By Theo-Ben Gurirab, MP
I write to remember Andreas Shipanga. His tragic death is indeed a severe indictment that we, all of us, cannot just take note of without deep reflection.
I thought about this long and hard for a whole host of reasons. At the end, I do now what my conscience says I must. Mourning aside, I think of the tragedy as a question of history and particularly as a duty of leadership accountability. Others may differ but I believe so.
During the days of the Cold War, there was a practice that amounted to a self-defeating ideological culture of denial. That mindset was embodied in constant rewriting of history, adding or deleting names and situations of those declared as traitors or collaborationists.
Yosif Stalin was, it is alleged, preparing to add the name of Lenin, after Leon Trosky, on such a list. Lenin’s early death now records history differently. Not that history alone but history generally records day and night things as they were or are in the making. The apartheid clique was of a similar pedigree. Apartheid is dead but its legacy remains.
With bad things like that going on in human life, there is, in spite of them, uplifting social consciousness when circumstances dictate a new thinking. The war of liberation had run its course. Many thousands had died on the side of SWAPO and that in turn resulted in estrangements, suspicions and alienations. By the same token, the apartheid regime and its armed forces felt a similar heavy impact of war and encountered sharp contradictions among themselves.
With the help of the United Nations, facilitators from all sides and on the basis of mutual resolve, the SWAPO Party and P.W. Botha’s regime agreed to sign a ceasefire. They didn’t smoke a peace-pipe at the same time, but there was common realization and acceptance of the future, even with its weighty uncertainties. Reconciliation, the new terminology, and readiness to work together became practical realities. The rest we all know.
Comrade Sam Nujoma became the President of independent Namibia. Comrade Nelson Mandela buried apartheid horrors and became South Africa’s first black and democratically elected President. Both of these leaders firmly embraced reconciliation and committed themselves to a new beginning. Let’s just hold there!
Let me get back to Andreas Shipanga, about whom this piece is all about. If we had hearts, wise, strong and forgiving with those who were the real enemies, why must it remain eternally difficult and forever unthinkable that the likes of him, Emil Appolus,
Nathaniel Maxuilili, Solomon Mifima, Niko Bessinger, Jacob Kuhangua, Daniel Tjongarero, Martha Ford, Putuse Appolus, and, even Peter Nanyemba are slowly but surely vanishing from the minds of our youth we are busy inducting as future leaders?
If I left out Toivo ya Toivo’s name, it is not without a reason. His full story requires a thick book. I know about the “Shipanga Rebellion.” I served on the “Ya Otto Commission”.
But we even accepted the real traitor, Mishake Muyongo, and dealt with him as DTA leader in the National Assembly, before he opted for Denmark. I am hammering on these concerns for a purpose. We are all aware how the late Zambian President Chiluba mistreated his venerable predecessor, President Kenneth Kaunda. But the two reconciled timeously before the former’s death. That’s the essence of the question I am asking myself.
You, my dear comrades and friends, we need to get busy with what reconciliation includes and what it excludes. As it is at the moment, we may stand accused of a peculiar form of practising apartheid. It’s not a question of ideology but truly a matter of reconciliation and common humanity.
Andreas and I were not estranged. We occasionally met in the North and shared jokes and feelings about the good old days.
May Andreas Shipanga’s soul rest in peace.