By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
They hail from the past, the present and the future. They are sung and unsung, living and departed. These are the heroes and heroines the nation remembers and pays tribute to on Heroes’ Day, August 26 every year.
However, the day has particular historical reference and reminiscence in 26 August 1966, when the Swapo Party’s armed wing, the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), engaged the Aparteheid South African Defence Force at Omugulugoombashe.
As many of those the nation is about to remember are both living and long-gone, participants in the struggle for the liberation of this country, starting with the war of resistance against colonial German invasion to the liberation struggle, they are not the only heroes and heroines, says President Hifikepunye Pohamba on the eve of Heroes’ Day.
Heroes and heroines abound and hail from varied fields like sports, athletics – in particular like Frank Fredericks. Having put Namibia on the world map he is a hero in his own right, as are many others in boxing, education, building and construction. Even writers can be heroes and heroines if their writings so dictate, the President elaborates in an obvious reference to this writer and his likes.
Nevertheless, resistance and struggle heroes and heroines deserve special honour. Not to mention ones from Omugulugoombashe. Among them are living heroes and heroines of Namibia, a fact infusing President Pohamba with heightened happiness.
Among the unsung heroes and heroines from that period is none other than John Otto Nankudhu, who commanded PLAN then, a regional councillor in the Khomas Region to this day.
This year also sees a special burial ceremony of the human remains discovered two years ago at Eenhana in the Ohangwena Region. Thus, the essence of Heroes’ Day is a national day in appreciation of the blood of these heroes and heroines that waters the freedom the nation enjoys today.
This places a heavy responsibility on those who were lucky to see the dawn of freedom and independence, the President accentuates, to look after the people of this country.
Also, Heroes’ Day, the President adds, represents an opportunity to appeal to Namibians to work harder for socio-economic development for the present and future generations of this country. “Because, by so doing, we are not going to disappoint the heroes and heroines whose blood waters our freedom.”
Yet, not every section of the nation seems to appreciate and honour the day, much to the displeasure of the President.
“When we commemorate these days, we see people missing who are supposed to be there. The blood of these heroes and heroines waters the freedom of us all.”
In this breath, the President seizes the opportunity of this interview to invite everyone to mark this day to say thank you for the fruits of freedom we are enjoying.
Honours via medals are also due on Heroes’ Day, mostly for those who participated in the liberation struggle in the 1960s and 1970s. This is not to say there are no other heroes and heroines, the President hastens to qualify, as this is “something that occurs maybe daily or maybe monthly. It just depends in which field. You can have heroes, and we have them in sports, for example: Frank Fredericks. He is a Hero!”
There are many others in many other fields. However, they may not be getting medals in this instance, but this is not the end of the world as this is not the end of the awarding of medals in Namibia. “This is a periodic thing.” But this time around, medals are due to those who confronted the enemies who occupied this country. These include resistance warriors like Hendrik Witbooi and others, and then liberation fighters like the Hainyekos and Nanyembas who “confronted the South African racists”.
“In the process, they brought independence. Then Sam Nujoma, the person who led the struggle for the liberation of this country. He was the person who, under his leadership, united the people of this country to fight against the South African racist regime. It was in fact Sam Nujoma. He is one of the heroes who made the greatest contribution to the attainment of independence.”
The President closes the rendition on the heroics of the Founding Father with a special ‘thank you’ for his leadership during the difficult years of the struggle, and thereafter during the birth pains of the country, and beyond – 15 years in all.
“If you keep on doing what you are doing, not I but they will definitely accord you a hero’s status,” the President winds up encouragingly.