Close to 300 men and women, who narrowly escaped certain death at the hands of the South African Defence Force in 1978 in Angola, had nothing but praise and reverence for Namibia’s founding president Dr Sam Nujoma.
This was evident in the many liberation songs and chants all portraying Nujoma as a fervent, fearless leade,r on whose’ shoulders all pinned their hopes. From ‘Nujoma natangwe, nambelela’ (Let’s praise and respect Nujoma), ‘meke loye Nujoma ndikwatemo’ (Nujoma let me hold your hand), to the famous ‘Sema oulipeni, elulepandela’ – Sam where are you? Hold up the [Namibian] flag.
This was true for those who boarded buses in Windhoek at Swapo headquarters in Katutura to Oshikango to converge with other former comrades from across the country, who were equally happy to join in unison in the songs that once motivated them before, during and after the fateful attacks at Cassinga and Camp Vietnam at Tchetequela village in Angola.
At Swapo’s former military camp in Angola – named Vietnam in the Cunene province – the survivors’ adoration and affection for Nujoma was highlighted when the Angolans received them with songs narrating the course of the war and the roles that Agostino Neto and Nujoma played, while portraying them as fathers of their countries’ independence revolutions.
This adoration and adulation continued right through the challenging and long journey hundreds of kilometers to Cassinga, where the survivors and in fact the entire delegation found themselves entangled by unexplainable emotions, as the songs reverberated through the place while they set up camp.
When the delegation visited the mass graves where hundreds of mainly young children and women were buried, tears were streaming down the survivors’ faces and they embraced one, while the praises of Nujoma continued unabated.
Many were saddened by the fact that Nujoma could not join them on the journey.
However, en route to Angola one group stopped at Nujoma’s farm near Otavi, where the former president offered them refreshments for the road and an amount of N$5 000 to cover some expenses. His son, Land Reform Minister Utoni Nujoma, joined the convoy as it reached Vietnam and delivered a short message from his father.
According to historians and participants in the war against South Africa, Nujoma played an important role as leader of the national liberation movement, which fought arm and leg for the country’s independence from South Africa.
He is said to have established the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia in 1962 and launched a guerrilla war against the South Africans in 1966 after the United Nations withdrew the mandate for South Africa to govern the territory, known at that time as South West Africa.
* For more photos of the journey to Cassinga see tomorrow’s edition of New Era.