• November 16th, 2018
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BOOK REVIEW: Mukwahepo – the woman, the soldier and the mother


AGUSTE yaImmanuel arrived in Tanganyika in July 1964, an only woman in a group of men who went into exile leaving Namibia on foot, in the middle of the night, crossing into Angola and eventually crossing into Leopodville (Kinshasa) in the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) before entering and eventually ending up in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (Tanzania). It was a journey that took one year. In 1965, at Kongwa in Tanzania, she was later to realise that she was the only, and the first, woman in the first group of men to undergo military training that was later to groom fearless soldiers who formed what was later to become the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). This is the extract from her book ‘Mukwahepo: Woman Soldier, Mother’ as told to Ellen Ndeshi Namhila: It was during the month of July 1964 that we finally arrived in Tanganyika after an eventful journey of more than a year, which had taken us from Namibia through Angola, the Congo, Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. Two Swapo representatives were there to meet us, Comrades Peter Katjavivi and Eliander Mwatele. They received us well, bought us food and put us on another bus that took us from the Mbeya region to Dar es Salaam. We arrived in Dar es Salaam in the early morning hours and found Comrades Peter Nanyemba and Peter Mweshihange waiting for our arrival. In 1965 the Swapo leadership informed us that the Tanzanian government had allocated us suitable land for military training called Kongwa. When we arrived at Kongwa I was still a village girl, very nice and soft. I was constantly intimidated by men, and was still trying to play the girl role from my childhood upbringing. The men’s world I was now entering was foreign to me. All trainees at Kongwa gave themselves new names, combat names. As if the intimidating political discussion [among men] were not enough, the men decided unilaterally to change my name from Mukwanangobe, my paternal totem, to Mukwahepo [which means] one who belongs to the poor clan. They called me Mukwahepo to tease me because of my situation, woman alone in a military training camp, a woman amongst men in the liberation struggle movement (in other words, ‘the poor thing’). Mukwahepo became my name and has remained so ever since, no matter how hard I tried to tell my comrades that I was Mukwanangobe. It was like talking to deaf ears. Aguste yaImmanuel was never heard of again, except on formal papers.   Leaving Namibia ‘I have come to collect you. I want you all to pack your bag so we can leave right now, tonight, this moment. I will explain to you later where we are going. But it is a long journey that I cannot take without you.’ These words spoken by my fiancé, Shikongo shaHangala, changed my life completely. They marked the starting point of an arduous and testing physical, emotional and psychological journey; a journey that transformed me from a shy, traditional Owambo village girl to a national hero; a mother of the struggle for the freedom and independence of Namibia. When everyone in the house was fast asleep, Shikongo and I hit the road, en route to Angola. We walked to the house in Oshikango, where we found Filimon Andreas (Kashumba), Johannes yaHaukongo (Danger) and Filipus Haukongo waiting for us. We rested for a while and as soon as mawila (the morning star) rose in the east, we were all on our feet. We arrived in Luanda five days after leaving Ondjiva. The Portuguese man helped to arrange our transport from Luanda to Nambuangongo before he returned to Ondjiva. We stayed in Luanda for about a week. I was fascinated with Luanda. I had never before seen anything like it, a huge and very beautiful city. The streets were full of smart-looking people (both black and white), constantly coming and going, looking very busy and sure of themselves. I was seeing beautiful black women with very long hair for the first time. I had never seen such huge buildings and so many cars – some moving, other stationary. I had never seen anything like Luanda and felt totally at a loss, and that I was the only one feeling that way. It was all like a magical dream. Soon we had to leave Luanda for Nambuangongo by minibus. I do not really know how this journey was organized, but Shikongo paid for all our expenses until we reached Nambuangongo. Here our luck shifted. My Family I was born Aguste yaImmanuel, the daughter of Immanuel Haipinge and Antonia Ndemweetela yaMwalondange. I come from a very small family with a complicated history. I am the last-born of my parents’ three children. My father, Immanuel Haipinge, was an only child, and nothing is known about whether he had any brothers or sisters whom he had not met. The only relative we knew from my father’s family was his uncle, Haimini yaHalweendo. My mother, Antonia Ndemweetela yaMwalondange, was the daughter of an Ovazemba woman from Kaoko. Both my great-grandparents are Ovazemba from Kaoko, who migrated to Ongandjera with their two children, a boy named Malenga (Namalenga) and a girl named Sofia shaMungoloka, my grandmother. Mungoloka, our great-grandfather, was apparently a very rich man. He possessed a lot of cattle. I can still remember how my mother used to talk about him and his wealth, especially his cattle. My grandmother, Sofia shaMungoloka, also known by her totem name, Mukwanambwa gwaNgoloka, married Tsikesho from Uukwambi. She left her family in Ongandjera to settle in Uukwambi. In this marriage, she was blessed with three children – two boys Tshaduka and Meneta, and a girl, Sofia. Their father, Tshikesho, passed away, and in those days there was no law to protect women and their children after the death of a husband. The security for most women was in marriage. So my grandmother remarried Mwalondange yaHashipala and settled at Eenhana daMwoongela village in Oukwanyama. My mother Antonia Ndemweetela yaMwalondange, was born out of this marriage. My mother grew up and married Immanuel Haipinge, my father. They settled at a village called Onengali yaKaluvi where my brother, Rafael my sister, Maria, and I were born. I was born on 7 October 1937, the youngest in my family. Our father died very young, probably in his late thirties, leaving my mother to fend for the family. When he died, we children were still young. I was still a baby so have no memory of him at all. As my mother was still breastfeeding me, the headman of Onengali yaKaluvi village allowed her to continue living in my father’s homestead for eighteen months. Apparently, it was a taboo to chase a woman away from her deceased husband’s homestead if she was breastfeeding a baby. However, my mother and her children were ordered to vacate my father’s homestead as soon as the headman realized that she had stopped breastfeeding me. I [as an infant] therefore kept my family in their homestead for nearly two years after my father’s death. • Mukwahepo: Woman Soldier, Mother’ as told to Ellen Ndeshi Namhila is published by the Unam Press, University of Namibia, 2013. By Staff Reporter
New Era Reporter
2014-01-10 12:03:20 4 years ago

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