The rise and fall of Hompa Kandjimi Hawanga of the Vakwangali

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Shampapi Shiremo & Bartholomeus Mpasi

Hompa (Chief) Kandjimi Hawanga is one of the least known foremost anti-colonial resistance traditional leaders of Namibia and Angola. Both oral and written records at hand can attest to the battles and conflicts he and his people were engaged in with both the Portuguese, Germans and finally the colonial South African Administration.
Hompa Kandjimi was born to a Kwangali Princess Siremo and a man named Shikongo from Oukwanyama. Upon the recall of Prince Himarwa from Uukwambi in the late 1880s to take over from her ailing sister, Hompa Mpande zaHaimbili yaHaufiku, Kandjimi Hawanga together with his elder brother Sirongo and younger sister Muharwa also left Oukwanyama to reside with their uncle at ‘Rurova’, near present Fort Cuangar.

Dr Romanus Kampungu would write that in the 1890s a bloody power struggle between the three competing princes to succeed the ageing Hompa Himarwa became real. The power struggle was between Kandjimi, Sirongo and Siteketa.
Having eliminated his competitors, Kandjimi basically became the de facto ruler of Ukwangali by the late 1890s. Since then, Kandjimi remained the most influential man in Kwangali’s internal and external affairs until his mysterious death at Grootfontein on March 19, 1923.

Relying on both archival and oral sources, this piece aims at highlighting the events in which Kandjimi was involved in leading the anti-colonial wars mainly against the Portuguese. It also intends to show the views expressed by the ‘colonialists’ about him and how his own people remember him.

The piece will also elaborate on the issue regarding his mysterious death at Grootfontein and therefore in a way invite other researchers to help in solving this mystery.

Prominent oral sources amongst the Kwangali elderly population, such as Hompa Daniёl Sitentu Mpasi and Alex Muranda Hamunyera, have repeatedly narrated the life story of Kandjimi. The story of Kandjimi is that of a man who stood up against the colonial injustices perpetuated by the Portuguese, the Germans but also the South African-British Mandate Administration.

So far, not a single qualified historian has seriously investigated these claims of the elders by verifying with documentary relics of the colonial officials. This is against the background that in his lifetime Kandjimi had closely worked with Ohamba (king) Mandume yaNdemufayo of Oukwanyama and Sheetekela of Ombadja who also had various military altercations with the Portuguese and the South African colonial government.

Thus, the paucity of academic work on this towering freedom fighter and colonial resistor needs a serious revisit.
For example, one of the claims by the elders is that Kandjimi had been in conflict with the Portuguese at Fort Cuangar who had the habit of exploiting the people through forced hard labour. One of the heinous abuses of the local population by the Portuguese was one of letting men carry Portuguese officers on hammocks over very long distances. In defence of his people, Kandjimi confronted the Portuguese officials at Fort Cuangar regarding various thorny issues.

Hompa Sitentu, in an interview done in 1999, narrated that because of his rebellious attitude, the Portuguese orchestrated to arrest Kandjimi. Under a pretext, they invited him to come with them to Lubango where they would give him a lot of European goods, whereas the real intention was to kill him. It is said that while en route to Lubango, Kandjimi, who went with his ox wagon, was informed by well-meaning persons about the intention of the Portuguese.

Thus, he escaped via Oukwanyama where he stayed for a while before he returned to Ukwangali. This event would draw the last straw of respect that Kandjimi ever had for the Portuguese, because upon his return he would order the Kwangali population that was mainly residing on the ‘Portuguese side’ of the Kavango River to cross over and settle on the ‘German side’ of the Kavango River in around 1910. The enmity became an open one as attempts were made on his life.

•Please note that apart from oral history, the evidence used to construct this article was mainly drawn from files no. ADM:243/3, Box no:30 and SWAA: A519/1, Box no: 2385 which are kept at the National Archives of Namibia. The authors write in their personal capacities.

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