Peter Ekandjo: The Jungle Fighter…..Staring death in the face in the torture chambers

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Beatings, electrical shocks and other mental torture techniques would not change my determination to die with the truth in order to save future PLAN operations.

That time I was not mentally prepared to appease my enemy. My approach was that of a freedom fighter, prepared to die for a just cause. I had in-built resistance, based on ideology and world outlook and for that reason I had a strong cause to die for, if necessary.

On his return, Du Plessis asked me to tell him what I wanted to tell him. He said he was tired of asking me questions, which I did not answer properly. I kept on looking down, wondering where to start with the briefing. I knew that whatever I told him would not save me from torture. Therefore, I just kept quiet.

Eventually Du Plessis stood up, “You think I’m here to waste my time with you terrorist, he shouted at the top of his voice. They started beating me up, as if they were not beating a human being. The beating continued until I started vomiting.

When he saw me vomiting a mixture of food and blood, Du Plessis immediately stopped the sergeants from beating me. Blood was flowing all over my body, prompting Du Plessis to summon the doctor to attend to my wounds and further examine me, since I was vomiting blood.

A military ambulance took me to Oshakati Hospital where I was X-rayed and treated. Later in the evening, the doctor brought me back to the detention camp without telling me anything.

This time they did not blindfold me before they took me to the hospital, so I was able to see the surrounding of the hospital, including the nurses, some of whom came to clean my wounds. One nurse almost cried when she saw my body, blaming the ‘omakakunyas’ for brutalising innocent people.

She did not ask me if I was a SWAPO fighter, but was very sympathetic to my suffering. I wish I knew her. On arrival back at the detention camp, Smith took me near the tent where he later brought me porridge, biscuits and coffee. After I finished eating, Smith took me to the pole for my vigil. He tied my legs, arms and neck around the pole before he poured cold water over me, as had become routine.

That day Smith only turned up once at midnight to pour water on me and kick me in the legs with his boots. It appeared he enjoyed kicking a bloody terrorist. After all, nobody would say a word against it.

At around 05h00, Smith turned up once again to untie me. This time he made me sit on a plastic chair placed in an open space opposite Du Plessis’s office. Before 07h00, he brought me coffee without sugar and biscuits in a plastic bag.

Du Plessis arrived earlier than usual that day, accompanied by six soldiers. He ordered the soldiers to line up outside before he called me to meet them. Then he asked all the soldiers whether they had met me before in Angola, or elsewhere in Namibia.

None of the soldiers knew me and I had never met anyone of them either. Du Plessis then ordered me to go back to my chair, while he escorted the soldiers out of the detention camp.

I sat in the chair until Du Plessis returned with the two white torturers. He immediately fixed his gaze on me without a word, before he kicked my waist. “Jy sal kak vandag. Ek sal jou dood maak vandag,” (You’re gonna shit today. I’m going to kill you today.),” he shouted while reaching for his notes.

Du Plessis later warned me that he had been trying not to kill me, but he was not sure anymore if I would survive the day, because he could no longer stand his enemy, “a terrorist”, telling him lies.

“Where is your gun?’’ Du Plessis shouted before pausing for a few minutes. I told him that I had left all my weapons with the people who escorted me into Namibia, because I was not allowed to carry any weapon.
“Bullshit,’’ he swore, as he lunged for my neck, squeezing it hard. He ordered the two torturers to apply electrical shock to my fingers and ears using high voltage. I blacked out.

When I came to, I found myself lying on the floor, covered with a heavy blanket while one white soldier watched over me. I remained still and pretended as if I was still unconscious. I lay in that state for over an hour before Du Plessis came to check if I was alive or dead.

He later ordered the white soldier to help me into a chair again with my legs tied to it. Du Plessis spat saliva into my face and burnt me with cigarettes, while boasting that the South African army was strong enough to destroy SWAPO and the communists.

Minutes later, he ordered the torturers to pour ice-cold water over my body before the beatings commenced in earnest. He warned that he would not stop the torturers from beating me before I was dead, or started telling the truth, because he was tired of listening to my old story.

“If they fail to kill you, I will kill you with my own hands,” Du Plessis said, stubbornly clenching his jaw. Seeing that I might end up dead as he was suggesting, Du Plessis stopped the torturers from continuing with the beatings.

A short while later, he returned with renewed energy and started bombarding me with a barrage of questions, such as: “What is your real combat name? Who is your commander? Where did you hide your weapons? What was your real mission in Namibia? Name the civilians who have been assisting you with food and accommodation. Where are terrorists hiding in Namibia? How many people did you kill since you arrived in Namibia? When did you enter Namibia and through which area(s)? When were you to go back to Angola and who were you to meet there? Who were the PLAN fighters operating inside Namibia?”

Although I was under extreme pressure, I was equally determined never to say things that could lead to my real activities. After answering a few questions, Du Plessis stood up, shouting that I was telling him the same “shit”. Eventually, he ordered his henchmen to teach me a lesson again for I was telling him the same story of yesterday.
Once again, the torturers took up their positions with their hard pipes and started executing their senior’s order. What followed was history, as I could not remember what actually happened thereafter. I found myself lying in a bed in the same small room in hospital, guarded by one of the torturers.

At the time I woke up, a black woman – probably a nurse – was holding my arm up as if to check my blood pressure. This time my hands were free from handcuffs, but my legs were chained to a bed. I was breathing with difficulty and both my head and legs were swollen. The nurse gave me tablets and put me on oxygen to help me breathe.

Thereafter I slept until late evening when I was blindfolded and taken back to the detention camp. Once we got to the detention camp, Smith took me to the usual poles for a vigil until early morning when he took me out into one tent to sit on a chained bed.

I did not eat that day until the following morning. Although my body was still swollen, my breathing had actually improved. This time, a black soldier, who did not speak Oshiwambo guarded me. When I asked him to give me drinking water, he only answered in Afrikaans – also in a strange accent.

My new protector kept on telling me in Afrikaans that I should not be afraid of him, because he was also a black man just like me. He later accused those who had beaten me severely, calling them ‘Boers’, who did not like blacks.

At around 10h00, a well-dressed white man came into the tent and asked me how I felt. He later told me to follow him to one of the tents for further questioning. This white man started saying that he felt sorry for what happened to me. He further said that I was not supposed to be beaten up like that because I was a prisoner of war.

Moreover, he told me he had come to ask me few questions politely and that I should try to cooperate, because he was not there to beat me. He later took out a small notebook wherein he had jotted down his questions. His questions were similar to the ones asked by Du Plessis, although this time there was no beating at all. I answered the few questions he asked me, as I did previously.

This man was probably a trained psychologist and intelligence officer, because he really tried to handle me as if he knew me. Although he was not happy with my responses, he nevertheless continued with his forced smile. I did not take him for granted, because I knew that whatever I told him would come up in future interrogations, so I did not divert from my line of answering their questions.

After the man left, Smith came to collect me and put me outside to sit between Du Plessis’s office and the torture chamber. I was worried that I was too close to Du Plessis, as he could easily pull me into the torture chamber to continue with his torture and beatings.

Du Plessis and two other white men arrived just after 07h00 for another interrogation session. Du Plessis fixed his gaze on me without saying a word. When I saw him, I felt as if I was dying. I did not even want to hear his strong voice at all.

This time, Du Plessis spared me from beatings. H e turned himself into a psychologist. He started telling me that if I told him everything he wanted to know, he would pay me and later would help me join the army to fight the Cubans, SWAPO terrorists, and Russians who wanted to take everything from the whites, including their wives. As Du Plessis preached to me like a born-again Christian, I seethed with anger.

I had hidden my pistol and four magazines full of bullets at Enolyexaya. I had also hidden my AK-47 and over a hundred bullets, including other weapons and uniforms, at Oyihole across the border in Angola. All these materials and arsenal would have to die with me, as I was the only person who knew where I had hidden them.

He left me in that torture chamber at around 16h00, dejected. Soon after Du Plessis left, Sheehama turned up to tell me that he was also a SWAPO intelligence officer, who was arrested inside Namibia while on a mission. He spent about 30 minutes urging me to cooperate with Du Plessis in order to avoid further suffering. Sheehama further told me that he had also gone through the same suffering, but after he started cooperating with the ‘Boers,’ the beatings and torture stopped.

Feeling extremely exhausted, I ended up dozing in my chair. When Smith found me sleeping when he returned he kicked me so hard that I fell off the chair. I spent the night sitting, instead of the usual standing, until early the following morning. For the first time since my arrest, I had spent the night sitting.

The following morning I was taken to shower – the first bath in six days – before I was taken into a drum-like cell, where I stayed from May 7, 1986 until July 10, 1986.

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