Peter Ekandjo: The Jungle Fighter – Campaigning for 1989 elections and independence

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After two weeks in former Ovamboland, I left for Windhoek to participate in the election campaigns in the southern part of the country: Lüderitz, Oranjemund, Aus, Rosh Pinah and other areas between Keetmanshoop and Luderitz. On return to Windhoek, I was given a Makarov pistol for self-defence, as the security situation was volatile at the time.

At the end of August 1989, I left for Lüderitz to join the other comrades whom I found busy campaigning for the SWAPO Party. Our team comprised many well-known personalities, such as Cde Ida Jimmy, who was the head of the campaigning team in that part of the country, Simon, David Shoombe, Paulus Okambwale Konondjeyi and other comrades.

Since the area we had to cover was too large and we had to travel long distances, the group was split up. Shoombe and I were redeployed to spearhead the election campaigns in Aus village and the surrounding areas, Rosh Pinah mining area, and other farms between Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz.

The two of us were permanently stationed at Aus to assist local SWAPO activists to design effective campaign strategies in areas controlled by farmers with a strong apartheid mentality and right-wing connections. The area was heavily contested by the DTA and its allies assisted by white farmers, who treated farmworkers as their property. We campaigned in that area from September until the UN-supervised election in November 1989.

Farmers in that area strictly warned their workers never to attend SWAPO rallies and meetings, so whenever we went out to visit farming communities, the people were reluctant to meet us, fearing expulsion from the farms by the white owners.

Many a time whenever they saw our vehicle approaching their farms, they simply dispersed from their living quarters in all directions so that by the time we arrived, there was nobody to address. Later on, we resorted to organising braais where people could come to eat meat free of charge and that way we were able to educate them politically.

In towns and settlements, such as Aus and Rosh Pinah, we had to conduct house-to-house campaigns to ensure that every resident received the SWAPO message. We had a very energetic team, which was ready to frustrate other political parties’ campaigns in the same area.

A few days before the election, many people who supported apartheid-established political parties had joined SWAPO, thus our efforts had actually paid off, as many people who initially regarded SWAPO as a ‘terrorist’ organisation came to realise that what they were told all along was mere propaganda aimed at denying SWAPO victory in that election.

I left Lüderitz for Windhoek three days before voting started. I had registered to vote in Windhoek, so I was required to go and vote there.

On the second day in Windhoek, my brother Thikameni Silverius sent a message warning me not to visit the village, as Koevoet members were looking for me. Late one afternoon fully armed apartheid regime security agents had gone looking for me at my father’s homestead in eight Nissan bakkies.

According to the message, they had arrived a few days after I left the village at the end of August 1989. That message confirmed information I had received earlier from an acquaintance, who warned me that the ‘Boers’ were still looking for me to punish me for escaping from their detention at Oshakati on 0ctober 30, 1986.

After voting, I returned to Aus where we were to wait for the counting process to be completed. We left Windhoek in the afternoon and only arrived at Aus in the morning. Our journey was very tense, as initial results announced showed that the DTA was leading the poll throughout the night to the extent that some of us demanded that the driver take us back to Windhoek so that we could go and plan our journey back to Angola.

We felt, at the time, that Aus was far from the Namibia-Angola border, hence, we wanted to be near the border so that if the DTA won the election, we would simply cross the border into Angola to restart the fighting.
When it became almost clear that the DTA would win the election, I almost had a heart attack, as I was breathing with difficulty. However, on hearing the election results for Kavango and Ovamboland, all SWAPO members in Aus village went into a frenzy, dancing and raising the winning flag high.

During that time of counting, the apartheid-established political parties were ahead of SWAPO – to such an extent that DTA supporters came to our office threatening that we should start wetting the SWAPO flags because we would have to swallow them no matter how hard.

DTA supporters ran around Aus village singing party songs and calling SWAPO members and supporters all sorts of names. Nevertheless, we remained calm until the last vote was counted, which culminated in a huge SWAPO victory.
We organised braai after braai, celebrating the people’s victory over evildoers. We vowed never to provoke anyone during the celebration of our victory. Just after the vote count was completed, I had to return to Lüderitz before I was redeployed to Oranjemund to monitor the security situation in that area.

After a few days in Oranjemund, I was called to report to the capital to wait for the Constitution-making process to be completed before the big day arrived.

While waiting for the completion of the Constitution-making process, many PLAN fighters, including myself, were put on high alert and were deployed at various strategic areas ready to respond to any provocative acts by the colonial regime’s agents who wanted to derail the democratic process.

All SWAPO members and supporters were on instruction never to provoke anybody, as we were aware that enemy agents were looking for an excuse to spark civil war in the country.

While on high alert, we were also preparing for the dawn of a new era – the hoisting of the flag of freedom, peace and stability in our motherland and the fall of the evil flag of the apartheid colonial regime of South Africa in the Land of the Brave, the Republic of Namibia.

Windhoek became my residence from the end of November 1989 until March 21, 1990 when the country gained its rightful place as a newly liberated democratic Republic of Namibia, after immense sacrifices by the sons and daughters of the soil.

Come March 20, 1990, the dawn of Independence was just a few minutes around the corner. Some of us, who witnessed bloodbaths during the battles against the occupation forces, could not believe that the Independence that we fought for was about to be realised. I attended the inauguration of the Republic’s first president, founding president Sam Nujoma.

As the flag of evil came down on March 21, 1990, I remembered the trouble I went through at the hands of the apartheid security agents. I also remembered the thousands of comrades, who sacrificed their previous lives during the liberation struggle.

At that time, I felt the agony of the struggle, the brutality of the colonial forces and the urgency of reconciliation among the antagonised Namibian society. After the most celebrated independence of the new republic, I went back to my village with an accomplished memory.

I stayed at the village for the rest of March to try and re-establish my village life and enjoy the serene environment, together with my parents and relatives, as well as to catch up with old friends. At the beginning of April 1990, I as summoned to Windhoek for employment in the Office of the President of the Republic of Namibia, where I am still working.

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