Jungle Fighter: Miracle escape from enemy hands

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On 30 October 1986 at around 17:30, just after I woke up in the tent, corporal Smith entered the tent and started shouting “Peter, Peter, you bloody terrorist, come! The time has come for you to tell us the truth.” Smith, who
carried a rifle with a bayonet, immediately started shoving me from behind with the bayonet telling me to run to Major Du Plessis’ office.

A few metres from the tent on the way to the office, Smith ordered me to remove my underwear, which I refused to do. He took his knife and cut loose my underwear, leaving me completely naked. After cutting loose my underwear, he hit me on the right shoulder with the butt of his rifle. As I sat on my bare buttocks with knees upright I decided
to die escaping. I had two options: To pretend that I was seriously sick during the night so that the British guards could open the door of the cell and in the process I would wrestle the gun from one of the guards or attempt to escape and end up killed.

Later I found the two options I had considered riskier, as I could end up being wounded instead of being killed, as I had wished. Since I had no better option I decided to die escaping from the cell through the open roof.
With my legs unchained and hands free, I chose to climb out of the cell. The drum-like cell was quite narrow and the wall was corrugated from top to bottom, so I decided to climb with legs astride using the ridges on the wall as my foothold to scale up the wall. At midnight I tried to scale up the cell wall but fell down, generating so much noise that
soldiers came to investigate. Luckily, when I fell I did not hurt myself, though my legs were in pain. I peeped through the small hole of the drum-like cell to see whether soldiers were coming. I saw them running towards my cell but when they were close, I started coughing just to indicate that I was still in the cell. About one-and-a-half hours later, I climbed the cell wall again. This time I managed to reach the top, though I was very tired. I hung on for a few minutes to catch my breath before I lowered myself using the steel pole outside the cell on which the piece of canvas
covering the roof opening was secured.

Once on the ground outside the cell, I dashed behind a pit latrine near the cell where I hid behind the small tent covering it. I could see soldiers still playing cards east of the camp, a distance from where I hid myself. Without wasting much time, I started crawling towards the mound of soil that formed part of the prison wall.
As if there was someone pushing me, I immediately started crawling through the bottom barbed wire and found myself stuck between the zinc and the barbed wire before reaching the top. Within a few seconds, I had pushed until I firmly held the top of the pole to jump outside the camp. Trouble started once again, as I was caught by the
barbed wire on top of the zinc sheets. With nerves of steel, I threw myself across the top and found myself again hanging on the wire. God is great, just as the soldiers came after me, I fell onto the ground. I bolted for dear life in the eastern direction, with the soldiers in hot pursuit shouting “stop, stop, stop.” The four soldiers chasing me did not have their weapons, as they were probably asleep when they were woken up by the noise and simply started running in my direction to apprehend me.

The soldiers carrying weapons could not open fire immediately for fear that they could end up killing or wounding those who were chasing me. Everything happened so quickly. Later when I reached the oshana pan, east of Oshakati, just about 500 metres from the camp, the soldiers started shooting in my direction. One of the bullets hit
me on my left leg around the knee, but that did not stop me from running.

When I had crossed the pan into nearby bushes, the enemy fired two flares while I could hear sounds of Casspirs coming from Oniimwandi base towards me. The flares could not help them much as I was already in the bush on the other side of the pan. While soldiers pursued my footprints with the help of flares, Casspirs were circling the
area from south to north. They were faster than I was, so I was forced to change from an eastern direction to the southern direction where the Casspirs were coming from. Deep in the bush I once again turned in the eastern
direction until I reached Elyambala village between Ongwediva and Oshakati. Later as I continued running I could hear two enemy reconnaissance planes circling south-east of Oshakati over where I entered the bush when I escaped. The planes were dropping flares and firing probably to assist foot soldiers track my footprints and scare me not to run fast. By that time I had already reached south-east of Elyambalka village. I was naked, bleeding from the bullet
wound and wounds inflicted by razor wire and barbed wire as well as by thorns and dry twigs as I ran through the bush in the moonless night.

I ran toward the tarred road between Ongwediva town and Shipepe cuca shop where I followed the road towards Ondangwa. Just after I passed between Shipepe and Opoto cuca shops four Buffel trucks approached from the Ondangwa direction following the roads to Ongwediva. I immediately went off the road and hid myself in nearby
bushes, stepping on stones and dry grass to make sure the enemy would not trace my footprints.

When the trucks passed I went back to the road using the same tactic. It was getting bright, though the sun was still
to rise, so I could clearly see where not to step. I followed a water stream for about one kilometre or so before I climbed up a jackal berry tree with thick branches to hide. It was not very far from the main road so the enemy would not have thought that I would hide in that area and the tree had thick branches to cover me from both aerial and
ground observation.

As the sun rose, I could hear sounds of helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft and trucks in the western direction where I had come from. Around 10:00 I saw the reconnaissance aircraft flying following the tarred road
towards Ondangwa and back to Oshakati. At around 10:30 foot soldiers were walking on both sides of the tarred road moving towards Ondangwa. I felt relieved when they passed the spot where I got off the road. It was then that I realised that they had lost me for good. The reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters and trucks shifted their search in the northern direction.

At midday three small children, two boys and a girl, arrived to play under the tree I was hiding. They were also
collecting dried fruits from the tree. I was worried they might climb up the tree. As I sat on top of the tree
naked, I desperately wanted the sun to set so I could go further south to Enolyexaya village where I hid by pistol. What bothered me was how I would get there naked. The distance from the tree to Enolyexauya was too long to cover while naked.

At dusk I decided to lower myself from the tree although I could hardly move, as my entire body was extremely swollen. My feet could not step on branches and I slipped and fell off the tree as I tried to get down.
Fortunately I did not injure myself badly. I forced myself to move following a small bush path in the southern direction until I came across a homestead. At that moment, an ingenious idea struck me. I would circle the homestead to see if I could find clothes hung on the line or tree branches fencing off the homestead. Luckily there were clothes hanging on the hedge. I grabbed a pair of shorts, the only one available, as the rest were female clothes. I proceeded with my painful journey to Omagongati village, where I went into a homestead I knew.

I was given first aid treatment. The owner of the homestead, Mr Nakwafila, also gave me his bicycle, as I could no longer lift my legs. He also gave me a tracksuit, underwear, and a pair of sandals to wear. The family gave me warm water to bath and to drink as I could not  swallow cold water. Later on I proceeded southwards passing through Ehaffo and other villages, arriving at Enolyexaya at about 05:40. I went straight to where I had hidden my pistol
and other documents. After I got my gun I went into the homestead of Mr Peter Eneas Mundonga – the man I considered one of my heroes. When  he saw me, he immediately asked whether I was sent by the enemy and where I was coming from.

After I narrated to him what had happened and after he saw my condition, he immediately instructed me to follow him deeper inside the homestead before he disappeared for some minutes. He returned with a shotgun, which he gave me to shoot the Boers in the event they followed me. He gave me 12 bullets while he got a belt full of bullets ready to fight.

He took me into a hut where his wife, Meme Paulina, brought warm water to nurse my wounds. I was lying on a
traditional mat when she treated me. Children in the house were told that I was involved in a car accident coming from Windhoek. Children knew me as one of their uncles, Frans Amutenya, working in Windhoek. I slept in that homestead confident that I was actually in good hands.

After realising that my wounds had become septic, the old man gave the wife money to go and buy medicine at Oshakati the following day, 02 November 1986. Meme Paulina came back a bit late from Oshakati, with medicine and a pamphlet with my photo that had been dropped by enemy aircraft urging people to report me to the
nearest security offices to be rearrested. Two prizes were up fro grabs if anyone reported my whereabouts and I was arrested – that person would be paid R280,000. Alternatively, if anyone reported me and I got killed, the person would be paid R170,000. I stayed in that homestead recuperating from exhaustion and the wounds for five days until I left for Angola on 6 November 1986.

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