THE UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim initiated the so-called ‘confidence building’ or ‘pre-implentation’ meeting in Geneva in early January 1981. Swapo agreed to participate in this meeting, despite the fact that the puppet parties would be present, as it had the blessing of the Secretary-General, who attended the opening session.
The puppet parties were represented by 29 delegates, who sat together with Dirk Mudge their main spokesman and Danie Hough, the Administrator-General in their midst, Brand Fourie, the Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Van Zyl, P. Nienhaus the former Minister of Community Development under Vorster and other officials hovering about behind them, altogether making a very clear picture of puppets and puppet masters. During the bilateral talks in Geneva with the American delegations and South Africans over a dinner, the Americans were believed to have told the white South African officials to be extra vigilant with the Namibian nationalist movement, that one day they would be overthrown by them and America would not send troops to rescue them. Nienhaus, after hearing this, collapsed at the table and was rushed to hospital. When he later returned to South Africa he retired from active politics. It was clear to all that these representatives of many small splinter parties had no real mandate from the people and were simply there to speak for the white apartheid South African policy. I instructed that our delegation – dressed in their best suits and contrasting smartly with the unimpressive looking puppet delegation – would rise in unison when introduced by the Chairman, Brian Urquhart, and give the clenched-fist “Africa!” salute to demonstrate our unity. We acted throughout in a disciplined and well-organized manner, but the blocking tactics of Mudge and his colleagues made all progress impossible. While we patiently put the case for a realistic cease-fire date, the puppets kept up a ceaseless barrage of unspecific accusations against UN impartiality. I hit back with a press statement. “The concern of the international community and of those who have helped in drawing up the UN plan for Namibian independence was to ensure that South Africa does not use its administrative machinery, police force and various other armed security agencies to intimidate the Namibian people and therefore prevent them from exercising their democratic rights in electing leaders of their choice. It is absurd that the colonial power, which in actual fact is responsible for organizing the elections, should be the one to demand ‘impartiality’ from the United Nations. It is rather that the UN and the international community should require assurances from South Africa.” Urquhart described us as a “model of civility and common sense,” in contrast with “the deplorable exhibition put on by the representatives of the internal parties.” It was clear to everyone that South Africa wanted the conference to fail, so that they could stay in power and prepare themselves over a long period, in a changed climate with Reagan in power in the US, to fight an election against Swapo, if it were ever to come to that. The London Times called the Geneva Conference “..an unmitigated disaster for the Western powers, who have invested immense diplomatic effort… their credibility is in tatters and they are now confronted with renewed calls at the UN for sanctions – which was just what the settlement was designed to prevent.”
With the knowledge that the UN plan had come to a full stop and that under Reagan, due to take office a week after the conference ended, the US might well lead the Contact Group in a very different direction from that taken by President Carter’s team, I told the delegates at a working session that “South Africa’s manifest interference and prevarications’’ meant that “Like all the previous efforts of the international community to find a peaceful solution to the Namibian problem, the conference had failed in this noble objective. Consequently the oppressed people of Namibia are left with no other alternative but to continue with the armed liberation struggle until the final victory. The responsibility for the continued loss of lives and suffering lies with the Pretoria regime. We are certain of one thing: Swapo enjoys the overwhelming support of the oppressed people of Namibia, whose yearning for freedom will continue to inspire the combatants of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) to persevere in the armed liberation struggle until the final victory.” My own situation continued to be one of constant travel and diplomatic campaigning among our friends in the OAU and a growing number of nations around the world who recognized Swapo as the sole representatives of the Namibian people and heeded the call I made at the January 1981 Geneva Conference “to render all-round support and assistance to the Namibian patriots who are resisting the illegal occupation and colonial oppression by the white minority South African regime in Namibia.” My other immediate and major diplomatic task was to achieve the imposition of “comprehensive and mandatory sanctions, including an oil embargo… to compel the Pretoria regime to relinquish its illegal occupation and oppression of the Namibian people.”
This period had seen my dear wife’s escape from Namibia through Botswana in December 1977, and our meeting again after a separation of 18 years, and the death of my father, Utoni Daniel Nujoma, in Okahao the following year, his health having never recovered from his long detention, when already ill, in Pretoria. There was a military camp near my parents’ home and South African soldiers were stationed right next to our homestead in the belief that they would ambush me when I came home to mourn with my people at my father’s funeral. My mother and others at home were much harassed by them, and by the puppet authorities. The puppet authorities constantly searched for my brother Stephen Nujoma, a teacher, who had stayed to care for our parents at Etunda. Though ambushed several times and almost killed, he was clever enough to escape them, and went into a hiding in Kavango. When he came back to Etunda and found they were still looking for him, my brother travelled secretly to Windhoek, where we found him in hiding on our return from exile. One of my cousins, the son of my mother’s elder sister, Johannes Akaupa Kasino, was in fact killed. The South African army took his body, and my mother and the other women from the community followed it to Oshakati. She and the others sat down and cried until a Boer officer came out and asked: “Why are all these old ladies crying here?” He was told: “We have the body here of their son who was killed.” So they were allowed to take the body home for burial. My mother was frequently terrorized and interrogated with questions about me, over many years. Such actions were part of the South African army and Koevoet practices of terrorizing the people in the war zone, and very many families suffered the same way. The South African regime sent over many spies and tried to spread propaganda about my private life. They said that I lived in a big hotel with a swimming pool on the roof, and I was said to be surrounded by white women. At one time a spy was sent to Lusaka to take photos of me in the ‘hotel’. When he arrived in Lusaka, I was living at Kamwala House No. 7, in the old African township of Lusaka, Zambia. He failed completely to get any picture of me at all because it was difficult for a white person to find his way about undetected in an African township, especially at night because there were no lights. The South African military intelligence did not stop at slander, but also included violent tactics in their personal campaign against me. They sent many parcel bombs and letters containing explosives, addressed to me personally and also to other Swapo leaders. But we had special units who were specially trained in the detection of such materials, and parcel and letter bombs were always defused and destroyed before any harm was done. A lot of the South African propaganda against me failed totally. Leaflets were even thrown from aircraft showing me as a monster, eating babies and urinating on a church. The people of this country are very Christian and such pictures were calculated to destroy Swapo completely. But the people never believed this propaganda. The main aim for Vorster’s regime was to discredit me as a person in the eyes of the Namibian people and eventually to destroy Swapo’s popularity. My task as President of Swapo was made easier by the fact that we had always been working as a team. Decisions were taken collectively and responsibilities were shared by the Swapo Central Committee which met twice a year, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee which met four times a year or could be convened any time as the situation dictated, and the Military Council which met four times a year and sometimes more depending, again, on the situation.