By William Mbangula
President Hifikepunye Pohamba has described the late Colonel Gaus Iipinge Shikomba as a legend of the liberation struggle who will be remembered by present and future generations.
In a message of condolence read on his behalf by the Governor of Oshana Clemens Kashuupulwa, the Head of State noted that the late Shikomba’s bravery and perseverance were clearly demonstrated during his participation in the battle of Omugulugwombashe on August 26, 1966, when Swapo combatants clashed for the first time with the then South African colonial forces.
Again, he showed his determination and commitment to the liberation struggle when he continued with his unbroken spirit of fighting for freedom and independence even after his many years of imprisonment at Robben Island.
Another message of condolence was received from the Father of the Nation and President of Swapo Dr Sam Nujoma. The message was delivered on his behalf by the ruling party’s Coordinator in Oshana Region and Mayor of Ongwediva Erastus Uutoni.
Nujoma lauded Shikomba for dedicating his entire youth and adult life to the liberation struggle of the country.
“Comrade Shikomba was one of the first volunteers who launched the armed liberation struggle at Omugulugwombashe. He was a fearless and steadfast freedom fighter who will be remembered by present and future generations.
“Despite being tortured by the enemy after being captured and imprisoned, he never wavered but continued with the struggle with other leaders such as Daniel Tjongarero and Nathanael Maxuilili until freedom was achieved.”
The late Shikomba, who was attached to the 263 Battalion of the Namibian Defence Force (NDF), was hailed by the Army Commander Major General Peter Nambundunga who said he was a dedicated, focused and unwavering patriot.
In his message delivered by Colonel Hamwandi Epafras Shilombwelwa, Nambundunga said that the late Shikomba showed his resoluteness as a battle-tested cadre during the first engagement with the colonial forces at Omugulugwombashe.
“He has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to the freedom fighters. We have lost a true son of the land of the brave.”
Speaking on behalf of former Robben Island political prisoners Swapo party veteran Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, who also spent many years at the notorious prison, paid tribute to Shikomba, describing him as a brave warrior whom he met for the first time in 1959 at Ondangwa.
At that time, Ya Toivo was an organizer of the Ovamboland Peoples Organisation (OPO), the forerunner of the South West Africa People Organisation (Swapo) which was formed on April 19, 1960.
Born on January 27, 1935 at Onatshiku village in Okatana constituency, Shikomba got into politics when he met Ya Toivo at Ondangwa.
He became a political mobilizer in and around his village together with Fidelis Laban and the late Leo Shoopala who was killed on March 11,1966 by Uukwambi traditional authorities led by a certain Jackey Ashipala and Andreas Namene.
When the first clash of the Swapo combatants and South African colonial forces took place at Omugulugwombashe village in Omusati Region on August 26, 1966, Shikomba was one of the first people to be hunted down by the colonial occupiers.
He was regarded as an agitator and went underground only to be caught two years later near Onaanda on January 27, 1968. By then, he had participated in many attacks on enemy installations including an attack at Oshikango on September 27, 1966.
After his arrest, he was charged and sentenced in Tshwane (Pretoria) to life imprisonment in 1969. He was released from prison on May 11, 1984 after spending close to 16 years in jail.
Part of the recognition given to him includes the Community Care award in recognition of his time spent on Robben Island and his outstanding contribution towards Namibia’s struggle for freedom and independence.
It was bestowed on him by the Father of the Nation and Founding President of Namibia, Dr Sam Nujoma, on July 10, 2004.
He is also a recipient of an award on April 21, 1995 from the first President of the non-racial South Africa Nelson Mandela, who was a fellow political prisoner at Robben Island. The award recognized his selfless contribution to the struggle for democracy.
Yet another award, the Omugulugwombashe Medal for bravery and commitment to the liberation struggle, was awarded him on Heroes Day, August 26, 1995 by the former President Nujoma in Windhoek.
On August 26 this year, the late Shikomba was one of the war veterans who were bestowed with military honours by President Hifikepunye Pohamba during the celebrations of Heroes Day and the reburial of victims of war at Eenhana. He received the rank of colonel.
On May 25, as part of the Africa Day celebrations this year, he was one of the recipients of a house together with his former fellow political prisoner Joseph Iipangelwa from Emono village. The houses were given as part of Government’s efforts at rectifying the plight of war veterans.
Shikomba passed away at his home village of Onatshiku after suffering from what is believed to be a heart attack. At the time, he was on his way to attend a funeral of his relative at Omeege.
Shikomba was buried with full military honours on Saturday, following a service at the Catholic Church at Emono village.
His funeral was attended by among others his former fellow political prisoners such as the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development John Pandeni, Deputy Minister of Labour Peter Nangolo Iilonga who was the director of ceremonies and CoD leader Ben Ulenga.
Also in attendance were the Minister of Works Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda, regional and local councillors, and church and traditional leaders.
He is survived by his wife retired Elcin Church Reverend Wilhelmine Mpingana, their 21-year-old daughter Ndilipondina Elago Judith, who is an information and communication technology student at the Polytechnic of Namibia, and also adopted daughter, 24-year-old Emilia Magano Shikomba.
The adopted daughter was one of the displaced children who were relocated to the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) by Swapo due to the war situation.