Preparing for our first battle

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WE left the headquarters for our detachment before lunch and arrived at Detachment A at Oshana sha Mwashekele village in the evening. By then, Cde Lazarus Shihepo Hamutele commanded Detachment A.

He had also arrived a few months before us after he replaced Cde Epaphras “Denga” Ndaitwah (Oshikulu Shapandulilwe). As I looked around, I noticed that there were only about 30 fighters in Detachment A.
A fighter, who met us at the entrance of the base, took us straight to the Commanding Post at Ondjango where we found the platoon commander on duty.

The platoon commander, whose real name or combat name I could not remember, appeared to have been waiting for us, as he immediately took us to our positions. This commander carried his Russian-made AK-47, pistol and hand-grenades around his waist and wore a dirty torn uniform, which changed my perception of the nature of war we were about to experience. After we took up our positions, as directed by the commander, he took our detachment commander to the commanding post for a thorough briefing about the prevailing security situation.
We eagerly waited for our commander to brief us about the security situation in that area, but he did not bother to do so until the next morning.

We started clearing our positions and digging shallow trenches after the commander had left. Our group commander also told us that only two fighters must share a trench and that we should avoid speaking loudly at night. It was rainy season; hence, the ground was very wet.

By then, I had gone for two days without bathing and I was itching all over my body due to dirt. The rain had actually spoilt our arrival in the area.

As the rain continued falling, our trenches filled up with water like pools, a development that forced us to sleep outside the trenches. Soon I came to realise that the rain would be part of our new environment.

As professional guerrilla fighters, who had no permanent structures to protect us from the rain, we had to live with it as long as we were in the combat areas doing practical fighting.

It was also at this moment I concluded that although the rain was seasonal, it would also cover us during attacks on enemy positions so I did not need to worry much about it. This was my personal feeling.
Other comrades, who were standing near me, chose not to reveal how they felt about the pouring rain. Two comrades, who made their views known, did not directly complain about the rain but about the size of the tent, which exposed them to the rain.

Comrades Namuxwika and Kaunda blamed the manufacturer of the tent for “manufacturing useless garments”, which could not protect their users from the rain although they were made to do so. As the two comrades complained, I was talking to myself about the challenges we were about to face inside Namibia, especially the fact that all of us were completely new in the area of our operations.

Once the rain stopped, I moved around checking how the other comrades felt about the new operating environment.
To my surprise, each comrade I spoke to was more interested in crossing the border into Namibia without further delay.

They were all unmoved by the pouring rain and thick jungle surrounding us. Comrade Sacky, who was soaked to the skin by the rain, spoke about the need to go into Namibia to test our fighting capabilities and spirit. He did not consider the rain as a challenge, as he had allegedly gone through that kind of challenge when he was sent by his father to look after cattle at the cattle post deep in the bush in Angola.

Because of that environment in which Cde Sacky was raised, he was ever ready to meet the challenge head-on. His determination, fearless attitude and high morale actually had a great influence on my future combat experience at the battlefield.

I had observed Cde Sacky’s determination to overcome challenges during our training – when food was scarce.
This was the time when food was in serious shortage, yet we were required to train as if we had plenty of everything necessary for our training. That was a frustrating moment in my life where two days could pass without a proper meal and yet one was expected to commit to training fully.

The second day at that camp was characterised by sounds of big guns firing at the Angola-Namibia border. We were told that it was our fighters who had engaged the enemy either inside Namibia or along the border.

The PLAN fighters, whom we found in the base, told us that they had sent a reinforced platoon to destroy an enemy temporary base along the border inside Namibia. The reinforced platoon returned in the early hours of our third day at the base.

As the fighters arrived carrying two wounded comrades, we, the new fighters, were told to remain where we were probably to avoid seeing the injured fighters.

From a distance, we could hear laughter and ululations and could see uncontrolled hugging between the returning fighters and those who remained in the base.

The hugging continued, giving the impression that the battle was actually a success. However, the question that nagged me was if the mission had been a success, why were we barred from talking to the returning fighters. I was yet to find the right answer to clear my concern. The answer only came during the day, as one of the old fighters told me that this was the practice among the fighting units that when old fighters arrived from the battlefield, they should not interact with the new fighters until the overall commander was fully briefed about the extent of the battle.

As we waited to hear from the old fighters, I saw two fighters wearing South African soldiers’ uniforms and each carrying more than two rifles, probably captured enemy guns.

To my surprise, four of the old fighters, only known to me by their combat names as Hayuumba, Bazooka, Katengela, and Mushindi, walked towards us.

They came straight to our positions to great and chat with us. Katengela, who was a Section Commander, greeted us first by hugging every one of us before asking if we were ready to fight the ‘Boers’, to which we responded in unison in the affirmative.

“We went there and gave them what they deserved,’’ shouted Cde Katengela before we started laughing loud and eager to know more about what happened then.
“We had enough firepower that ruined their position. We heard cries all over the base and managed to capture war materials and killed many ‘Boers’, the fighters told us in jovial mood.

They also told us that during the battle they saw ‘Boers’ burning to ashes helplessly. This they said without telling us the number of dead ‘Boers.’

Neither I nor other comrades who were there were interested in hearing how many of our comrades were killed during the battle, as that was secondary information.

We were more interested in hearing how the enemy was beaten than learning about our own casualties.
The success story at the battlefield reinforced our desire to test our own firepower against the enemy.
We all had new AK-47, RPG-7 (bazookas), RPK machine guns, 82mm and 62mm mortars, many hand grenades, and anti-tank mines.

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