At the North Eastern Front base we found the then Regional Chief of Staff Charles Namoloh, the then Regional Chief of Air Defence Martin Shalli who later became Regional Chief of Operations, Regional Political Commissar Nabot Helao Nafidi, Regional Commander Mathias Ndakolo Mbulunganga, and others. At the camp we found that comrades slept in trenches, tents and huts. I entered the base disoriented mainly because of the jungle and rough roads that we followed to the Regional Headquarters. I have to admit that the base surroundings, which were characterised by thick bushes and seemingly uninhabitable terrain, did not impress me. The commander on duty that night ordered us to disembark from the trucks before he led us to our positions to sleep.
Before sunrise, everyone was awake. By around 08:00, our commanders were called to the Commanding Post for a formal security briefing. We waited for our commander to come back and address us. While waiting, we observed well-armed fighters moving around near us but did not greet us. The fighters were carrying machine guns, RPG-7 (bazookas) and other sub-machine guns, some of which were called ‘pepeshas’. I realised then that we had actually entered the battle zone, as some of the fighters wore South African soldiers’ uniforms and boots.
The fighters’ preparedness could be compared with the situation we had at Oshitumba base.
All the newly trained PLAN fighters in my group were impressed by what they observed in the base, the looks of the fighters brandishing their machine-guns boosted our morale and renewed our eagerness to be sent inside the country to fight the enemy. As we waited for the commanders to return from the briefing session, we chatted among ourselves, simply airing our excitement over what we had observed until then.
Some of us were of the view that there was no reason for the commanders to keep us in the base, as the PLAN Chief of Reconnaissance had clearly stated that we would go straight inside the country to engage the enemy.
I was one of those who strongly felt that we needed to be sent inside the country right away. Surprisingly though, the fighters that we found in the base did not want to talk to us and as it became clear later, they were actually waiting for us to be formally received by the Base Commander and other high-ranking commanders in the regional headquarters. It was a ritual in PLAN that trainees were not supposed to interact with old fighters until their commanders permitted them, probably as a precautionary measure to prevent old fighters from divulging frightening battle related information to trainees. That could have been the reason why the fighters in that base did not greet us.
As we waited, anxiety mounted to the extent that some of us decided to meet the old fighters at their trenches. As we interacted with them, we were called to gather at an open space for a formal briefing by the Camp Commander.
A few minutes later, our commanders accompanied by base commanders and others, including Commander Kenyatta and Rubben “Danger’’ Ashipala arrived.
The Base Commander, without introducing himself by name, welcomed all of us into the region, promising that some of us would proceed with the journey to our respective detachments while some of the fighters would operate from that base until further notice.
The Commander further explained that we had arrived at a time when PLAN fighters had launched an offensive inside the country. He praised the fighters for killing many ‘Boers’ and ‘makakunyas’ during the intensified offensive inside the country. He stressed the importance of discipline among PLAN fighters and thus urged us to be exemplary fighters at all times. Further, he reiterated previous calls for us to abandon tribal, ethnic and all kinds of colonial mentalities. He urged all of us to embrace the spirit of comradeship.
He also talked about the rules in the base, especially how we should behave and what to do and what not to do. As the commander spoke, my heart beat faster on realising that my great dream of fighting the colonial forces was about to come true.
I recalled the time I met the PLAN fighters for the first time at Omakondo village and also reflected on the battle we fought against UNITA bandits at Oshitumba where for the first time I witnessed corpses being burnt and saw a PLAN fighter killed in battle. Although these two events were concrete in nature, they did not interfere with my conscience and belief in fighting for a just cause. Instead, they reinforced my desire to return home to fight the colonial forces. Soon after the Commander left, a large number of fighters came to join us.
It was a moment of hugging and laughter, as the old fighters interacted with new fighters in a comradeship fashion.
Some of the old fighters were seen wearing the South African soldiers’ uniforms and boots, an indication that they had actually killed the enemy forces. For some of us this was the scene we wanted to see, as we wanted even to hear from the old fighters how the fighting situation in the country was going on. Although I met many old fighters in that base, none of them was known to me.
In the afternoon that day, we were ordered to relocate from where we were to another location in the camp. A commander, presumably a platoon commander, whose name I could not remember, took us to our new position east of the base. There we were ordered to dig our trenches and wait for further instructions. My group of about 30 fighters stayed in that base for a week without receiving the promised instructions.
However, as we entered the second week of our stay at that base, we were summoned to the office of the Base Commander where we were divided into three small groups. These groups were to be sent to various detachments at the frontline, Detachment A, B, C, Detachment “A” being the furthest from the headquarters.
Our reconnaissance platoon, led by Commander Lukas ‘Kalute’ Nakale, was deployed to a detachment that was yet to be established. This detachment was to be known as Far East Detachment. Legendary fighter, Commander Philipus Shikuma Kamati, who later became a Brigadier-General in the Namibian Defence Force in Windhoek, led the detachment.
The detachment headquarters was to be established at Ohandabo, about 50 kilometres from the Angola-Namibia border.
This detachment would be the last unit east along the Angola-Namibia border. It covered the western part of Okongo and stretched up to the Kavango border and former Ovamboland as well as southwards up to the Etosha pan, Mangetti farming areas and other places deep inside Namibia. After we were deployed, the commander asked us to go back to our positions to wait for further instructions. Two days later, my platoon was ordered to get ready for departure to the new detachment.
This was the time we had all been waiting for, hence, we had little time to waste.
We collected our luggage and returned to the same place as ordered, where we had to wait for our new Detachment Commander to address us. Cde Shikuma sha Kamati, who was a battle-tested fighter by then, arrived at the parade wearing a brownish uniform, a pistol and commander’s badge; in fact, he was smartly dressed like a true commander. As we later learnt, Cde Kamati had just arrived from USSR were he went for military training. He had previously operated inside Namibia where he participated in numerous battles against the enemy forces. He was unknown to all of us, though he appeared to possess the qualities of a battle commander. The Base Commander introduced Cde Kamati to us saying that he would be our overall commander during our tour of duty at the battlefield.
Cde Kamati did not say much. He told us to sit around before we continued with our journey to the detachment. He looked shy, but composed and ready to commit his new fighters into battle.
While we were sitting chatting among ourselves, another fighter came running calling on all of us to move towards the Commanding post. There we were given the necessary provisions: biscuits, tinned beef, extra water containers, new uniforms, sleeping tent, additional bullets and hand-grenades. Those new fighters earmarked to operate heavy machine-guns had their new AK-47s withdrawn and replaced with the heavy machine-guns and RPG-7 launchers (bazookas).
After being equipped with everything new, we had only one common desire to go straight away and fight the enemy and liberate our country. Before we left the base, we sung revolutionary songs, which we learnt at the training school and elsewhere across Angola, to show our level of morale and determination.