The genesis of the liberation war in our country was heavy on my mind this year as we mourned the death of two former dependable members of the People Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), Eino Kalola and Peter Ekandjo (author of the ‘The Jungle Fighter’).
I have known the late Kalola since 1967, but was associated with him politically from 1968 until 1974 before both of us left for exile to join PLAN, the military wing of Swapo. For the sake of the young generation, it is important that we pen some historical lessons and put them in proper perspective.
While teaching at Oneya Primary School, Kalola was introduced to Patrick Israel Iiyambo (Lungada). The late Lunganda was an iconic freedom fighter. In those years, the South African apartheid forces placed a bounty over his head, because they wanted him “dead or alive”.
Lunganda was also a survivor of Omugulu-Gwombashe military base attack, together with his fellow teachers and comrades, Benjamin Komeya and Leonard Tshapumba. Patrick Israel Iiyambo met those two teachers immediately after all his fellow combatants were either captured or killed at and after the battle of Omugulu-Gwombashe in Uukwaluudhi district of the present day Omusati Region.
Thereafter, one of the three teachers, Leonard Tshapumba, introduced Patrick Israel Iiyambo to another teacher, Andreas Hinandiinetshe Tshimwandi. Comrade Tshimwandi was a close friend and a schoolmate of Comrade Tshapumba at St Joseph College Döbra. I regarded Comrade Tshimwandi to be my political mentor of many years. During this time, the late Luganda was in hiding.
However in 1968, a relative of Patrick Israel Iiyambo passed on and Patrick wanted to go and pay his respect. He informed his comrades about the intention to visit Ongandjera district. They were all against the idea on the grounds that it would expose him to enemy agents and it could have seriously undermined and compromised his hiding strategy.
Comrade Lunganda insisted and his comrades reluctantly agreed. By that time Patrick Iiyambo’s bicycle was broken and requested to use Kalola’s, which was roadworthy. Indeed his visit was immediately reported by an enemy agent, who was working for the Owambo government in the department of information (departement van inligting).
As soon as Patrick was seen, the enemy agent rushed to the nearest police camp at Okahao. This resulted in a battle at Okahao between Patrick and the police unit that was commanded by a warrant officer in the South African racist police force.
Eino Kalola was also involved in the event, where he provided useful information to Patrick on the South African racist police mission that aimed to either attack or capture him in December 1973. Two agents reported that Patrick was being hosted at Tshimwandi Amwanka house at Otshikutshomunket village. He came to alert Patrick to be ready for such event.
Eino Kalola was also involved in the organisation to use an enemy-driven vehicle to scout the borders of Namibia/Angola in order to prepare the escape of Patrick Iiyambo and his group to Zambia in 1974. It was planned that the enemy must be given a lot of alcohol and a lady to take care of, while the vehicle that was driven by Paulus Tshiningayamwe with Patrick navigated to Okalongo for re-connaissance purposes.
The late Eino Kalola was part of the supporters of Patrick Lunganda – along with three business people, Nangolo Mukwiilongo, Melkisedec Nkandi and Michael Amadhila. He was a member of a cell that was made up Andreas H. Tshimwandi, Paulus Tshiningayamwe, Paulus Nkandi, Simson Tshovolo Wendelinus Tshimwandi, Elizabeth Tshimwandi, Katrina Mpingana Paulus and many others.
The cell was one of several cells Patrick Israel Iiyambo had established through which he organised political meetings before we left for exile in 1974. It is important to note that as freedom fighters, we vowed not to betray our comrades and that if we were arrested we promised to die with what we knew.
The late Eino Kalola was one of those who spearheaded the discussions, supported by Hinandiinetsha Tshimwandi and Patrick himself. By then Patrick Israel Iiyambo used to be known as Michael Tshikongo, a teacher from Uutsima a village near Onaanda. In the late Eino Kalola, Namibia lost a committed comrade, who during his youth dedicated his time towards the liberation of Namibia.
On his part, the late Comrade Peter Ekandjo was quite a young man who passed on at the tender age of 56 years. He joined PLAN at the age of 16 years in 1977. Because he was tall and well built, and because he wanted to go to the front, he changed his age and informed the commanders that he was born in 1959.
I came to know the late comrade after the war of liberation. After I read his interesting book about himself and about the battles he undertook under the command of two of the battle tested and capable commanders of PLAN, comrades Shikuma sha Kamati and Shihepo sha Amutele.
What he has written was not contested by anybody while he was alive. Therefore, the content of his book, ‘The Jungle Fighter’, qualifies him, in my view, to be awarded with the Omugulu-Gwombashe medal.
One does not understand the criterion used to select those cadres who are qualified to be honoured with such a medal. The late Comrade Jungle Fighter was a fearless PLAN combatant. Like the late Cde Lunganda, he too had a bounty on his head, especially after he escaped from the notorious Oniimwandi detention camp at Oshakati.
Pamphlets were displayed in the whole north requesting whoever would see him to report to the enemy and that such a person would be rewarded with R270,000. This was not a small money during those years. Even those who treated his wounds after his escape were not awarded with such a medal.
I cannot suggest about the possibility of him being resettled, because there are those who believe that people from the north who have not lost land during colonialism must not be resettled. Nevertheless, he was lucky to witness the dawn of an independent Namibia the reason for which he joined PLAN to fight. Some of his colleagues were not lucky and paid the highest sacrifice.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.