Last month on July 9 we laid to rest a stalwart and a fearless freedom fighter, Kuku Regina Hutu Kapikala, at Matende in the Mbunza district of Kavango West Region. She was 98 years old.
Hompa Alfons Kaundu of the Mbunza Traditional Authority gave a colourful speech as we escorted the elder we affectionately called ‘the Professor’ to her final resting place.
When I visited her earlier this year her instruction was that I should learn how to speak Chokwe. We chuckled about it with Uncle Pius Kapikara and that it was a directive to be carried out. I remember in the late 1970s, my late grandmother Kuku Malesu would often go to Kuku Hutu.
It was the only house that I recall grandmother ever went to overnight, apart from her own. They were Chokwes of a feather that flocked together, as it were. Indeed, the demise of Kuku Hutu has made Kasinakazi (Katjinakatji) poorer.
I decided to pen this opinion piece, not only as tribute to her but also to all other unsung heroes and heroines of our country in villages, towns, all across Namibia. I heard so much from places like Berseba, Vaalgras, Luhono, Onandjaba and Olukonda, amongst others, the voices pointing to neglect of some freedom fighters.
Katjinakatji is no different and so too many parts of Kavango and the country at large. We have many Kuku Hutu all over Namibia. On her part, she undoubtedly and enormously assisted many PLAN combatants and her house was described by one surviving PLAN combatant George Kalomo Hakushinda as a rendezvous point for many combatants during the liberation struggle.
My uncle Romanus Kandjimi Ndeya (her son) further explained that PLAN deployments in the Kavango during the liberation struggle were categorised from Okongo to Musese, which was under Festus Nauyoma. From Musese, Gcwagi to Hamanyondo was the responsibility of George Kalomo Hakushinda (he also attended the funeral).
The area of Bunya up to inland Naucova, Karo and Pusa villages was the responsibility of Olly Kazungula. From Katjinakatji all the way to Bunya was under the command of Jackson Tukondjereni, whereas the eastern front stretching from Mavanze to Ncaute were under the command of Cde Hamutumwa.
Uncle Kandjimi Ndeya, on his part, transported the guns – together with Musita Asser Lihongo – for the first battle in the eastern front, which took place at Tjeye in 1984. According to the available information, he (uncle Kandjimi) was also the one who worked closely with David Hausiku, aka LyaNgurungunda. He was entrusted with party membership cards that were buried in the area of Mupini. This work was done with the knowledge and guidance of Cde Marco Hausiku.
I also learned that in the early 1970s, late uncle Samuel Andrias Hungamo (husband to my aunt nyaKayando, daughter of Kuku Hutu) was working for the road construction company that built the bridge over Kwando River in the present-day Zambezi Region.
Uncle Hungamo was working with the late Elia Ndere Hakusembe (brother to late Hompa Leevi Hakusembe of Mbunza Traditional Authority). The PLAN combatants led by late Tobias Hainyeko used to hide at their camp and ate there.
I know that they are not in search for or in need of monetary recognition, but a mere acknowledgement for their heroic sacrifices. Alas, some of those who yesteryear were known as collaborators with the apartheid regime have become the “true freedom fighters”. Or the 60-year-old Frans Sivute Julio, who narrowly escaped death during a battering and beating by security forces.
There are many more. I am reminded by various accounts I heard all over the country, including the gallant survivors of the famous battle of Omusheshe in Oshana Region, the case for Kapitango comes to mind; the case for late Mwatilefu Oscar comes to mind. The case for late Henry Musialike in the Zambezi region comes to mind. The case for Meme Helena GwaTshali Pongwena of Omagongati village in Ondangwa Rural and many more come to mind.
I remember accompanying the late Cde John Pandeni to visit some former freedom fighters, including Commander Mbulunganga and late Cde David Shikomba. The message remained consistent, more needed to be done to address the plight of former combatants.
I remember addressing the 19th April Swapo Party rally at Uukwiyu-Uushona in Oshana Region in 2006 and later had a meeting in Olukonda in Oshikoto Region and in Eehnana in Ohangwena Region. I returned from that outreach very ashamed and embarrassed.
It was said that in some cases some were “being buried wrapped” in blankets. In later years, through the office of Cde Job Amupanda, we dispatched Cde Martha Kauna Hailwa to visit the late Tatekulu Shixungileni and she returned stating the same account.
In the final analysis, it is true that government now has established a Ministry of Veterans Affairs catering for the needs of those registered as “War Veterans”. It is also true that some relief may have been injected into the lives of some freedom fighters. However, God be the witness, there are still many “true War veterans” who are languishing in poverty and societal neglect.
This is not because government does not want to help them, but because the discretion of who to register and who not to has been privatised to some extent by those who benefited during apartheid. I pray, therefore, that this message of reminder would remain a goalpost on the moral conscience of our ruling party and government decision makers.