The Jungle Fighter: Leaving for the German Democratic Republic

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IN JULY 1988, Cde Shikongo informed me that I would go for leadership training in Europe, though he did not tell me the country where I was supposed to go. As was normal practice then I had to undergo various medical tests to determine my health status before a final decision was taken.

After passing the medical examinations, I and ten other comrades from PLAN Provincial Headquarters left for Luanda escorted by a convoy of over 10 trucks carrying over 40 fighters.

It took us three days to reach Luanda through Lobito, mainly because of numerous breakdowns and extra caution due to the presence of UNITA bandits along the road leading to the Angolan capital city, Luanda.

It was on the road leading to Luanda where the fiercest battles between PLAN fighters and UNITA bandits were fought, especially in Eendede. In fact, PLAN fighters patrolled the entire road between Lubango and Luanda to guard against UNITA bandit attacks on both civilian vehicles and SWAPO trucks taking supplies from Luanda to Lubango. Because this road was a vital supply corridor to Lubango, it was well protected by PLAN fighters and Angolan armed forces.

When we passed through Eendebe, we saw burnt vehicle shells, and that portion of the road was seriously damaged.
Upon arrival in Luanda, we were taken to a transit camp where we were well received and given tents to sleep in and some blankets. We spent more than a month at the transit camp waiting for our departure. During this period, we mainly enjoyed the new environment – spending most of the time drinking alcoholic beverages and offloading ships at the harbour, and often undertaking cleaning exercises in the camp.

The commanders of the camp also made sure that we had enough clothes to wear.
Often we would be taken to the logistics warehouses to receive bundles of second-hand clothes, which we sometimes sold to the local people to raise cash for our own use, mainly to buy alcohol and a few things for our own consumption. For the first time, some of us felt counted, as this was the first time that I had a decent breakfast every day. We also spent much of our spare time entertained by Ndilimani Cultural Troupe, which was very popular in SWAPO rear bases/camps.

During our stay in the transit camp, Cde Katamila and others also took us through political education, as part of preparations before we left for the GDR.

At the beginning of September 1988, we left Luanda on board the former Soviet Airline to Berlin, the then capital city of the German Democratic Republic. There we were later taken to the institute of Political Science in Rostock where we spent over 10 months studying political science and political economy and other subjects related to leadership training. The Rostock Institute of Political Studies was under the control of the Socialist Party of Germany.
The party did everything for us while studying there.

The course was intensive and challenging mainly because the majority of the students had a poor formal education background. In order to mitigate this challenge, we formed study groups so that the comrades who would have grasped the subjects could assist those who did not understand fully what was taught in class. Most of the comrades who were part of our group of 25 had just arrived from the battlefield, therefore had more experience in commanding in the battles than studying books, most of which were philosophical and economics textbooks. We attended class seven days a week, as there was nothing like Sunday – we were in a communist country.

After five months of intensive study, the school would organise excursions and mobilisation sessions where we were taken out to address members of the Socialist Party of Germany to render both political and material support to our liberation movement SWAPO.

Sometimes we were taken out to address workers and students, as part of the leadership training and mobilisation campaigns directed at the public to support the Namibian people’s liberation struggle. The people were given opportunities to ask questions about Namibia in general and its natural resources in particular.
From time to time, we were also allowed to visit SWAPO children’s kindergartens all over the GDR where political education sessions were held, mainly briefing children about the political situation in Namibia and how the PLAN fighters had intensified the liberation war inside the country.

One of the interesting courses in our leadership training was the principle of reconciliation.
We learnt about the importance of reconciling the masses divided by the war and the benefits which could accrue from reconciliation. Our lecturer taught us that although reconciling opposing forces was challenging, it was fundamental if the liberated country had to maintain peace and develop economically.
We were further told that reconciliation would prevent civil war if properly executed.

Fitness was also part of our training, so whenever we were not very busy, we used to play soccer, volleyball and netball or simply jog around the sports field. Since the institute had students from different countries and liberation movements such as the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), we were able to interact with them and learn about their political, economical and social challenges.

At the beginning of May 1988, a month before we finished our studies and eventually returned to our second home, Angola, we were informed about ongoing discussions over the implementation of United Nations (UN) Resolution 435.

Towards the end of May 1988, we were officially informed that some SWAPO members had arrived in Namibia from Zambia and Angola to prepare for the implementation of UN Resolution 435, which could lead to the holding of an United Nations-supervised election.

It was also then that we were informed we were to go straight to Namibia without passing through Angola. The news brought mixed reactions among the students. Some of us refused to fly from the GDR to Namibia without our guns, so we refused to follow such instruction, which we considered then as a complete sell-out. We requested the SWAPO Representative in Berlin to convey our position to the SWAPO leadership in Angola that we would not obey such a ‘sell-out’ directive.

This development temporarily divided our group into two: those who wanted to obey the party’s instructions and those who felt that there was no way they could fly directly to Windhoek, as they needed to get their firearms from Angola first before they could enter Namibia.

The majority of students who refused to go to Windhoek were mainly those fighters who had been at the battlefront, including myself. After the SWAPO leadership had been informed about our position, a delegation from SWAPO Headquarters in Luanda came to address us on the issue, mainly to convince us that SWAPO had signed a ceasefire agreement with the apartheid government, therefore all SWAPO members were to go home and prepare for the general election due by November 1989.

The comrades also brought videos showing the arrival of some SWAPO leaders in Windhoek. After a thorough briefing, we later agreed to fly directly from the GDR to Namibia, though I was unhappy with this decision. I felt that coming to Namibia was extremely risky for me, knowing the enemy’s desperate attempts to re-arrest me after I escaped from their custody on 30 October 1986.

Since the UN was spearheading the repatriation, we had to wait a little longer before we left the GDR. Instead of leaving on 28 June 1989, our flight was rescheduled three times before we eventually left on 27 July 1989. We arrived at JG Strydom Airport in Windhoek on 28 July 1989 at around 09h00.

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