There Was Never a PLAN ‘Incursion’

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By K. Kazenambo QUOTED in one of the weekly newspapers in Namibia, former South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Roelof Botha is alleged to have written the following: “Mass graves have now been discovered and that of SWAPO fighters who in the autumn of 1989 for one or other obscure reason were mobilized to enter the territory before the implementation of the United Nations resolution which anyhow would have guaranteed a SWAPO election victory.” He further writes that, en route to dinner that night, he (Botha) was told by officers of SWAPOL (the SWA Police Force) that they could confidentially convey to him reliable information that armed SWAPO units were in the process of making an incursion from Angola into Namibia.” He also writes that he “could not believe it …”. Roelof Botha’s remarks and other written and oral political gibes recklessly being made left, right and centre on the issue of the so-called SWAPO’s violation of the ceasefire agreement between the then SWAPO of Namibia and the South African apartheid colonial regime, have all compelled me to join the debate on the issue of so-called incursions by PLAN fighters. Therefore, in consideration of lots of cynical distortions and attempts of apportioning blame against the SWAPO leadership (particularly against SWAPO Party President Sam Nujoma) with unfounded stories being made up by disgruntled elements from various circles of the political spectrum – from within and without the Namibian society with regard to the cause of that tragic events of April, 1 1989 – I would like to share my first-hand experiences and account on this debate as outlined below: Firstly, as a former PLAN fighter who worked as a combatant and political officer in some of the SWAPO military units which were deployed beyond the 16th parallel in southern Angola along the Namibian and Angola border before the signing of the ceasefire agreement between SWAPO and South Africa in 1989, I reject with all contempt the gibberish remarks which suggest that SWAPO violated the ceasefire agreement. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºI’m dismissing all such thoughts/arguments as I was one of those PLAN combatants and political workers (commissars) who were assigned with the task and responsibility of interpreting the content of UN Resolution 435 and the meaning of the ceasefire agreement, amongst fellow comrades in the PLAN units where I was deployed in southern Angola. Botha’s reference to SWAPO’s armed units’ incursion is part of the old repeated cheap propaganda on the part of the Botha-Malan apartheid regime and their cohorts in Namibia and elsewhere. The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary describes an incursion as a sudden attack or invasion of a place or an area of activity: (repel a sudden incursion of enemy troops into one’s territory). ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºTowards this link, I know that there is no material evidence whatsoever other than mere speculation that SWAPO could have violated the ceasefire agreement. Therefore, the description by Roelof Botha and his likeminded cohorts that the presence of PLAN fighters in Namibia on the eve and even during and after April 1 1989 was an incursion is just rubbish. There was no smoking gun (material evidence) showing violation of the ceasefire agreement on the part of SWAPO of Namibia. Incursion means sudden attack, and I have not heard of any military order which was given to PLAN fighters to suddenly attack any military target of the South African occupation forces in Namibia during or after the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. The only information I heard was that PLAN combatants were to assemble at various assembly points for demobilization purposes in the presence or supervision of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG), while South African armed forces were to be confined to various military bases before their total withdrawal from Namibia under the provisions of UN Resolution 435. Hence, it is not true that PLAN combatants had invaded Namibia on April 1 1989, because the presence of SWAPO guerilla fighters in Namibia dated back to before 1966, first when they were fighting as combatants of the then SWAPO military wing known as the South West Africa Liberation Army (SWALA) and later under the banner of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). As a matter of fact, SWAPO’s PLAN guerrilla fighters were part and parcel of the then struggling masses of the Namibian people. PLAN fighters were deeply rooted in the Namibian society. Therefore, allegations about a so-called incursion on April 1 1989 into Namibia are devoid of any truth. That is so because the guerrilla fighters of PLAN were operating from the rear of the enemy (South African occupation colonial forces) as I will briefly elaborate on the issue of frontline and rear positions in the conduct of guerrilla warfare. Therefore, in line with this conception, it is wrong to interpret the presence and movements of PLAN combatants in Namibia as evidence that they were in Namibia to attack anybody in violation of the ceasefire agreement as alleged by Botha and his likes According to Mao Tse-Tung (former Chairman of the Communist Party of China), the general features of orthodox hostilities, that is, the war of position and the war of movement, differ fundamentally from guerrilla warfare. Mao Tse-Tung argued that there were other readily apparent differences between Orthodox Warfare and Guerrilla Warfare such as those in organization, armament, equipment supply, tactics, command; in conception of the terms ‘front’ and ‘rear’; in the matter of military responsibilities. “The strategy of guerrillas warfare is manifestly unlike that employed in orthodox operations, as the basic tactic of the former is constant activity and movement. There is in guerrilla warfare no such thing as a decisive battle; there is nothing comparable to the fixed, passive defense that characterizes orthodox war. In guerrilla warfare, the transformation of a moving situation into a positional defensive situation never arises,” Mao Tse-Tung opined. Therefore, in line with this conception, it is wrong to interpret the presence and movements of PLAN combatants in Namibia as evidence that they were in Namibia to attack anybody in violation of the cease-fire agreement as alleged by Botha and his likes. Let the sad tragedy of April 1 1989 not be turned into a political football with baseless and cynical allegations. Like Mao Tse-Tung has suggested, clarifying the relationship between the mobile aspects of orthodox war and guerrilla war, we may say that general agreement exists that the principal element of guerrilla strategy must be mobility. With the war of movement, guerrillas may at times combine the war of position. It is true that on the battlefield mobile war often becomes positional and it is true that this situation may be reversed. It is equally true that each form may combine with the other. Though the strategy of guerrillas is inseparable from war strategy as a whole, the actual conduct of these hostilities differs from the conduct of orthodox operations. Each type of warfare has methods peculiar to itself, and methods suitable to regular warfare cannot be applied with success to the special situations that confront guerrillas. It is argued that, taken as a whole, guerrilla warfare behind the enemy lines, which cripples the enemy, pins him down, disrupts his supply lines and inspires the regular forces and the people throughout the country is coordinated with regular warfare in strategy. Without question, the fountainhead of guerrilla warfare is in the masses of the people, who organize units directly from themselves. Its post is somewhere in the rear of the enemy, and there it becomes the backbone of guerrilla organization. While in areas other than its own, it must operate in conjunction with local units in order to take advantage of their manpower, their knowledge of local terrain and local customs and their information of the enemy. Moreover, when we discuss the terms ‘front’ and ‘rear’, Mao Tse-Tung has advanced that “while guerrillas do have bases, their primary field of activity is in the enemy’s rear areas. They themselves have no rear.” This is so because an orthodox army has rear installations. And by way of illustration, while the South African colonial army and its auxiliary military forces and other militias had visible permanent military bases at places such as Grootfontein, Okahandja, Ondangwa, Eenhana, etc., PLAN’s invisible moving military bases were scattered everywhere across Namibia during the liberation struggle. And the reason why the South African colonial regime was forced to sign a ceasefire agreement with SWAPO of Namibia was not entirely due to the political and diplomatic activities of SWAPO both at home and abroad alone, but it was also due to the high cost of war, both in terms of human, financial and material costs on the part of South Africa, which the gallant PLAN fighters inflicted upon the enemy right here on Namibian soil. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºSouth Africa was compelled to sign the ceasefire agreement with SWAPO, not due to the presence of SWAPO’s military wing in Angola, but entirely due to PLAN’s successful guerrilla campaigns which were uncontainable by the South African armed forces here in Namibia before the signing of the ceasefire agreement. PLAN’s military guerrilla campaigns in the rear military positions of the enemy were felt everywhere from the north, south, east and west of our country. Commercial farms, factories, classrooms, mahangu fields, private houses in the urban and rural areas, all were turned into invisible moving PLAN guerrilla bases in the belly of the apartheid colonial beast (the Botha-Malan’s apartheid colonial regime) right here in the heart of Namibia from 1966 -1989. Our pastors, teachers, students, peasants, bankers, accountants, builders, artisans, etc., were all clear about our guerrilla movement’s political philosophy and mission which was total liberation of our country from the yoke of colonialism in which they fully participated. PLAN’s military guerrilla campaigns in the rear military positions of the enemy were felt everywhere from the north, south, east and west of our country. Our revolutionary war for liberation was not fought by mercenaries on our behalf, but as the father of the Namibian revolution Dr Sam Nujoma says, ” We the Namibian people were our own liberators,” and with that national consciousness, our revolutionary war was carried by Namibians recruited from amongst the patriots . During the liberation struggle, there were some successful brave Namibian guerrilla fighters, commanders and commissars who were born, trained and who operated here in Namibia without having gone abroad or lived in exile. ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ºThat clearly shows that SWAPO did not need to mobilize its PLAN fighters from Angola to stage an incursion in violation of the ceasefire agreement as alleged by Botha who seems to be still obsessed with attempts to tarnish the image and reputation of SWAPO and its party president. What a pity that the ill fate of our fallen PLAN fighters who bravely sacrificed their precious lives on April 1 1989 is now abused for settling old and new political scores by disgruntled elements such as Botha and his likes. This dirty politicking must stop. Secondly, let me acknowledge that pathological liars in Namibia and elsewhere are hard at work spreading words of evil that SWAPO President Sam Nujoma was the one who ordered some of the PLAN fighters to enter Namibia on April 1 1989, allegedly in violation of the ceasefire agreement – something which resulted in their elimination by the South African colonial forces. This is a serious allegation which I don’t think is true. Nevertheless what is true is that at the time of the signing of the ceasefire agreement, there were already many PLAN guerrilla fighters who were operating from PLAN’s rear bases established within the enemy lines across all corners of Namibia prior to the signing of the ceasefire agreement in 1989. Therefore, this scenario rules out any argument that SWAPO of Namibia’s President and then Commander-in-Chief of PLAN, Comrade Nujoma, could have ordered some PLAN combatants to move into Namibia from Angola in violation of the ceasefire agreement. Botha and cohorts’ badmouthing that ‘SWAPO armed units’ could have entered Namibia on April 1 1989 in violation of the ceasefire agreement is not acceptable. As for the story that Nujoma ordered PLAN combatants to enter Namibia so that they be slaughtered by their South African enemy – again this is a cheap lie, therefore I challenge those who are saying Nujoma did it to provide the Namibian nation with the material evidence of that so-called military order. Those of us who were operating in the military zone for years have not heard nor seen of any such military order or directive. Therefore, the truth, truth and only truth is that there was nowhere at whatever stage that PLAN guerrilla fighters were ordered to act in violation of Resolution 435 and the ceasefire agreement. As a matter of reality, PLAN fighters fully complied with the requirements of the agreement as demonstrated by our withdrawal from the Kunene areas of Oshimbaka, Oshimbolela, Shangongo, Kahama and other areas where we were operating beyond the 16th Parallel before the ceasefire agreement, and moved into the areas within the 16th parallel as required during the process of the implementation of UN Resolution 435 and the ceasefire agreement through which we were demobilized and many of us returned to Namibia to participate in the 1989 election process under the supervision of the Untied Nations. PLAN was a well-organized modern military wing of SWAPO of Namibia which had a clear command structure. Strategic military and political decisions in PLAN were not done on a haphazard basis. PLAN had a Military Council which decided on strategic decisions at its top leadership level. PLAN had field and operational commanding structures constituting field commanders and political officers (commissars) who were empowered to constantly monitor and evaluate the military and political situation on the ground in order to take independent decisions within their mandate and power as the situation dictated. In this light, anybody who is familiar with guerrilla warfare will not believe in the white and blue lies by Botha and his likes that some PLAN combatants were ordered to suddenly attack Namibia from Angola to showcase that PLAN had guerrilla bases in Namibia. The military structural set-up and arrangements of the PLAN leadership clearly show that although Nujoma was the Commander-in-Chief of PLAN, there was no way he could take a military decision of that strategic magnitude and implement it alone without the involvement of the Military Council of PLAN. Surely those who know the strict culture of collective decision- making which the SWAPO and PLAN leadership during the liberation struggle practised will not believe in that serious charge or allegations. That is so because any strategic decision taken by the Military Council of PLAN could have been channelled through the commanding and communication channels of PLAN in the war zone, where PLAN field commanders and commissars would have made their own assessment of the potential implication of that order by evaluating its immediate, medium and long term effects or consequences before its implementation. Allegations by Botha and other confused political elements who share his sentiments and thoughts, are totally out of tune with the political and military culture by which SWAPO and PLAN meticulously carried out our revolutionary war for the liberation of our country. What is being alleged is against all guiding principles of conducting guerrilla warfare which SWAPO and PLAN maintained throughout the liberation struggle. PLAN field commanders and political commissars were clear on the conception of the political goal of the struggle and the political organization to be used in attaining that goal. This means that both the organization and discipline of guerrilla troops must be at a high level so that they can carry out the political activities that are the life of both the guerrilla armies and of revolutionary warfare. Allegations by Botha and other confused political elements who share his sentiments and thoughts, are totally out of tune with the political and military culture by which SWAPO and PLAN meticulously carried out our revolutionary war for the liberation of our country. In conclusion, if there were any misconceptions, misinterpretations and hidden agenda in regard to the violation of the ceasefire agreement, this was not on the part of SWAPO or its military wing PLAN, but perhaps on the part of other implementing stakeholders such as the South African Apartheid Colonial Regime, or maybe UNTAG. I know that it is alleged in some circles that the South African apartheid regime and its notorious armed forces exploited some loopholes and weaknesses which existed in terms of lack of proper arrangements on the part of UNTAG, in order to launch its onslaught against ex-PLAN fighters who were inside Namibia at the time of the signing of the ceasefire agreement. And in this regard, Beer, D. de, in the article titled: ‘The United Nations and Namibia: Betrayed Confidence?’ writes that, “The UN Security Council approved the proposals of the contact group as Resolution 435 (in 1978). This resolution was rejected by South Africa. After ten years of delay some agreements were signed, but properly speaking, Resolution 435 had never been discussed in detail with all the parties involved, and it was filled with gaps and vague points. UN Police agents who had to supervise the South African police in Namibia were not even present in the country. “The bitterness among the Namibian population about the failure of UNTAG was very great. As a result of the unsafe security situation, the continuing existence of discriminatory laws and the absence of amnesty, UNHCR have postponed several times the repatriation of refugees. Resolution 435 can only be saved if the Namibians get some confidence in the UN and UNTAG again,” Beer, D. de, summarized the situation which prevailed in this country at the implementation of Resolution 435. And in another book compiled by an international group of researchers titled ‘The Transition to Independence in Namibia’, referred to by Susan Niinivara on the research whether SWAPO violated the ceasefire agreement, they all pointed out that: “A completely different question is whether or not this was a military invasion.” And these international researchers reached the conclusion that, based on a number of sources and according to eyewitness reports compiled by human rights lawyers, “the SWAPO forces had no hostile intentions and did not cause any incidents.” However, these international researchers and experts pointed to a number of shortcomings in the early stages of the UN UNTAG operation: “Although the UN had ten years to prepare the operation, only a fraction of the peacekeeping forces had reached Namibia by the time when the ceasefire came into effect. The delay was caused by the fact that UNTAG underwent staff cutbacks at the last minute,” Niinivara found. The above analysis speaks for itself as there is no need to continue apportioning blame on one of the tragic dark events in the history of country, thus the events of April 1, 1989. To rest my case, may the souls of those brave beloved sons and daughters of Namibia who sacrificed their lives on April 1, 1989 rest in eternal peace.