Press. Author's email: moorman@indiana.edu

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References
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1 The União Nacional de Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) joined the war in 1966 when Jonas Savimbi broke from the FNLA. Cervelló, Joseph Sanches, “‘Caso Angola’”, in Afonso, A. and de Matos Gomes, C. (eds.), Guerra Colonial (Lisboa, 2000), 74 and MacQueen, N., The Decolonization of Portuguese Africa: Metropolitan Revolution and the Dissolution of Empire (New York, 1997), 35–6.

2 Kushner, J. M., ‘African liberation broadcasting’, Journal of Broadcasting, 18:3 (1974), 299.

3 Davis, S. R., ‘The African National Congress, its radio, its allies and exile’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 35:2 (2009), 349–73; Heinze, R., ‘“It recharged our batteries’”: writing the history of the Voice of Namibia’, Journal of Namibian Studies, 15 (2015), 30; Lekgoathi, S. P., ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom and its audiences in apartheid South Africa, 1963–1991’, Journal of African Media Studies, 2:2 (2010), 141. The following papers were part of the Wits Workshop on Liberation Radios in Southern Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, February 2017 and cover ZANU, ZAPU, and FRELIMO broadcasting: D. Moyo and C. Chinaka, ‘Persuasion, propaganda and mass mobilisation through underground radio in the Zimbabwe War of Liberation: a comparative study of radio Voice of the People and Voice of the Revolution’; E. dos Prazeres Viegas Filipe, ‘Voice of FRELIMO insurrection against the Voice of Mozambique: waging propaganda war against Portuguese colonialism and building a national consciousness, 1960s–1975’; and A. Romão Saúte Saíde, ‘A Voz da FRELIMO and the struggle for the liberation of Mozambique, 1960s to 1970s’.

4 Mowitt, J. in Radio: Essays in Bad Reception (Berkeley, 2011) notes the sense of radio as a forgotten, understudied, technology in radio studies.

5 Heinze, R., ‘“It recharged our batteries’”, 4. ‘Work on radio in other places emphasizes the irony of relying on documentary sources to study sound’: Douglas, S. (ed.), Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination (Minneapolis, 1999), 3 and 9; Hilmes, M., Radio Voices: American Broadcasting, 1922–1952 (Minneapolis, 1997), xvi.

6 Rádio Nacional de Angola (RNA) has one recording of Angola Combatente (AC) from its Brazzaville and Lusaka years. The Associação Tchiweka de Documentação in Luanda holds 15–20 transcripts of radio broadcasts from Brazzaville and Dar es Salaam translated from Portuguese to English by Marga Holness. General Mbeto Traça, director of AC in Lusaka, and Guilherme Mogas, the second director of RNA, tried to recover materials from the exiled stations in Brazzaville and Lusaka but said they had been lost over the course of the 1980s. Interview with Guilherme Mogas, Luanda, 11 May 2011 and interview with General Mbeto Traça, Luanda, 9 May 2011.

7 Lekgoathi, ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom’, 144.

8 Namely, those from 1969–73. For example, see PIDE/DGS Del. Angola, P Inf. 11.08.E, U.I. 1818, fols. 1–474 and 11.08.F, U. I. 1817, fols. 1–950. The Broadcast Reconnaissance Command (CHERET) collected these transcripts and published them in their Bulletin of Radio Listening circulated to military and police with a certain security clearance. The PIDE transcribed broadcasts between 1964 and 1968 under different rules that did not mandate the disposal of the documents.

9 See, for example, the documents in PIDE/DGS, Del. Angola, P. Inf. 14.17.A, U. I. 2044, all of which are from this period.

10 See Portugal (PT)/AHM/7B/13/4/273/40, Sit. Rep 339, Sept. 1968, p. 6 of 6: the head of SCCIA calls this practice dangerous for weakening potential counter-propaganda.

11 Hunt, N. R., ‘An acoustic register, tenacious images, and Congolese scenes of rape and repetition’, Cultural Anthropology, 23:2 (2008), 220–53. On valuing delivery and affect and not just empirical evidence in oral histories, see McCaskie, T., ‘Unspeakable words, unmasterable feelings: calamity and the making of history in Asante’, The Journal of African History, 59:1 (2018), 35.

12 Chikowero, M., ‘Is propaganda modernity? Press and radio for “Africans” in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi during World War II and its aftermath’, in Bloom, P. J., Miescher, S. F., and Manuh, T. (eds.), Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (Bloomington, 2014), 113, 132.

13 Chikowero, ‘Is propaganda modernity?’, 114.

14 Hunt, A Nervous State.

15 Mateus, D. C., A PIDE/DGS na Guerra Colonial 1961–1974 (Lisboa, 2004), 227.

16 A. Freudenthal, ‘A Baixa de Cassanje: algodão e revolta’, Revista Internacional de Estudos Africanos, 18–22 (1995–1999), 245–83. Freudenthal argues that the Portuguese colonial administration not only responded violently, but also acted to conceal and downplay the events to cover over their violence and obscure the causes of the revolt – namely, a pitiless forced labor regime by the state sanctioned concessionary Cotonang. See, for example, 250–1 and 270–1.

17 Freudenthal, ‘A Baixa de Cassanje’, 274.

18 On the association between radio's invisible voices and the supernatural in the 1920s, radio's earliest days of broadcasting, see Loviglio, J., Radio's Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass-Mediated Democracy (Minneapolis, 2005), xviii.

19 De Grassi, A., ‘Rethinking the 1961 Baixa de Kassanje Revolt: towards a relational geo-history of Angola’, Mulemba – Revista Angolana de Ciências Sociais, V:10 (2015), 29109.

20 A. De Grassi, ‘Rethinking’, 93. De Grassi argues that ‘the discussion over the character of the revolt is also a proxy for other debates, including about moral claims to a dignity and a share of national development’, 41.

21 Ibid. 67–70. Here de Grassi points beyond the movements of labor and road construction to villagization, a process he documents across the twentieth century, and not just as a counterinsurgency strategy.

22 The arrests, trials, and imprisonment of nationalists in 1959 and 1960 demonstrate the Portuguese colonial state's disinterest in negotiated political rights. The state suppressed Angolan political organizing and refused to engage it. Marcum, J., The Angolan Revolution, Volume I: The Anatomy of an Explosion (Cambridge, 1969), 33–4 and Wheeler, D. and Pélissier, R., Angola (New York, 1971), 162–6.

23 De Grassi, ‘Rethinking’, 35; Freudenthal, ‘A Baixa de Cassanje’, 252; Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, Volume I, 125; and Wheeler and Pélissier, Angola, 174.

24 Freudenthal, ‘A Baixa de Cassanje’, 276; Bender, G. J., Angola Under the Portuguese: the Myth and the Reality (Berkeley, 1978), 158, 165.

25 Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, Volume I, 129; Wheeler and Pélissier, Angola, 175–6.

26 Birmingham, D., Frontline Nationalism in Angola and Mozambique (Trenton, 1992), 42.

27 The uncoordinated, violent response by the Portuguese state exacerbated tensions between white settlers and the state. Settlers pressured Prime Minister Salazar for reforms that would give them more representation and encourage foreign investment. See Pimenta, F., ‘O Estado Novo português e a reforma do Estado colonial em Angola: o comportamento político das elites brancas (1961–1962)’, História, 33:2 (2014), 250–72.

28 The war began in earnest in May 1961 when forces arrived from Portugal to occupy the north. See Afonso and de Matos Gomes (eds.), Guerra Colonial, 38–41.

29 Birmingham, Frontline Nationalism, 42.

30 The Trial of 50 marked the opening of the nationalist struggle. Fifty-six nationalist activists were arrested and tried in three trials that named different organizations: ELA (Exército de Libertação de Angola), MIA (Movimento para a Independência de Angola), and MLA (Movimento para a Libertação de Angola) though numerous other small groups were involved. See Cunha, Anabela, ‘“Processo dos 50”: memórias de luta clandestina pela independência de Angola’, Revista Angolana de Sociologia, 8 (2011), 8796.

31 They were concerned with an Angolan-settled Portuguese citizen living in Brazzaville who was aligned with the Portuguese opposition. See ‘Powerful Frequencies’, ch. 3.

32 Brennan, J. R., ‘Communications and media in African history’, ch. 26 in Parker, J. and Reid, R. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History (Oxford, 2013), 501–02 and Heinze, ‘“It recharged our batteries’”, 30. A similar situation pertained in Algeria, see Fanon, F., A Dying Colonialism (New York, 1965), 74.

33 This was the first consistent broadcasting. The MPLA broadcast briefly and inconsistently from Ghana in the early 1960s. Kushner, ‘African liberation broadcasting’, 301–03.

34 The ANC's Radio Freedom likewise broadcast from Dar es Salaam and later Lusaka. Davis, ‘The African National Congress’, 379.

35 Interview with General Mbeto Traça, Luanda, 9 May 2011.

36 Bittencourt, M., ‘Estamos Juntos!’ O MPLA e a luta anticolonial (1961–1974), Volume I (Luanda, 2008), 272.

37 See Barnett, D., Liberation Support Movement Interview: Sixth Region Commander, S. Likambuila, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (Vancouver, 1971); Barnett, D., Liberation Support Movement Interview: Member of MPLA Comité Director Daniel Chipenda, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (Vancouver, 1972); Conchiglia, A., Guerra di popolo in Angola (Rome, 1969); and Davidson, B., In the Eye of the Storm: Angola's People (New York, 1972). Support for radio journalism provided an easy route for foreign solidarity with the ANC given the polarizing rhetoric of the Cold War. See Lekgoathi, ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom’, 142.

38 Heinze mentions support first from Radio Cairo in the 1950s, then Radio Ghana, and Tanzania. Heinze, ‘“They recharged our batteries’”, 30. See also Brennan, J. R., ‘Radio Cairo and the decolonization of East Africa, 1953–1964’, in Lee, C. J. (ed.), Making a World After Empire: the Bandung Moment and its Political Afterlives (Athens, OH, 2010), 173–95.

39 Institute of National Archives/Torre do Tombo, Lisbon (INA/TT) PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 14.17.A, fol. 915.

40 Independência (Luanda, 2015).

41 Roberto indicated a Sr Campos and the other was Hendrik Vaal Neto, recently the Angolan Ambassador to Egypt and someone who left the FNLA for the MPLA in the 1980s. Interview with Holden Roberto, Luanda, 9 Aug. 2005.

42 All citations from the following file: INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 11.08. E, U.I. 1818. Examples include: battlefront victories, fols. 927–9; addressing Portuguese soldiers, fols. 912–13 and ‘Portuguese oppressed by the Caetano regime’, fols. 930–3; Roberto's visit to Bucharest, fol. 800 and to China, fols. 927–9; and sending greetings to family and asking particular people to show up at the delegation headquarters, fol. 911.

43 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 11.08. E, U.I. 1818, fols. 912–13.

44 PT/AHM/FO/007/B/38, SSR 4- Angola, 1961970, 7/B 38/4 cx 360, pasta 18, rel tri APsic 4/68 1 Out a 31 Dez 68, 1. See also PT/AHM/7B/13/4/273/40, Sit. Rep. 334, p. 2 of 3 and Sit. Rep. 339, p. 6 of 6.

45 Afonso and de Matos Gomes (eds.), Guerra Colonial, 67; Cann, J. P., Counterinsurgency in Africa: the Portuguese Way of War (Pinetown, UK, 2012), chs. 3 and 6. These authors insist that more than in counterinsurgency wars in general, the Portuguese approach focused on soldiers and their work with local populations.

46 Mateus, A PIDE/DGS na Guerra Colonial, 376–8.

47 Ibid. 381–2.

48 Ibid. 187–93.

49 PT/AHM/7B/38/4/360, 1962 and PT/AHM/7B/13/4/306, the ‘Orgânica da Contra-Subversão’, 15 Apr. 1970.

50 This item received an F6 classification, which meant it was considered not trustworthy but deserving of further investigation. INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 15.33.A, U.I. 2099, fol. 275.

51 For an example from South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s, see Lekgoathi, ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom’, 143–5.

52 Bittencourt, ‘Estamos Juntos!’, 273.

53 Independência (Luanda: Geração 80, 2015).

54 Portuguese state censorship was uneven. Scholars and journalists note more censorship in the metropole than in the African colonies (for example, broadcaster Sebastião Coelho played songs banned in the metrópole in Angola, for example). A Censorship Commission and a Reading Council followed print materials closely. These councils banned anything they deemed Marxist-Leninist, promoting Angolanidade (Angolanness), or possessing an Angolan perspective. They listened to radio but censored after the fact. See Pinto, J. Filipe, ‘A censura em Angola durante a Guerra Colonial’ and interviews with ‘Diamantino Pereira Monteiro’ and ‘David Borges’, in Torres, S. (ed.), O Jornalismo Português e a Guerra Colonial (Lisboa, 2016), 121–7, 173–94.

55 Independência (Luanda, 2015). ‘Sachikwenda’, a UNITA militant, was arrested and sent to Tarrafal prison in 1969.

56 Independência (Luanda, 2015).

57 Interview with Albina Assis, Luanda, 22 Jan. 2002.

58 Lekgoathi, ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom’, 151.

59 Interview with Alberto Jaime, Luanda, 4 Dec. 2001.

60 Muekalia, J., Angola A Segunda Revolução: Memórias da luta pela Democracia (Lisboa, 2010), 16.

61 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fol. 266. The author's tone and the mid-level security of the memo (C3 on a scale of A1-3- F1-3, most to least trustworthy) suggest that this was not a trained police officer but a neighborhood informer. Or, the tone might express frustration with the genuine inability of the PIDE to control the information in the territory and further evidence of the nervousness that independence in neighboring countries produced in the PIDE officers.

62 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fol. 332, 14 July 1967.

63 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fol. 101, 26 Feb. 1968.

64 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fol. 101.

65 See Moorman, M. J., Intonations: a Social and Cultural History of Nation, Luanda, Angola, 1945–Recent Times (Athens, OH, 2008), 151. Albina Assis discusses how she and her female friends dissimulated listening by saying they were going to bençon, a gathering in the Catholic church, and a word that means ‘blessing’.

66 Apostolidis, P., Stations of the Cross: Adorno and Christian Right Radio (Durham, 2000) and Peters, J. D., Speaking Into the Air: a History of the Idea of Communication (Chicago, 2000), see ch. ‘The History of an Error: the Spiritualist Tradition’. With reference to African broadcasting, see, for example, Schulze, D. E., ‘Equivocal resonances: Islamic revival and female radio “preachers” in urban Mali’, in Gunner, L., Ligaga, D., and Moyo, D. (eds.), Radio in Africa: Publics, Cultures, Communities (Johannesburg, 2011), 6380.

67 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fols. 279–81.

68 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fol. 281.

69 Tali, J.-M. Mabeko, O MPLA Perante Si Próprio: Dissidências e Poder de Estado (1962–1977 ), Volume I (Luanda, 2001), 209–20, the chart on p. 219 shows the composition of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau emerging from the Inter-Regional Conference of the MPLA in 1974. Five of the thirty-four members came from clandestine work or the prisons, all others were active in the exiled guerrilla struggle.

70 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 15.28.A, fol. 1076.

71 Toogood, A. F., ‘Portuguese dependencies’, in Head, S. (ed.), Broadcasting in Africa: a Continental Survey of Radio and Television (Philadelphia, 1974), 163.

72 See Lekgoathi on group listening in South Africa, ‘The African National Congress's Radio Freedom’, 144. For examples of group listening in non-clandestine situations, see Englund, H., Human Rights and African Airwaves: Mediating Equality on Chicewa Radio (Bloomington, 2011), 176–9 and Spitulnik, D., ‘Documenting radio culture as lived experience: reception studies and the mobile machine in Zambia’, in Farndon, R. and Furniss, G. (eds.), African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition (London, 2000), 152–5.

73 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 14.17.A, fol. 814.

74 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044.

75 By this he meant former assimilados. The state abolished the indigenato, which divided the African population into assimilados (assimilated or civilized) and indígenas (indigenous) after the uprisings of 1961, but class and cultural cleavages continued.

76 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 15.28.A, fol. 1051. The military concerned itself with the impact of ‘enemy’ propaganda on the white population. In PT/AHM/7B/38/4/360, 1962, 1–4, the regional military commander for Angola reported to the military chief of staff in Lisbon that the white population, which is ‘theoretically and erroneously considered a priori pro-national, finds itself perplexed and disillusioned or already contaminated by the insinuating propaganda of the En’.

77 David Borges remembered tuning in to Angola Combatente in Cunene but only becoming ‘politically conscious’ after the Portuguese coup of 25 Apr. 1974. Interview with ‘David Borges’, in Torres (ed.), O Jornalismo Português, 187. José Oliveira remembers listening when serving in the colonial army in the late 1960s, and at home, his mother leaning against his door at 7 pm, nervously checking if was following the Angola Combatente broadcast. Interview with José Oliveira, Luanda, 14 Dec. 2015.

78 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, PInf. 14.17.A, U.I. 2044, fols. 183–4, 234, and 191.

79 Ibid. fol. 191, 1 Dec. 1967.

80 Ibid. fol. 113, 12 Feb. 1968.

81 Ibid. fol. 339. The transcriber noted that the soldiers did not speak Portuguese well, a suggestion they had been recruited from areas with little Portuguese presence.

82 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 14.17.A, fol. 885.

83 See Bender, Angola Under the Portuguese. On Mozambique, see Isaacman, A. and Isaacman, B., Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007 (Athens, OH, 2013); Isaacman, A. and Isaacman, B., Mozambique from Colonialism to Revolution, 1900–1982 (Boulder, 1993); Isaacman, A., Cotton is the Mother of Poverty (Portsmouth, NH, 1996).

84 INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 15.28.A, fols. 1065–7 and the DGS report on Malange, 1964, fol. 38.

85 All preceeding citations from INA/TT PIDE/DGS, Delegação de Angola, Processo de Informação 15.28.A, fols. 1065–7.

86 Larkin, B., Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Durham, 2008), 40, 85; White, L., Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa (Berkeley, 2000), 142–7. Both works highlight that these European representations of African responses tell us more about European projects and ideas than about Africans.

87 On the politics of independence and their relation to Congo, see J. Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, Volume I, 60–4, 70–6, and 83–8. On Congolese independence, see Gondola, C. D., The History of the Congo (Westport, CT, 2002); Nzongola-Ntalaja, G., Congo: From Leopold to Kabila, a People's History (New York, 2002); and Young, C., Politics in the Congo: Decolonization and Independence (Princeton, 1965).

88 De Grassi, ‘Re-thining the Baixa de Kassanje’, 57.

89 Hunt, A Nervous State, 1.

90 Ibid. 8.

91 Chikowero, ‘Is propaganda modernity?’, 114.

92 Hilmes, Radio Voices, 14.

93 PT/AHM/FO/007/B/38, SSR 4, Angola 1962–70, 7/B 38/4 cx 360, pasta 18, relatório trimestral APsic 4–68, 1 Out a 31 Dez 68, 2.

94 Helmreich, S., ‘Transduction’, in Novak, D. and Sakakeeny, M. (eds.), Keywords in Sound (Durham, 2015), 222–31.

I thank my colleagues in the NIHSS-funded Comparative Workshop on Liberation War Radios in Southern Africa, 1960s–1990s, held at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa in February 2017 and at the Universidade Pedágogica in Maputo, Mozambique in November 2017 for engaging my work and allowing me to cite their work in this article. I am grateful to David Morton and to the anonymous readers and editors of The Journal of African History, who pushed me to clarify my argument and tighten my writing. This piece is part of a forthcoming book Powerful Frequencies: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola, 1931–2002, under contract with Ohio University Press. Author's email:

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