By Timoteus Mashuna
A NUMBER of historical sources have documented the general history of Namutoni and most importantly its subsequent attack by Chief Nehale’s forces in January 1904.
Nonetheless, these sources rarely make mention of Shivute, son of Ndjongolo, who was the man in charge of the forces that brought the fort of Namutoni to the ground. At times when his name appears in literature, the emphasis is mainly on his relationship with Chief Nehale, rather than the prominent role he played in the attack of Namutoni.
History has it that on preparation to attack the Germans, Chief Nehale instructed his principal advisor Shivute to lead a commando of armed men to destroy the German fortification at Namutoni.
By then Shivute, whom the Germans often referred to as Shute, was the advisor to Chief Nehale.
The attack of Namutoni was well- planned and carried out in a fashion that incorporated both the customary, modern and traditional military approach.
To reaffirm this, Ellen Ndeshi Namhila in her research paper entitled, “The impact of the 1904 war in Owambo: The Case of Chief Nehale Lyampingana,” writes that the attack of Namutoni “was carried out in the customary way, employing magic and encouragement by diviners in addition to firearms, spears, bow and arrows”.
It is within this context that Shivute is herein referred to as a “Customary Military Commander”.
Existing literature on the history of Namutoni, though some of them are rather biased as observed by Namhila, indicate that besides employing magic, Shivute was tactical in the manner his forces executed the Namutoni attack. In fact, it is noted that he spied on the Germans at the fort before attacking them.
A publication by Dr N. Mossolow entitled the Hitory of Namutoni, argues that “at 6 o’clock on the morning of Janauary 1903, two Ovambo spies showed up above the station near the water hole to reconnoitre”. Besides that incident alone, it is also noted in the publication by D. W. Krynauw, entitled: “The Story of Fort Namutoni” that just a short while after the garrison of Namutoni observed the movement of Nehale’s forces, “two men, one of whom was Captain Shivute, appeared from the dense horde and came to the fort”.
They told Grossman, one of the Germans at the fort, that they were on a hunting expedition along the southern edge of the Pan and wanted to barter an ox for a sack of rice.
The purported hunting expedition was not true as it later turned out. It was just a cover-up story to gain access to the fort in order to conduct preliminary military activities, some of which involved customary practices.
Hence after the Germans reluctantly agreed to the request on condition that only three people should bring the ox, hours simply went by without a sign of an ox.
A few hours later, Shivute’s commandos stormed the fort of Namutoni. The attack was well-organised such that even the likes of Mossolow, who has been criticized by other scholars for having given a pro-German account of the Namutoni attack, could not help but write that “the attack took place in the perfect order. An assegai-bearer led the mass of the riflemen who covered the actual attackers with their rifle fire”.
Despite, the superior weaponry of the Germans, Shivute’s commandos were able to maintain the fight for a long time. This concurs with Krynauw’s argument that even after the injured German fighters were speedily back in action, “the Ovambos still kept a steady onslaught despite the deadly fire from the Germans”.