King Kauluma – Former liberation struggle fighter and Robben Island political prisoner Johannes Shiponeni was laid to rest at King Kauluma Village near Oshivelo on Saturday after he died on February 27 at Oshakati State Hospital following a period of illness.
Shiponeni was described by fellow comrades as a decorated and gallant freedom fighter: one of the few remaining veterans of the Omugulungwambashe battle and commander of the group of PLAN combatants that engaged the colonial forces on August 26, 1966.
Shiponeni, who died last month at the age of 84, was born at Omafo, Engela in the Ohangwena Region.
Known by his nom de guerre, ‘Ndanyengofuka’, Shiponeni became politically active while still in school at Odibo in 1959 and joined Swapo in 1960 before leaving the country in 1963 for Tanzania via Botswana and Zambia.
He then trained militarily in Cairo, Egypt in 1964.
The late Shiponeni was a true freedom fighter, who fought vigorously in the struggle for national liberation, his peers said.
“When Swapo sent the first group inside Namibia he was among that group,” recalled Swapo Party secretary general Nangolo Mbumba.
Founding president Sam Nujoma in turn commended Shiponeni, saying: “Despite the torture he endured the late Shiponeni stood firm until he was released in 1985 and continued with Swapo political activities and never wavered until the attainment of Namibia’s freedom and genuine independence.
“In this regard Namibia has lost one of its fearless freedom fighters and a devoted nationalist whose incarceration at Robben Island did not dissuade him from seeing the struggle for liberation through to its successful conclusion. For this reason he will be remembered by the current and future generations.”
On February 2, 1967 his group engaged in combat with the South African army and Shiponeni was wounded in the knee. He and Michael Moses were captured shortly afterwards on the border of Caprivi and Botswana and taken to Oshakati, where they were subjected to daily torture, including electrocution.
From Oshakati they were taken to Pretoria where they met other PLAN combatants who were captured after the Omugulugombashe battle.
In Pretoria they were held for two years awaiting trial before they were ultimately charged and tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and in February 1968 sentenced to life imprisonment.
On Robben Island Shiponeni endured untold suffering and was also denied medical treatment for his knee injuries, which eventually led to the amputation of his leg. He was released on November 8, 1985.
Shiponeni leaves behind a wife and three children.