Cassinga massacre history distorted – Cuban professor

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-A Cuban professor who is in Namibia on a fact-finding mission says the history of the events that led to the Cassinga massacre on May 4, 1978, when a Namibian camp was attacked by South African soldiers in Angola, has been distorted.

On that fateful day more than 600 Namibians, mostly unarmed women and children, were killed. Hundreds more were injured. 

Professor Yeniska Martinex Diaz, who met President Hage Geingob at State House yesterday, said she decided on a research project on Cassinga after she had realized that some of the history told about the fateful day is not the true reflection of the events.

She told Geingob she is pleased to be in Namibia, to see with her own eyes people who have been affected by the massacre, including survivors.

“This is a Namibian-Cuban book. With this visit I intend to finalise this research. South Africans were trying to twist the history. So, we must bring the truth out and prove that it is really a massacre,” Diaz asserted.

The professor noted she has already met and interviewed Cassinga survivors and other senior Swapo Party members such as Safety and Security Minister (retired) Major-General Charles Namoloh, (retired) Lieutenant-General Martin Shalli and Nangolo Mbumba, among other political leaders.

She said also interviewed about 400 people who were involved in the battle.
She said her idea of the research on Cassinga started back in 1998, which led her to undertake a trip to Namibia.
“In 1986, the late Fidel Castro was speaking to Cuban internationalists that we should never forget what happened in Cassinga. And I want to contribute to that project. The initial idea was to recognize those who participated and survived the Cassinga massacre.”

Surprisingly, Geingob said a part of his history in connection with Cassinga is not known by many. He said the Swapo central committee back then took a decision that their top leaders must also be sent to Cassinga to train for self-protection.

According to Geingob, the Founding Father Sam Nujoma sent him to Cassinga, and he worked in Lubango.
“I was getting bored and ill, so I thought I am wasting my time there. A truck came and when the driver was going back at night, I asked him to take me with him, but he refused, saying he can’t take a leader with. So, I ended up disappointed in Hainyeko. One lunchtime … we were eating dry fish in the dugouts. Suddenly, I was alone and I saw people running. I peeped out, and I saw people in new uniforms running up and down,” he narrated.
He said one commander then came to inform him that Cassinga was being attacked.

He also briefed the professor that Namibia and Cuba share historical relations that date back to the days when Cuba assisted Namibia to attain its liberation struggle.

He said even the opposition party in parliament never opposed Namibia’s position that the Cuban Five be released, and Namibians shed their blood together with the Cubans for the first time fighting against the South African racists in Angola. A Cuban unit that had been based at Tchamutete, 16 kilometres south of Cassinga, immediately advanced under the strafing and bombs of the South African planes to confront the aggressor: it paid for its valour with 16 dead and more than 80 wounded. 

Diaz is expected to leave Namibia for Cuba on the 20th of this month.

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