Immanuel Ngatjizeko was one of Namibia’s children of the storm. Others that come to mind are Nashilongo Jesriel Taapopi, Solomon Gamatam, Mokganedi Tlhabanelo, Jason Angula, Ida Jimmy, Alfeus !Naruseb, Asser Kapere, Bernhard Esau, Immanuel Mwatara, Kuzaune Charles Tjijenda, Daniel Tjongarero, Steve Hondjera, Kilus Nguvauva, Joshua Hoebeb, Rikumbi Kandanga, Ida Hofman, Kamae Veseevete, Gerson Veii, Muhorutuuo Ndjoze and Hauanga Komeheke.
This list is very long. Unlike with the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, SWAPO in Namibia was not effectively banned by the Apartheid regime from political activities and the movement could still organise political rallies, albeit under trying circumstances. Ngatjizeko was for the longest time SWAPO’s administrative secretary inside the country, a post also held by Moses Garoeb in exile during the struggle. It so happened that each time there was a SWAPO rally, Ngatjizeko would be one of the people arrested and mostly kept some place in solitary confinement for weeks.
In the end he could not hold a job and just loitered around, only to be arrested again at the next SWAPO rally. In addition to his strong administrative skills and financial management acumen that must have accounted for his position as administrative secretary, Ngatjizeko was a gifted systematic speaker at public rallies. Like Joshua Hoebeb, he was soft spoken but each time his sharp tongue got him into trouble.
Once, SWAPO organised a very big rally at Oluno in the north and both Ngatjizeko and Hoebeb were billed to speak. When Ngatjizeko took to the podium, the rally went wild. But the straw that broke the camel’s back at this rally was Hoebeb. He took the microphone and procuded a soft orange from the side pocket of his jacket and for about two minutes he said nothing but sucked juice out of his orange, to the amazement of the crowds.
He then visibly threw away the remainder of the orange and said: “You Koevoet and Makakunyas, you puppet chiefs in Namibia, this is what the Boers will do when they are done with you. They will throw you in the air for you to disappear.” The crowds went thunderous, but it was the end of the event as the para-military groups took over the rally. They attacked the crowds as if they were promised pay rise for killing and maiming. Ngatjizeko ran into some direction and out of despair entered a house where some residents had taken cover. As his eyes got used to the darkness, in the house he spotted a Kakunya holding a gun in silence. He said “sorry”, left the house and ran on. I asked Ngatjizeko what had gone through his mind as he ran from this house and he responded thta he was convinced that this Kakunya had turned his gun on him and he was just surprised he did not shoot at him.
I came to know Ngatjizeko through his brother Stanley Kozonguizi – who is my best friend – at whose house Ngatjizeko resided. Both were sons of Jariretundu Kozonguizi’s deceased elder brother. Each time when word was out for his arrest, Stanley and I would juggle him around town to various hiding places. Sometimes it would work out but in the end police would track him down. Evidently this did not endear us to the woman in his life at the time, who became weary of this game, as she could not keep track of this juggling business.
As the struggle intensified and the freedom fighters increasingly infiltrated central Namibia, Ngatjizeko’s role in national politics became critical. One Monday morning he was arrested from Stanley’s house after a stormy SWAPO rally in Katutura and he would disappear for weeks. Stanley and I had our worst fears as we knew about his contacts in the previous week with freedom fighters and we suspected that the police had gotten wind of some of his clandestine but noble activities. Indeed our fears were founded. During his interrogations it came to light that some of the freedom fighters he had contact with were captured and this accounted for his long detention, characterised by extensive interrogations, with intermittent physical torture that at times left him unconscious for hours.
Ngatjizeko’s own worst fears were confirmed when one night during his interrogations police brought in a freedom fighter. Ngatjizeko recognised this young man as one of the people he had assisted and his heart must have fallen in his shoes from fright. During this occasion there was no interaction, his interrogators mumbled something to the freedom fighter and all he did was to look into Ngatjizeko’s face, he nodded and was ushered away.
This was to account for the long wait while Ngatjizeko was in detention. The grapevine brought to light that he was being prepared for a long court hearing at which he was to be charged under the Terrorism Act and that would dispatch him to Robben Island. SWAPO had no illusions and was getting ready for this one as they knew what it all meant for him and other comrades and on our part we had started to prepare the family for the pain that was on its way. Suddenly he was released and this accounted for celebration in the townships and throughout the nation. It later came to light that police, in their thrust to strengthen their case, must have taken the freedom fighter who was to be the material witness, to the forest in order that he may identify the place where he had hidden his weapons. They left their vehicle at a spot and as they walked through the bushes, the young man tried to run away, police shot and killed him. The case of the state against Ngatjizeko collapsed and that is how he avoided his potential long Robben Island honeymoon by the skin of his teeth.