WINDHOEK – The Angolan and Namibian governments have announced plans to construct two monuments in the localities of Cassinga in Huíla Province and Chetequera in Cunene Province in the near future to honour the victims of the Cassinga massacre perpetrated by the South African defence force against a Namibian refugee camp on May 4, 1978.
The intention is already formalised through an agreement to be signed next week between the parties in Angola, said Angolan President Joao Lourenço, who believes that this will boost, even more, the blood ties between the two states.
The commitment to build the two monuments was announced by Lourenco and Namibian President Hage Geingob, during a joint press conference in Windhoek as part of the three-day state visit by Lourenço to Namibia.
Lourenço was in Namibia also to attend the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Cassinga massacre.
Geingob did not reveal any monetary figures on how the project would be funded, saying money is not important when people have lost their lives.
He said the important agreement on the construction of historical monuments will pave the way for both countries to finalise the completion of these historical monuments at these sacred sites, which are symbols of the blood, sweat and tears which water the historic and permanent bond between the two countries.
The Cassinga attack, which was launched on May 4, 1978, was the second major military operation of the then apartheid South African army in Angola after “Operation Savannah”.
The attack also targeted Swapo refugees at Chetequera, in Cunene Province of Angola.
At the commemorative event on Friday, a play that replicated the deadly events of that fateful day of May 4, 1978 at Cassinga reduced the survivors to tears as they vividly recounted how the deadly attack unfolded.
As the play got more intense the images seemed so real and there were real sounds of helicopters and gunshots.
After the play Geingob said he was moved by the performance he had just witnessed.
“I can imagine the pain and emotion those of you who went through the event may feel at this point in time. The sons and daughters of the Land of the Brave have traversed an arduous and torturous path towards independence. It is a journey that lasted over a century, which saw our people enduring hardships and death at the hand of the malevolence of colonialism. The physical and psychological scars left by this hellish attack continue to haunt us to this day,” Geingob noted.
The Cassinga and Chetequera survivors are expected to leave for Angola on Tuesday to go and visit the massacre sites, which is also to help them heal their wounds. Some of the survivors of 40 years ago said they are still filled with vivid memories of the loss of lives, injuries and emotional trauma suffered on that day.
“Angola paid the ultimate sacrifice, Cuba paid the ultimate sacrifice and Namibia paid the ultimate sacrifice. Today, as we remember those who died during our fight for freedom, we thank our most faithful friends for their support, which has resulted in the attainment of our rights and sovereignty, and the achievement of total and complete independence,” Geingob said, thanking Lourenço.
“It is befitting that we can mark the quadragennial anniversary of Cassinga Day in the presence of our brothers and sisters from Angola, a country that stood shoulder to shoulder with Namibia, through the darkest days of our struggle for independence,” Geingob said.
Lourenço received the First Degree Order Medal, the highest award in Namibia due to his contribution to its struggle for national liberation, peace, security, freedom, justice and independence.
Lourenço, the 10th statesman honoured with the highest medal in Namibia, expressed a deep appreciation to the local authorities for the move.
“I express, on behalf of the Angolan people, the executive and on my own, deep gratitude for having distinguished me with the highest decoration of your country, which has for us a great value and a transcendent meaning,” said Lourenço.
The same award has been granted to presidents Ketumile Masire (Botswana), Roberto Mugabe (Zimbabwe), José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola), Julius Nyerere (posthumous, Tanzania), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia), Agostinho Neto (posthumous, Angola), Sassou Ngessou (Congo), Macky Sall (Senegal) and Jonathan Goodluck (Nigeria).
Forty years ago on May 4, more than 600 Namibians, mostly women and children, were killed, while hundreds more were injured. The Cassinga camp, in southern Angola, hosted a total of 3,068 people including 500 children under the age of 14 years, women and the elderly.
Out of the 3,068 people, 300 children, 294 women and 165 men were slaughtered in an attack that left 200 missing, bringing the total number of dead to 959, while 464 were wounded and 200 taken prisoner.
– Additional reporting by ANGOP.