By Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange
THE day, 26 August was designated Heroes Day in Namibia. This day was designated as such because it was on 26 August 1966 when the South African forces attacked the Swapo military base at Omugulu-gOmbashe. The Swapo combatants fought heroically at that place.
There were many other heroic events that took place in our country before that date. However, it is not possible to declare each and every date on which heroic events took place a holiday. Therefore, it is just logical that one single day must be designated heroes day so that the whole nation can remember and pay respects to all our heroes and heroines on that particular day. It is against this background that I shall try to remember the heroic history of our people in these few pages in order for the young generation to appreciate what had happened in this country over the many years of colonial oppression.
It is unfortunate that there are some of our countrymen and women who do not want us to talk about the past and want us just to concentrate on the future. But, with due respect, how can one talk about heroes if one doesn’t talk about their history and about the deeds that made them heroes? We may not wish to talk about these things because we want revenge or wish to bring back bad memories but because generations to come must be told where we come from, the hell under which we were forced to live and the
actions we took to liberate ourselves from that hellish situation.
Therefore, I beg to disagree with sentiments, which want to sweep our history under the carpet, and I think that 26 August gives us time and opportunity to reflect on the history of our country, particularly the history of colonial occupation, oppression and resistance against colonial repression. After all the Europeans are always remembering and talking about the horrors of fascism in Europe but no one seems to be worried about that.
We should always remember that terrible suffering and extremely cruel treatment of our people characterize the long history of our country by successive colonial regimes. It is also true that at all stages and different generations and times there have always been heroic resistance to colonial occupation.
Not too long ago President Hifikepunye Pohamba reburied the bones of our people who were massacred in the south of the country. Many bones were discovered in the south and were buried at Lüderitz in a mass grave at an event that was presided over by our President His Excellency Pohamba.
These people were killed by Germans at places such as Shark Island and others were there where notorious concentration camps. We simply do not know how many people of this country were killed in those concentration camps. Likewise, there were concentration camps in places like Swakopmund, Windhoek etc. where similar atrocities took place. Chief Kuaima Riruako and others went, for example to Swakopmund on several occasions to pay their respect to the victims of those atrocities.
Until today there are trees on which our people were hanged by German colonizers en masse. These trees can be found in places like Witvlei, Otjinene etc. Mass killings and the battles our people fought took place in places such as Otjunda, Ozondjahe, Ohamakari, Okandjoze, Okandjira, Ovijombo, Omaruru, Okazize, Otjihinaparero (where my forefather Tjiriange and forefathers of Kaura families are buried) and many other places. If one goes to some of these places one can see graves of German colonial soldiers who were killed during those battles. In fact, I know of no other country in the whole of Africa where the German colonial army met determined and stiff and heroic resistance than our country.
The Hereros put up stiff resistance against German colonial troops. These prompted the Germans to bring in more reinforcements of troops and massive arms and ammunition. As much as many Hereros were killed the Germans also suffered casualties in those colonial wars. Governor Von Trotha issued an extermination order at Ozombuzovindimba to the effect that “every Herero man, woman and child must be killed”. Some Hereros were forced to flee into Bechuanaland where many still are to this day.
The result of the war and oppression is still felt today because the people of this country, particularly the Hereros, Namas and Damaras were removed from their land and their livestock confiscated and placed into the so- called “native reserves” where many are still living today. Their land is today is owned by white Namibians. All these acts were deliberate and the policy of successive colonial administrations.
In the South of the country Chief Hendrik Witbooi and Jacob Marenga and others also fought against colonial forces heroically. In fact Jacob Marenga is on record as saying, “As long as an inch of South West Africa was occupied by the Germans, the Nama people would continue to attack the Germans wherever they encountered them until the land conquered by the Germans is returned to the rightful owners”.
In the northern part of the country heroic Ovambo Chiefs such as Nehale Lya Mpingana, Chief Sheetekela, Chief Mandume ya Ndemufayo and Chief Iipumbu ya Tshilongo fought heroically against both the Germans, Portuguese and Boers at different times. There again you can find graves of colonizers in different places. As I have said above 26 August 1966 was the day when for the first time the Swapo freedom fighters militarily encountered the South African forces in Namibia.
The South African forces led by a certain Captain Swanepoel came with helicopter gunships and personnel carriers and attacked the SWAPO military base at Omugulu – gOmbashe and that marked the beginning of the protracted military confrontation with South African colonial forces that ended with the battle of Cuito-Cuanavale in 1988.
The struggle was long and bitter. Throughout the years we organized the struggle at the diplomatic, political and military fronts. For us these fronts were equally critical. In addition to this SWAPO sent students to study in various fields all over the world. It is not possible for me to get into the details of the struggle here, suffice it to say that throughout the years of the liberation struggle our liberation movement grew from strength to strength and we never wavered to fight the enemy effectively at all fronts.
Unfortunately, as is the case everywhere in the world there are known cases of betrayal of the struggle by the puppets and those who collaborated with the colonizers. Namibia could have got its independence in 1979 but that independence was deliberately delayed. We met with the 5 Western Contract Group of countries in New York in that year to finally find ways and means to implement UN Security Council Resolution 435. This Contract Group of Countries were the USA, Canada, France, UK and West Germany all of whom were UN Security Council members at the time.
The South African regime under the leadership of Vorster brought to New York a delegation of its puppets led by Judge Martinus Theunis Steyn as Administrator General of South West Africa (Namibia). These puppets were mostly composed of the members of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) so called interim Government and the leader of their delegation was Administrator-General Steyn.
One wonders how on earth can some people pretend to fight for the independence of Namibia and at the same time be in the delegation led by the same colonizers of the country they pretend to liberate. It defies any logic that any person or organization can be financed by and put in a delegation of the same enemy and colonizer whom such person or organization pretends to fight against. But that was the reality of the political situation in 1979 when we met in New York and other times in Geneva.
At that time in 1979 the South African colonial regime realized that if UN Security Council Resolution 435 will be implemented the SWAPO Party will win all the seats in the parliament therefore there was a need for South Africa to derail the process. It was with this in mind that while we were busy negotiating the implementation of Resolution 435 in New York the South African military forces bombed Cassinga and other places occupied by SWAPO in Angola to derail the process. Unfortunately they succeeded in doing so and the talks ended.
It then took another 10 years before the implementation of Resolution 435 - the years during which South Africa worked hard to create a force in Namibia that will be able to challenge SWAPO at the elections during the implementation of Resolution 435. The South African regime badly needed that time during which it intended to empower its puppets. It was during these 10 terrible years that the South African apartheid regime killed many more Namibians both in the country and in neighbouring countries.
For example the father of my own wife Palastus Shetunyenga was hanged by Koevoet and his family was not allowed to remove his body from the tree on which he was hanged until the body got decomposed. It was so cruel that the family was able only to collect the decomposed component parts of the body under the tree and burry the same.
Amarovu Junias Iita the father of Elizabeth Negumbo the present Chief of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, was also beaten to death by Koevoet elements on 16 March 1986 at Uupomako village in Okatana Constituency, Oshana Region. So also David Sheehama the father of our musician Ras Sheehama and many others, the list can go on. It is indeed painful and unfortunate but the truth must be told for generations to come to know what happened in this country of ours.
Among other serious and notorious plots were the attempts by P.W. Botha to divide Angola into South and East Angola. The whole idea was to install puppet Jonas Savimbi as a ruler of Southern Angola. By doing so the South African regime was hoping to prevent SWAPO from entering Namibian from Angola, since Savimbi as the leader of Southern Angola with the help of South Africa would have made sure that SWAPO is prevented from entering Namibia through Southern Angola.
At the same time a puppet administration was to be put into place in Namibia, which was also going to be controlled by South Africa. With a puppet government in Southern Angola and a puppet government in Namibia the Western countries would have given political and diplomatic recognition to the puppet government in Namibia thus making the efforts of the UN to implement Security Council Resolution 435 difficult if not irrelevant all together.
These diabolic schemes were known and Cuban forces instead of being withdrawn were in fact increased with the arrival of massive reinforcements 1987. New military air bases were hurriedly built at Matala and Kahama from which additional air strength was provided. MIG 23 bombers could then use these new air bases to enhance air attacks on South African forces easily. To make things worse for South Africa it became increasingly difficult for that regime to replace the military equipment and planes which the regime was loosing through attacks by the combined forces of Cuba, Angola and SWAPO because no country wanted to be seen supplying weapons to the pariah regime of South Africa openly. Slowly but surely the South African military dominance was becoming weaker.
South Africa could no longer withstand the devastating attacks by Cuban, Angolan and SWAPO forces at Cuto-Cuanavale and the war ended with South Africa being defeated. The diabolic scheme failed and the way was now open for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435. SWAPO came back to Namibia with its arms that it later donated to the NDF when the new army was created.
The abovementioned protracted struggle at different stages produced heroes and heroines of this land of the brave. It is against this background that we all have to reflect and remember all our heroes and heroines on the 26 August – HEROES DAY. These heroes and heroines can be both those who are no more with us and those who are still alive. They need and indeed deserve the respect, appreciation, praise, commendation and admiration of all of us. For those who are no more with us, their blood waters our freedom.