Namibia is a land filled with contrasts. It is a troubled land with a controversial, remarkable but also painful history, characterised by tales of social injustice and human suffering.
Namibia is also rich in human and natural resources. But the contrast continues as the nation has been evaded by a workable formula for national development.
Lest we forget, on 21st March 1990, nations of the world descended on Windhoek, the capital city, to witness the transition of power from apartheid South Africa to an elected Namibian government. This occasion was inaugurated by two cutting-edge statements.
South Africa’s President F. W. de Klerk looked on with a mixture of achievement and sadness as the South African flag traded places with the newly proclaimed Namibian flag. De Klerk said: “The era of war has ended and the era of peace has begun.”
President-elect Sam Nujoma watched in amusement and with a glowing face as the two flags traded places. Nujoma said: “I, Sam Nujoma, do solemnly swear, that I shall uphold and protect… so help me God”.
The Windhoek stadium went thunderous as people yelled at the top of their voices, while many bowed their heads in reflection. My eyes fell on two comrades, Bethuel Five Hochobeb and August Gaeb. The two featured among the famous soccer players this country has produced and they in time became some of the most reliable field workers for Swapo, the movement that at that point was poised to palm the reigns for national governance.
I bowed my head in reflection, somewhat satisfied that they made it into free Namibia because some of the projects they were involved with during the struggle for justice were very dangerous. Little did I anticipate then that both Five Hochobeb and August Gaeb would fall through the cracks in the larger scheme of things and would feature among the uncelebrated heroes of Namibia’s struggle for justice.
And they represent many others who fell on the sideways as the struggle for accommodation in government started in all earnest.
These celebrations were preceded by a rather unpleasant development, as on the 1st April 1989, the very day that the United Nations Transition Assistant Group (UNTAG) was to arrive in the country - and they did in fact arrive albeit timidly. On this day, hostilities flared up between the South African troops stationed in Namibia and Swapo’s fighting forces in the north of the country.
Coincidentally, on the same day and in an unrelated event, about 20 000 Namibians converged at the Katutura Community Centre to celebrate the advent of freedom, march onto Windhoek as a way to bid farewell to the South African regime in Namibia.
On that morning I sat on the steps of the offices of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) alongside Maureen Hinda and Rosalinde Namises, inside the center and we watched the clock tick.
Someone yelled through the loudhailer and said: “It is eight o’clock, Comrades”. Namises said “daarsy”! All hell broke loose. There was a literal stampede and all traffic came to a standstill on the main connecting road between Katutura and the CBD.
The march reached a bent on present-day Hosea Kutako road, where police and para-troopers were deployed in full gear. As I mingled in the crowds in attempts to facilitate a peaceful breakthrough, a South African journalist by the name Henie Serfontein, whom I had known over the years, said to me: “Bob, I hope you know that a shooting war has broken out in the north.”
Henie went on to give me a rundown of developments there with details on how many Swapo fighters had been killed and captured in the skirmishes. I had no idea and so were all of us involved in this march. I suddenly felt like someone sleep-walking on the street without clothes, only to be alerted by a fellow pedestrian.
The same afternoon there was a Swapo public rally at the open field in front of A. Shipena Secondary School at which firebrands the likes of Zephania Kameeta and Immanuel Ngatjizeko were on the cards. Still no one formally had details of what had transpired and prevailed in the north, save for rampant grapevine stories.
In the evening Comrade Kameeta and I met at the Swapo braai at Comrade Kabinet’s house in Donkerhoek. Kameeta started off with the question: “Mbuae muazuuje (what’s up)?” We had no details and, like all, we thrived on the grapevine and contemplated the worst case scenario.
The worst case scenario did not kick in and in the end there was a happy ending as Namibia was thrust on the road to freedom. Namibia’s constitution was successfully drafted and adopted by consensus, to pave the way for President-elect Sam Nujoma to set up the first-ever Namibian government.
New Era Reporter
2018-11-07 10:18:11 9 months ago