‘Let’s Not Take Peace for Granted’

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK At a solemn event in keeping with reflection on the tragedy of Cassinga that took place 28 years ago, Namibians were yesterday urged not to take the hard won independence, peace and reconciliation for granted. Both young and old yesterday packed the UN Plaza in Katutura as they paid homage to the gallant sons and daughters who died for the country. Addressing the crowd, keynote speaker parliamentarian Hage Geingob said what happened 28 years ago in Cassinga in southern Angola brings back painful memories. On May 4, 1978, innocent unarmed women, children and the elderly were brutally massacred by the then South African colonial forces at Cassinga. It is in this spirit that Geingob called upon Namibians to honour this day and many other tragic happenings that occurred at Oshikuku, Oshakati and Oshitotwa when hundreds of the country’s heroes and heroines died for the freedom of Namibians today. “Let us not take our peace, our reconciliation for granted. Be careful not to downplay certain events because they are painful especially to those who suffered,” said Geingob. Namibians should regard the past as important, whether it is good or bad, in order to prevent such tragedies from happening again. “Let’s honour their memory and contributions and join hands to build this country,” said Geingob, adding that while not forgetting about the past brutality and acts of barbarism during the colonial era, Namibians should work towards turning over a new leaf. In doing so, the nation can assist the Government and leadership of the day to implement the policy of national reconciliation. “There are many black Namibians who are angry with our own leadership, but let us join hands to address the socio-economic conditions of this country,” he added. Furthermore, acts of barbarism were also cited about the German Nazis who even today hunt down Jews. Learning from this example, Geingob reiterated that although Namibians have a painful past we should learn to work together for a brighter future. “We black people we forgive because we have resilience and are more civilised,” he said. At the same occasion a minute of silence was observed for the gallant sons and daughters of Namibia who died during the liberation struggle, as well as recent veterans of the struggle, namely the late First Speaker of Parliament Dr MosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Tjitendero and Frans Kam-bangula who will both be laid to rest tomorrow, at Heroes’ Acre and Pionierspark Cemetery respectively. During the commemoration, about 20 Cassinga survivors were also present, each one holding a lit candle in memory of those who died 28 years ago. Speaking on their behalf one Cassinga survivor Agnes Kafula, who was almost close to tears, said they would never forget the barbaric acts of apartheid, especially of what happened at the refugee settlement at Cassinga in southern An-gola. “There was teargas and bombing and the whole settlement was under attack … it was a barbaric act by the former South African colonial regime,” Kafula told the attentive crowd. “Although our wounds are healed, the scars remain and we will remember them forever,” she added. Before ending her emotional speech, Kafula requested government that all survivors should be recognised as heroes and heroines of the country, while they should also be granted the opportunity to visit the mass grave at Cassinga. In the same vein calls were also made that the important history of Cassinga Day be documented in the form of a booklet for the knowledge of the future generation. At the same occasion, Governor of the Khomas Regional Council Sophia Shaningwa said that May 4 is a day of great “national symbolism” for the country to remember never to be colonised again. The day ended off with well-known liberation songs from prominent musician Jackson Kaujeua, with the crowd singing along as they paid homage to those heroes and heroines who died in Cassinga.