WINDHOEK – Getrude Kandanga-Hilukilwa was considered a brilliant speaker, who encouraged women to actively participate in Namibia’s liberation struggle of the 1960s and beyond.
She was also the first of many for Namibian women.
She was born on January 1, 1937, at Ombujekuma Mongombe ja Mbatera in Omaruru District.
Not many of her early years are traceable from records in the National Archives of Namibia or the National Library, but her life took an exemplary turn.
According to Namibia Today (Volume 1, Number 2, 1977), Kandanga-Hilukilwa was among the first women among the Swapo activists and leaders to have spoken on the party’s platforms and to mobilise Namibians into political activity.
According to this source, Kandanga-Hilukilwa became politically involved in 1959, when she became one of the first women to join the Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO).
She was also one of the founding members of Swapo, and remained active in this party throughout her life.
After she entered politics, Kandanga-Hilukilwa addressed countless meetings and held numerous positions in the liberation struggle.
She became the chairperson of the Swapo Women’s Council at Walvis Bay, a position she held until 1979.
In one of her famous remarks at a meeting in Oshakati in October 1977, a meeting held to protest against emergency regulations imposed by the former apartheid regime in an attempt to entrench tribal and racial divisions in Namibia, she is quoted as having said:
“Swapo is fighting for the liberation of all Namibians. We will liberate the suffering masses as well as the whites.
“Even the young racist South African soldiers, they will be relieved from their unbearable burden so they can go home.”
In January 1980, police arrested Kandanga-Hilukilwa at a roadblock between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay while on her way to Swakopmund to address a public meeting.
She was also expected to attend the first congress of the Swapo Women’s Council in Angola the following week. She was elected deputy secretary of the Women’s Council in absentia.
Kandanga-Hilukilwa was imprisoned without trial for 15 months after her arrest.
Incarcerated, Kandanga-Hilukilwa became ill, suffering from asthma and high blood pressure.
In May 1981, she was released and placed under house arrest.
In 1984, she went into exile to attend the Lusaka talks. While there, she became a member of the Swapo Central Committee.
She later went to study at the Selly Oak College in Birmingham, England, on a scholarship.
Kandanga-Hilukilwa returned to Namibia in 1989, serving as Swapo Deputy Head of Voter Registration for the first democratic elections held that year leading up to Namibia’s independence.
In post-independence Namibia, Kandanga-Hilukilwa became a member of parliament until 2000.
From 1990 to 1994, she also served as a member of the Swapo politburo, a member of the party’s women’s council, member of the Swapo Elders Council, and chairperson of the Swapo Party Veteran Trust Fund.
On December 20, 2002, Kandanga-Hilukilwa died in a car accident on the Outjo-Kamanjab road, two kilometres outside Kamanjab. The Nissan pick-up in which she was a passenger veered off the road and overturned. She was 65.
She was married to Josua Hilukilwa and had five children.
Kandanga-Hilukilwa was afforded a heroes’ burial and was buried at the Heroes’ Acre on January 18, 2003.