Flashback on Caprivi History of Struggle


By Kangumu Kangumu, Bennett

The 2007 Heroes Day celebrations have added significance in two respects: the reburial of human remains – heroes of the liberation struggle uncovered in Ohangwena; and secondly, it comes at a time when the Namibian nation is engaged in a debate, some of it in the public sphere, on what constitutes a hero and heroine.

Hopefully, the commendable trend of commissioning and inaugurating memorials in honour of our heroes and heroines would continue in other parts of the country especially where none exist; so that during Heroes Day commemorations, people in various localities have meaningful sites of remembrance to congregate at and reflect on history to replace the usual sports stadiums.

Such sites would add localised meanings to historical memorialisation, and indeed, help recognise submerged local historical events and thus local heroes and heroines. Our heroes and heroines are too many to enumerate. Thus, it is logically and logistically impossible for all of them to find a resting place at the Heroes Acre in Windhoek.

Thus, the concepts of hero and heroine should not be linked and limited to being buried at the Heroes Acre in Windhoek, for one, because by its very nature, the concept of a heroes’ acre is very selective.

The launch of the armed liberation struggle on 26 August 1966 at Omugulu wo Mbashe in which PLAN fighters clashed with forces of the South African colonial government is a comparatively better described historical event.

Among others, it culminated in the arrests, detention and trial of Namibians in the so-called Pretoria Terrorism Trial at the close of the 1960s and their eventual incarceration on the then infamous Robben Island Maximum Security prison, off the coast of the City of Cape Town. However, the aftermath of 26 August 1966 especially on the Caprivi still requires further and deeper historical enquiry and analysis.

This article is a reflection in such a direction.

The 26 August 1966 attack exposed the vulnerability of large and permanent PLAN bases inside Namibia at the time. Due, largely, to logistical considerations, PLAN adopted insurgency or “hit and run” tactics on military installations to inflict pain and damage on apartheid South Africa, especially in the Caprivi during the early and formative years of the armed liberation struggle.

In just nine months after the 26 August 1966 attack, PLAN suffered a heavy blow in Caprivi when its first commander, Tobias Hainyeko, was killed in action on the Zambezi River on 18 May 1967 while he was on a mission to investigate conditions in the Caprivi Strip in order to determine how to improve communications between the operational headquarters at Kongwa, Tanzania, and PLAN’s fighting units in Namibia.

PLAN resolved to avenge Hainyeko’s death and infiltrated two fighting units into Caprivi. Of concern here is the group that entered Caprivi at Singalamwe on 18 June 1968. At the time, a police post at Singalamwe was under construction but a temporary one already existed.

One informant remembers a policeman at Singalamwe, a Mr Jonathan Silubanga, waking them up one very cold winter night to tell them that a group of armed men have just passed and asked him to show them the direction to Finaughty’s shop. William (Bill) Finaughty hailed from Petersburg in the then Northern Transvaal and came to the Zambezi region in the early 1940s, being posted first to Kazungula and then Katima Mulilo by the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (Wenela). After a year or two in the service of Wenela, he developed interest in trading and was granted an extensive general dealers’ site at the Katima Mulilo rapids, where Finaughty informal settlement at Katima Mulilo stand today. His business included a large shop, butchery, workshop for repairing motor vehicles – since he was a mechanic by profession, carpentry workshop and owned other stores across eastern Caprivi.

At Finaughty’s shop at Singalamwe, the PLAN fighters banged on the door while calling on Mr Daniel Maswahu Sankasi, the store kapitao or storekeeper, to open for them. Sankasi decided to escape with the cash box through the rear window but little did he know that one fighter was already stationed there, to whom he was forced to hand over the cash box. Apparently, the fighters told him: “old man, this money is not yours. If this shop belonged to you, we could have asked for food or any other assistance. That is how we operate wherever we go”. They forced open the door and found an old man inside, a cleaner, whom they instructed to take some jackets for himself but refused saying the Boers would kill him if found wearing them. It is related also that the fighters wanted to petrol bomb the shop but that there was no fuel in the drums kept inside the shop. Nonetheless, they fired shots especially at the baobab tree at the shop, causing a deafening sound that was heard in the whole Singalamwe.

After one week, the PLAN fighters raided another shop that belonged to Finaughty at Sibbinda. The group was led by the late Richard Kapelwa Kabajani. Again after a week, PLAN fighters attacked a military convoy between Mpacha and Katima Mulilo.

The months of September and October 1968 witnessed brutal police clampdown on the local community, especially in the western parts of eastern Caprivi, in search for collaborators and those harbouring PLAN fighters. In the process, about 63 people were killed, 350 arrested and about 2???_?_’???_?’???_???


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