Reconnaissance operation inside Namibia

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AT THE beginning of the third week at that base, the Detachment Commander summoned our Reconnaissance Commander, Comrade Lukas Nakale (Kalute), to the Detachment Commanding Post for fresh instructions. Cde Kalute was ordered to prepare 10 fighters, who would be sent on a reconnaissance operation inside Namibia, mainly to familiarise themselves with the area ahead of the Detachment Commander’s visit to that operational area. I was among the reconnaissance fighters picked to undertake the mission. The selected team comprised comrades Kalute, Sacky Andreas, Kaunda, Edwards, Markus (Namuxwika), Shivute Aluvete, Gabriel Nakwatumba, Kasita and myself, among others.

This was not an easy assignment, as all of us were new in the area. Apart from Cde Sacky, who had herded cattle in that area decades ago, all of us had no knowledge of the terrain and the route leading to the border. Although Cde Sacky could not precisely remember everything, he remained our hope. At least Cde Sacky could remember here and there, especially the direction to the border and the villages both inside and along the common border.
He later proved to be an irreplaceable member of our team. Cde Sacky played a pivotal role in everything we did during that particular mission. It was through his leading role that we were able to cross into Namibia without getting lost in the thick jungle of Angola and also made our familiarisation trip a success.

When it was time to leave for Namibia, we were called to the Commanding Post of the Detachment Commander where we were given combat orders and food rations ranging from tinned meat to biscuits.
We were also given extra bullets, hand grenades, anti-personnel mines and water containers. After we had finished our preparations for the mission, we were ordered to form a circle so that the commander could address us. He told us that we were crossing the border into Namibia to familiarise ourselves with the security situation there and not to fight. However, he cautioned that in the event of enemy attacks, we had to fight back. The commander further warned us to behave well to avoid casualties. He reminded us that the area we were about to visit was new to the PLAN fighters, therefore was full of enemy informers and puppets who could easily report us to the enemy forces.
Most importantly, the commander ordered us to visit villages near the border, especially those north of Okongo military base.

We left the base around 15h00, as we wanted to spend the night halfway to the border. We planned to cross the border in the morning just after the enemy troops conducted their patrols, which were mostly done between 09h00 and 10h00. Led by Cde Sacky, we left the base southwards from Ohandabo, which was about 50 kilometres near the border. We walked until it was completely dark and at around 20h00, we decided to rest for the night deep in the jungle.

We organised our position facing where we had come from ready to open fire on whoever followed our foot tracks. Before we slept, we heard strange movements west of our position forcing us to be ready to open fire. Later, we realised that the movement was actually that of either lions or other wild animals. We woke up at around 05h00 to proceed with our tireless journey. At about 11h00, we arrived at Okambolokwena on the Angolan side of the border. Okambolokwena is cut by the common border – the bigger part being on the Angolan side. As we moved north-east of Okambolokwena, we came across fresh enemy foot tracks facing westwards.

We suspected the tracks to be either those of the ‘Boers’ or UNITA and FNLA (Front for the Liberation of Angola) bandits, who used to patrol that area of the border.
The moment we spotted the tracks, we all took up kneeling positions pointing our guns in the direction of enemy movement and ready to open fire. After ascertaining that there was no enemy movement or presence, we proceeded towards the border. A few metres from where we had seen the enemy foot tracks, we once again came across fresh enemy foot tracks. This time, we did not stop as we realised that we were just a few metres from the borderline. Nevertheless, the second fresh enemy foot tracks made us conclude that the area was heavily patrolled by the enemy; hence we needed to be on high alert to avoid being attacked. I had a feeling that any time a fight could erupt.
Our fighting spirit was very high, as none of us seemed worried much about the enemy patrols. Each fighter had held his gun ready to open fire in the event of a provoked attack by the enemy.

From the border, we proceeded in parallel formation, as we were not sure whether the enemy was following our foot tracks or not. However, after walking for about two kilometres, we changed our formation into a column so that we could move fast from the border area. We arrived at Omboloka village from the north-eastern direction.
Cde Sacky and I went into the nearest homestead to get fresh information on the whereabouts of enemy forces in the area and also to get drinking water since our water containers were now empty. When we got to the homestead, Cde Sacky went inside while I remained at the entrance to cover him.

After a few minutes in the homestead, he came out rushing in a disturbed manner.
Before I could ask, he told me that the enemy forces were just seen at the edge of the western side of the village therefore we needed to move fast so that we could warn the others.
We rushed quickly to give the others the news of the enemy presence. Upon hearing the news, Cde Kalute ordered that we continue with our journey to the next village – Okandemona where we would also get drinking water. Okandemona is situated about 20 kilometres south of Omboloka village.

We arrived at Okandemona at about 16h00. As a routine, Cde Sacky and two other comrades had to go into the nearest homestead, that of Mr Philipus Ndjuluwa, to obtain the latest news about enemy movements in the area. They were told that the enemy forces had passed through the village at midday and it was suspected they either positioned themselves in the bush west of the village or left for Onamatadiva village, about 17 kilometres west of Okandemona. The commander decided to send three reconnaissance cadres to patrol that area to confirm the presence or absence of the enemy forces. The three comrades circled the village and later confirmed that the enemy forces had left the village towards the west. With this fresh information, the commander ordered that we overnight in that village.

Later on, Cde Sacky, Cde Namuxwika and I were ordered to go into the homesteads to organise food and water from the villagers and also to invite them to attend a political mobilisation meeting that evening. The first week of January 1979 was a milestone in my life; it was the week when for the first time since I went into exile I entered a colonised country fully armed and ready to liberate it through the barrel of the gun.

It was my first time to cross the border from a foreign land holding an AK-47 in my hand ready to engage the colonial forces on the battlefield. As we moved from one homestead to another, my heart was telling me that my new environment was that of a PLAN combatant and no more that of a trainee.

I was impressed by the way villagers welcomed our presence in their midst. Wherever we went, they showed their readiness to provide us with information on enemy movements and collaborators in the area as well as food. By the time we returned to our positions, some of the villagers had already brought food and water for both drinking and bathing. The readiness of the villagers to cooperate with us reinforced my desire to fight the enemy forces.
I was equally impressed by the high morale of the fighters, who, despite having walked long distances, did not display a negative attitude towards each other. By the look of things, every fighter appeared prepared to pay with his life to liberate Namibia from the yoke of colonialism and oppression, as well as endure great sacrifice on behalf of the people of the colonised land. As we interacted with the villagers, two comrades were stationed a distance from our position to alert us of any strange movements.

The posing of the comrades was also meant to prevent surprise attacks by the enemy forces. When it was dark, we decided to shift from the edge of the bush to an open space in the middle of the village. The middle of the village had fewer bushes hence we were able to easily detect enemy movements at a distance.

Among the villagers who brought us food and water was a boy who had met the enemy forces while herding cattle in the bush between Okandemona and Onamatadiva villages.

The boy confirmed that he had seen the enemy forces leave for the latter village at around 14h00 that day. With this information, we were certain that enemy forces had actually left the village, as was reported earlier on in other villagers, hence we decided to continue with our political mobilisation work. The villagers turned up in big numbers to hear the revolutionary message. We started by singing revolutionary songs in order to soften the hearts of those who had been indoctrinated with enemy propaganda.

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