• June 6th, 2020

#MeToo: Sexual coercion during Namibia’s liberation struggle?

When interrogating Namibia’s past and present, one cannot help but wonder about the secrets that families of returnees have kept hidden even when the obvious is staring them right in the face. 
Ndapewa (not her real name) confronts her mother about the obvious favouritism she displays amongst her four children. The eldest, being the black sheep of the family is often relegated to the status of second class child whilst the other three are regarded as the apple in her eye. The blatant display of partiality amongst one’s own children cannot be explained away by simply relying on the fact that *Ndapewa has a different father from the other three. 
In a teary conversation where *Ndapewa confronts her mother directly about her unfair treatment, her mother gathers the courage to come clean as she simply states that as women in the struggle they were required to be ‘women’ and that included being a ‘woman’ to a man she had no feelings for and *Ndapewa is a result of that relationship. 
Further prompting on the intricacies and dynamics of the relationship between Ndapewa’s mother and father will not be entertained because children are not permitted to stick their noses in grownups business disregarding the fact that *Ndapewa is now 43 years old and her mother 62.
Sexual coercion is regarded as a form of sexual violence where an authority figure such as an army commander uses their influence and position of authority to pressure someone into having sex. Willing accomplices or victim survivors is the question that comes to mind when navigating the subject of sexual relations during Namibia’s liberation struggle because women are known to play victim when relationship dynamics do not play out in their favour. 
The inverse/reverse seemingly holds that women will not speak out because they will be accused of doing just that if they do; ‘crying foul when they were complaint to begin with’.
During Namibia’s war for independence, being deployed to the front was one of the realities of many freedom fighters who had undergone training to fight the Apartheid South African army in direct military combat. It was a deployment which was dreaded by even the hardest of soldiers because the realities of war are that you cannot tell whether you would live or die.
Proximity to those who were charged with calling up soldiers could spare one from being deployed to the front. It is a card that many women played extremely well because a love affair with a senior commander could spare them from the trenches and drenches of war. 
Army commanders reportedly also used their power and influence in the dynamics of war to access bedroom favours and engage in the sexual exploitation of their women folk.
A veteran narrates her experience in Angola with a well-known commander telling her that he had chosen her to share a bed with him later that night. She refused his advances because at that time she says she was only 14-years-old and the man was much older than her and she was scared and also not interested. 
She says the man hated her from then on, as a result of her refusing his advances and he would make it a point to display his disdain for her whenever the opportunity presented itself. 
At the same time she says there were younger girls who conformed to the sexual advances of their seniors because of the privilege that came with it, such as access to soaps, perfumes, sanitary pads and new clothes which the commanders had unrestrained access to due to their constant movements.
Being the girlfriend of a commander also had certain influence and authority. 
There is another story of young women making themselves available to men who were married and having children with them only to cry foul when the man seemed disinterested in the child and would later make it seem as if she was taken advantage of when she was seemingly complaint to begin with.
These are the complexities that one has to tread carefully along when discussing the subject of sexual violence during the Namibian liberation struggle which is a topic best left alone because what happened at the battle front ought to remain at the battle front. 
However, it is unfair to simply sweep the subject under the carpet because the offspring that emanated from these relationships have simmering questions to which they deserve answers. 
One such question is that which *Ndapewa has asked. Why is it that female veterans of the liberation struggle treat their children differently and tend to favour one child over the other? Why is it that the military commanders of the people’s liberation army tend to have fathered a lot of children with different women? And why is it that we are not open to have such discussions when the evidence is there that sexual coercion was used to acquire consent and the children who are birthed from such relationships bear the brunt of their parents’ indiscretions.

Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist

Staff Reporter
2019-05-17 10:11:30 | 1 years ago

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