• June 3rd, 2020

Profiles of courage: Asser Kapere through time

During Namibia’s years of upheaval, Asser Kapere, affectionately known as A.K, featured prominently in different cutting-edge projects and this nimble footed, soft spoken comrade with the heart of a lion was among those children of the storm who bravely stood the test of time at the center of the storm. 

Others were Alpheus !Naruseb, Solomon Gamatham, Charles Tjijenda, Gregorius Makgone, Nashilongo Taapopi, Mokganedi Tlhabanello, Ida Jimmy, Bernhard Esau and Comrade Groenewaldt. 

They were selfless and loved this nation to the extent that it hurts. Among those who made it into independence appear the name Asser ‘AK’ Kapere.

The curtain on my mind opened with a telephone call from Bernhard Esau, then representative of the Mine Workers Union (MUN) at Rössing uranium mine, informing me that there was a police swoop in which many comrades were arrested and  among them were Alpheus !Naruseb, John Pandeni and AK. 

Their arrest left a void difficult to fill. Swapo was effectively banned and the movement had quietly moved its operational center to Arandis for strategic reasons and this gave AK a double edged assignment.

This was in his capacity as chairman of the Rössing MUN and as chairman of the Swapo western region, currently Erongo Region, and also as president of Namibia’s National Union of Mine Workers (NUNW). 

Asser was the son of yet a legend of Namibia’s liberation struggle, Aaron Kapere. Aaron was in the class of the youth league of Hosea Kutako’s Chiefs Council, along the likes of Mitiri Karita, Katjikuru Katjiuongua Karora Levi Nganjone, Katjitamuaha Zaire and others. 

Aaron Kapere featured in the delegation that was sent by Hosea Kutako to strengthen the arm of Chief Frederick Maharero in Botswana, when the latter implored Chief Tshekedi Kgama to assist the people of South West Africa to get back their land from European colonisers. 

Tshekedi, along with two other Batswana chiefs Bathoeng and Tawana, petitioned the London Missionary Society for help. Reverend Michael Scott was designated for the task and Aaron Kapere, alongside Katjikuru Katjiuongua, Katjitamuaha Zaire and others took Scott to Toasis in Aminuis, for Hosea Kutako’s blessings. 

Dr. Abisai Shejavali was secretary-general of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), the church organisation that served as de facto nexus for the work of the progressive forces. 

I deputised Shejavali and upon consultations we realised the near paralysis that threatened the workers’ movement. We agreed to step to center stage and help as much as we could. At this point, all 3010 mine workers at the Tsumeb copper mines were on strike for over a month. 

The mine’s management, led by its Managing Director Bob Meiring, were at pains to convince the High Court to declare the strike illegal. 

One morning Bernhard Esau and I jumped into my car, in the company of Comrade Nuukunde, then head shop steward at the mines in Tsumeb. My little sister Meundju Kaune joined the trip. 

Tsumeb was one complete chaos, mining activities were effectively paralysed. We gathered in a hall at the Anglican church in Nomtsoub, hosted by Pastor Kaxuxwena. As we walked into the hall, the sea of workers rose in song, singing their famous “Mekondjo lovanailonga (workers’ struggle)”. 

As I diverted my face onto the floor to contain my emotions, my eye caught Meundju weeping quietly on my left. It was too much.

Ben Ulenga was the secretary-general of NUNW. At the time of the swoop he was travelling abroad. Charles Tjijenda, Loyde Kasingo and I went to meet him as we suspected that he would be arrested on touch down. 
Police held Ben behind until they believed all had cleared the airport area, then they brought him outside, flanked by three special branch operatives. 

We stormed the party with the intention to grab Ben’s luggage, but police were vigilant and they were ready for us. When it proved a challenge, Loyde grabbed Ben’s bag off his shoulder and in the scuffle, Loyde punched one police man. 
Now it was deurmekaar and we had to safe Loyde from arrest for assault. This way we lost Ben but fortunately walked home with Loyde unscathed.

Two days later Ben Ulenga, Benhard Esau and I drove to Arandis for a meeting with the workers. During the meeting it became necessary for both Esau and Ulenga to stay behind and pursue further consultations with the workers the following day to fill some of the void left by Kapere, !Naruseb and others. 

As I arrived home my phone was ringing off the hook. Daniel Tjongarero‘s wife was on the phone. Dan was arrested. I rushed to his office to find that police had turned this office into a heap of paper. Dan was an employee of CCN and thus reported to me on our regular duty. He requested the police to allow him to speak to me as he would not be at work the following day. 

They gave him five minutes and we stood one side. After this I insisted to see the search warrant for the office since they arrested Dan as leader of Swapo and this was not a Swapo office. We had a tough talk. 
I picked the phone and telephoned Hatmut Ruppel, our lawyer. They insisted I cannot phone while they were busy and I insisted this was my office and neither I nor the office was under arrest.  

At that point they decided to drive away with Dan and I followed them on a distance to mark their route. After a few turns I lost them and that is when I drove around to see who else was arrested. 
A number of the leaders were gone. By 4 am I reached my house and immediately phoned Gibeon. Hendrik Witbooi was also taken.

Asser Kapere seems to have gone full length. He was a stalwart in Swapo during the struggle for justice, and moved on to play a critical role in fomenting industrial unions in the country, before becoming a member of the legislature and served as the second chairman of Namibia’s house of review, the National Council. 

Now he becomes Namibia’s High Commissioner to the Republic of Botswana.
A day after the State House coronations I telephoned AK to wish him the best and we took some time on memory lane. These were the years of upheaval. 

During these years comrades were prepared to share in grieve and in happiness. All children belonged to all the parents and the youth movement sang with pride the song: “Forward we shall march to the peoples’ government, where there shall be jobs, security and comfort”. 

New Era Reporter
2018-12-06 09:28:34 | 1 years ago

Be the first to post a comment...