By William Mbangula
Residents here have described the commemoration of Heroes’ Day as a unique occasion and have lauded the Government for choosing their region for the event, for erecting the heroes’ shrine and for granting victims of the war a dignified burial.
One of the residents, Helena Ndahambelela Munenguni, says the Ohangwena Region was one of the crucial war theatres during the struggle for liberation, hence the Government should be commended for bringing the Heroes’ Day celebrations to them and for providing war victims with a dignified reburial at a heroes’ shrine as a token of respect for human value and dignity.
“This is good for our children and for the history of our country that events related to the war of liberation are clearly documented and preserved. At the same time, the event here will bring all the necessary attention that Eenhana, as a town, needs. We are even proud to have a Heroes’ Shrine here, second only to Heroes’ Acre in Windhoek. This is a great achievement for the whole nation, particularly for us in Ohangwena Region,” Munenguni said.
Heroes’ Shrine can also be used for many purposes, namely: as a tourist attraction and educational reference facility, besides being the first burial place for current and future heroes and heroines. She noted further that more human remains which will undoubtedly be discovered elsewhere in the country can be brought here for reburial.
She explained that the event at Eenhana will be enriching and add value to the current history of Namibia. In her view, some people who deserve to be buried heroically but could not be brought to Heroes’ Acre, such as the late Anglican Bishop James Kauluma, and others can still be buried at the Eenhana shrine.
The late Bishop Kauluma, praised by speakers at his funeral, including President Hifikepunye Pohamba, as one of the fearless freedom fighters, was buried at his remote village of Ongula Ya netanga (Ohangwena region) in April last year.
Munenguni noted: “I wish to thank all the people who have originated the idea of erecting a shrine and for bringing this very important event of celebrating Heroes’ Day here and to rebury the remains of our fallen citizens. This shows that the Government of Namibia cares about the human rights and dignity of people, contrary to its detractors who are always painting a negative picture of the country and government to the outside world.”
Another resident of Eenhana, Susana Nepala Kanahole, said the shrine here is the pride of all Namibians, irrespective of their political, spiritual or tribal affiliations, because it will accommodate and dignify all Namibians who have contributed to the liberation of the country. It will serve as a token of remembrance to the current and future generations that freedom was brought about through self-sacrifices.
She said: “Even those who have lost loved ones or who have been maimed during the war of liberation will find consolation in the erection of the shrine. The dignified reburial of the human remains will also comfort those who have lost loved ones as a result of the conflict. I think Heroes’ Day here is something which will go down in the annals of history of the Namibian nation as a unique event because of the three-in-one events taking place, namely: the overall celebrations of the day, reburial of the human remains and unveiling of the shrine.”
Ohangwena Governor Usko Nghaamwa says the celebrations of Heroes’ Day should be looked at within the context of the historical background of the liberation struggle started by forebearers of Hendrik Witbooi, Samuel Maharero, Hosea Kuutako, Iipumbu Ya Tshilongo, Mandume Ndemufayo, Nehale LyaMpingana, and others.
Such struggle was continued by the modern generation as workers struggled against human trading by the South West African Native Labour Association (SWANLA) which culminated in the formation of Swapo on April 19, 1960.
Swapo, under the leadership of its President and Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, is credited with carrying out the liberation struggle to its logical conclusion. Nghaamwa explains that the celebrations of Heroes’ Day, the reburial of human remains and the unveiling of the shrine are part and parcel of the national pride and heritage, which should be appreciated by all peace-loving Namibians.
He said: It will one day be a disgrace to all of us alive today, to those who have sacrificed and to the future generation if we fail to protect and preserve the peace and tranquility of the hard-won peace and freedom of our land.
The Governor said the remains to be buried are not only those discovered at Eenhana military base, but also those found at places such as the seven people killed at Epuku Novana who were improperly and unceremoniously buried. Other human remains are from Eenghango and Ongha.
In his view, the day is different from previous events in the sense that a shrine is being inaugurated; there is a reburial of those who sacrificed their live. And for Ohangwena Region it is very important because his region has become the focal point of the day’s activities in the whole country.
He appealed to the residents of Ohangwena to treat the visitors with kindness by offering all the necessary assistance where possible, such as accommodation, transport, food, information, and many others. For those wishing to contribute towards the refreshments of the day or any other assistance, he requested them to go through the relevant authorities such as the regional council, the town council, traditional authorities, churches and others.
Said the Governor: “The shrine is very important to all of us who are alive today as well as the future generations because it will form part of our proud and rich history that we fought bravely to conquer our country from foreign intruders. It is not a shrine for the residents of Ohangwena alone but for all Namibians, because the people who will be reburied here were from all parts of the country, including other regions.
Therefore, I wish to emphasize that this is a national event, but not a regional one. Swapo was fighting all over the country and all Namibians, irrespective of their origin and colour, took part in the struggle for liberation.”
President Hifikepunye Pohamba is to officiate here where he will inaugurate the N$10-million Heroes’ Shrine currently being constructed by the China State Construction company.
At the same time, he will preside over the reburial of the human remains discovered by the contractors working on a development project near the former South African military base here, and also from other parts of the country. The remains are believed to be those of Namibians including the combatants of Swapo’s former military wing, the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).
The occasion will be graced by the presence of the Father of the Nation and Swapo President, Dr Sam Nujoma. The high-profile event, expected to be directed by the Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, and the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, will also be attended by Prime Minister Nahas Angula and his Deputy, Dr Libertina Amathila; the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab; Chairman of the National Council, Asser Kapere; Chief Justice Peter Shivute; Chairman of the Council of Traditional Authorities, King Immanuel Elifas; Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Manuel Alexandre Duarte Rodrigues; and the Chief of the Namibian Defence Force, Lt Gen Martin Shalli.
Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year on August 26 to honour the start of the armed liberation struggle, which kicked off on August 26, 1966 when the combatants of Swapo’s then military wing, the Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), clashed for the first time with the South African colonial forces at Omugulugoombashe village in Omusati Region.
The conflict only ended with the signing of a ceasefire between Swapo and South Africa at the end of March 1989 following the implementation of UN Resolution 435 of 1978. This was followed by the attainment of independence on March 21, 1990.