By Petronella Sibeene
Namibia commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Cassinga massacre on Sunday with President Hifikepunye Pohamba inviting all Namibians to rededicate themselves to the process of national building and reconciliation.
Cassinga Day commemoration that falls on May 4 reflects on a day when more than 900 men, women and children living at a Namibian refugee transit settlement at Cassinga, in southern Angola, were brutally massacred by South African racist troops in 1978.
Many more were maimed and permanently disabled.
The President in his message on Cassinga day said the sacrifices made by heroes and heroines who died at Cassinga should serve as the guiding light in Namibia’s struggle to build a peaceful and prosperous society.
“Their selfless sacrifice must inspire us to continue fighting for social justice and bring an end to all forms of discrimination and inequality in all spheres of our lives,” Pohamba said.
Meanwhile, Governor of the Khomas region, Sophia Shaningwa, called on all Namibians to embrace and share the history of the country with the young generation.
She said this would ensure that the death and bloodshed for the country’s liberation is honoured by present and future generations.
Shaningwa addressed about 500 people, among them ambassadors and United Nations representatives, at the UN Plaza in Katutura.
She said the Cassinga massacre represents the horrific acts committed by apartheid troops in Namibia and elsewhere in neighbouring countries.
The Cassinga settlement was at the time of attack, a centre for new arrivals.
Those killed had left Namibia a week, a day or the night before the attack.
They were equally trying to escape the South African reign of terror in Namibia, the go-vernor said.
The attack was carried out by 500 paratroopers in an operation code-named Reindeer under Major General Ian Gleeson’s command.
“The apartheid troops went through the refugee settlement bayoneting crawling babies and shooting the wounded and elderly at close range,” the governor narrated.
Cuban soldiers collected dead bodies for mass burial and those that survived the traumatic experience were offered free education in Cuba.
The attack took place at a time when the Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, was due to meet foreign ministers of the contact group to negotiate a settlement plan that would lead to Namibia’s independence, Shaningwa said.
The apartheid regime claimed that Cassinga was not a refugee camp but Swapo’s military head-quarters. The governor said the self-evident proof discarded the allegations by the racist South African regime as an attempt to hide its crime.
“The blood of sons and daughters of the Namibian soil was at Cassinga and remains a stain on the hands and the conscience of the perpetrators of that crime as well as those who supplied them with arms, protected and condoned its acts of aggression,” Shaningwa condemned.
She added that Namibian history should not be forgotten.
“This should be the burning force behind our struggle for economic independence,” she said.