History has been made once again following President Hage Geingob’s recent proclamation directing that an official funeral be held in honour of the late Reverend Junias Vaino Kaapanda.
President Geingob issued the proclamation on December 22, 2016 in terms of Article 32 of the Constitution, so directing that the late Reverend Kaapanda – who was born June 8, 1932 and died on December 12, 2016 – be accorded an official funeral and that his remains be interred at Omugulugwoombashe Heritage Site in Omusati Region.
The announcement in terms of the Conferment of National Honours Act of 2012 makes the late Rev Kaapanda the first Namibian clergyman to be given an official funeral, and the first to be interred at the Omugulugwoombashe Heritage Site.
He is the fourth hero of the liberation struggle to be laid at this site. President granted the honour in recognition of the role the late Kaapanda played inside Namibia during the liberation struggle.
As a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Rev Kaapanda was armed with a bible in one hand and Swapo Party membership cards on the other and he, among others, mobilised the masses to join the liberation struggle, shared intelligence with PLAN fighters, facilitated logistics and solicited resources.
The head of the ELCIN church in Namibia, Dr Vaino Nambala has expressed deep appreciation to the government for recognising the role the church played during the liberation struggle, saying the recognition of Reverend Kaapanda is an honour for the entire church and a symbolic recognition of all clergymen and women who sacrificed a lot during the war period.
Nambala said between 1975 and 1988 61 pastors were arrested and six died in war-related incidents, while 17 evangelists were arrested and five died at the hands of the occuying colonial force. He said four pastors and one evangelist were also on the hitlist of the South African forces in 1980.
Kaapanda was widely known as an internal Swapo origaniser throughout the northern area, then known as Owamboland. His movements were restricted and he was denied access into the Kavango area at the time for fear of “spreading terrorism”.
His political involvement led to several arrests and imprisonment in Ruacana, Oshakati and Oniimwandi. His first arrest came in 1975, followed by other periods of imprisonment in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1987, 1988, most of which are documented by the church, as well as by the daily press.
In addition to these recorded and legal detentions under the existing laws at the time, there were many other short-term spells of detention, deemed illegal, as they were not recorded by the authorities at the time.
Due to his dedication to the liberation struggle, he was targeted by the South African apartheid regime, resulting in him been arrested for the first time in the year 1975 in his capacity as a pastor and a SWAPO political activist. He was reportedly also tortured by the occupying army and special units within it.
According to his eulogy, during his arrests he was kept at various prisons, such as Ruacana, Outapi and Oshakati, as well as at various unknown venues. While in prison he was severely tortured by, among other methods, electrocution and was chained and beaten.
Despite the harsh treatments he continued with his political activism until Namibia gained independence. His eulogy further records that during the period of his political activism within the country, he was entrusted by the Swapo office in Windhoek with mobilisation to raise awareness about Swapo’s ideology through, among others, recruiting members to Swapo by issuing Swapo party memberships cards.
It is said he also assisted many people who were leaving the country to join Swapo in exile and apparently often shared information about Swapo with members of his congregation and other church denominations, whereby his sermons always relayed information about the aims and objectives of Swapo, which resulted in a high level of awareness about the cause of the revolution.
As a result of him propagating Swapo’s ideology he was also many times arrested in church while preaching and detained for days at a time.