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Rosalia Abraham a woman of the struggle

2023-03-24  Correspondent

Rosalia Abraham a woman of the struggle

Hilma Hashange


Nonagenarian Kuku Rosalia Abraham, or ‘Gwakasindo’, as she is affectionately known, is a 91 year old vibrant and rather youthful-looking great grandmother, who hails from Iikoko village in the Omuntele constituency in Oshikoto region. 

A retired teacher and recognised war veteran, who never went to exile, she joined the liberation struggle in 1963 – at the age of 31. She can vividly remember the events that led up to the country gaining its independence.

“I did not quite understand what was going on; it was only in 1966 during which my husband had a drum of some sort that used to echo sounds. I was not sure if it was a radio or not. He found me cooking and informed me that some men were beaten, and that he had to travel to Ondangwa. He spent 27 days…then 28. On the night of the 29th day, he returned home, came into the room and took both my hands and ushered me outside the room. I was hesitant at first and resisted because I had no idea why I was being pulled. He continued pulling me until we reached the exit door at the back of the house. 

“He then started explaining that his fellow men were beaten and that he had returned with them. He asked me to cater and cook for the six injured men. He, however, was quick to mention that we were to immediately leave the house and go to the nearest field. He informed me that the men were outside the house, and he led me to them. I started shivering from fear. He asked if I didn’t want to go, but all I could do was murmur, as no words could escape my mouth. I eventually cooked them a meal and asked if he could take it to them. He called me to the ‘Oshinyanga’ – and because it was dark, he lit his torch and started introducing the men to me – one by one. 

“He pointed to the first man and said: ‘this is Kaxumba kaNdola, this one is Tobias (Hainyeko), this one is Kalimba, this one is Mesah Victory, this one is John Otto Nankhudhu’. Suddenly, John looked down because he realised that he recognised me, as we had schooled together,” Kuku Gwakasindo narrated.

She said the six men used to come and go, and she would cook and hide their food underground to not arouse any suspicions. This, she said, lasted for about three months until the neighbours started noticing their footprints. 

“One of the neighbours went to report us to the South African Defence Force (SADF) soldiers, who came to enquire about the Swapo fighters. Their footprints were found in my yard, and I told them I had no idea what they were talking about,” she said.

As time went by, the South African Defence soldiers, who were known as ‘makakunya’, eventually got wind of the men being harboured and ambushed at her house. 

Kuku Gwakasindo recalled being dragged out of her room and severely beaten. She was pregnant at the time. The soldiers then confiscated all her belongings, and left only a hoe behind. Her house was completely destroyed as well as her mahangu silos. 

“I had a miscarriage; one of my children, who was only 12 years old at the time, buried the foetus. I was distraught, as I had no house; my children had no shelter,” she narrated.

Her husband Elias Alfeus and the rest of the men were arrested. They were separated and sent to different prisons. Her husband was detained at a prison in Pretoria. In order for her to survive, she had to learn the tactics to tell apart the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) soldiers and those who were impersonating them. 

She said some came wearing clothes of the PLAN fighters who were killed, pretending to be hungry; they asked her to cook for them. She quickly realised that they were imposters and informed them that she was on her way out to the hospital.

A second group of 36 PLAN fighters, who consisted of Peter Ilonga, came to harbour at her house. They stayed for about six months. They were caught by the South African soldiers at a cuca shop and quickly ran away. 

Unfortunately, one of them, Shafondino, fell and was pierced by a wire, which cut through the cheek to the ear, but he continued running. 

“I came to tend to his wounds at night and applied cow fat to it. I continued doing that until he recovered, and the group of men eventually left my house,” she said.

After a while, her husband was released, but she was once again reported to the South African soldiers, who came to arrest her. 

She left behind her three-month-old baby in the care of her 10-year old child.

 Some soldiers ordered her capturers to return her to her baby. She was later taken to Ondangwa at night – and when she ordered to be taken back to her homestead, the koevoet soldiers refused. They instead dropped her off at Ontananga village. 

“It was really dark – and during those years, we were not permitted to walk around at night. I started wandering around the village, thinking about my baby. I started running until I reached a house midway between Ontananga and Iikoko when I heard a sound of the helicopter. It started flashing its lights on me. I hid behind the omulunga trees and played hide and seek with the helicopter. Eventually, they left, and I started running as fast as I could – until I reached home the following morning,” she narrated.

Kuku Gwakasindo realised that she was no longer producing milk, and had to wean her baby off breastfeeding. 

As time went by, she was rearrested; this time, she was taken to Ohangwena.

 The SADF soldiers again kept enquiring about the whereabouts of the PLAN soldiers – to which she denied ever seeing them. She was released, but the same day that she returned home, the SADF soldiers took her captive. This time around, they tortured her and electrocuted her nipples.

“I was beaten until I fell unconscious. I never informed the nurses about the nature of my injuries whenever I visited the hospital. After independence, I was transported to the Onandjokwe hospital, where I was informed that I would undergo an operation because there was blood clotting on my liver, but for the operation to proceed, I needed eight signatures. No one wanted to sign my health card, except for one person, so I had to forge the rest of the signatures in order for me to be operated. To this day, my right arm is handicapped as a result of the blood clot,” she said. Kuku Gwakasindo said the memories of the fight for freedom always saddens her. 

She noted that independence did not bring about equality. 

Ekondjo manguluko olya monithandje iixuna (the fight for freedom really brought me suffering). Some of the freedom fighters we helped during the war pretend to no longer know us. Some of them had their houses constructed, some received funding for their projects, while others received nothing. Is that the right kind of mathematics?” said a distraught Gwakasindo. 

She further stated that today’s youth are out of control and are destroying the peace, as they all want to be leaders. 

Asked how she keeps fit as a fiddle for a 91-year-old, she said she does not consume any alcohol.

 She urged the youth to refrain from abusing alcohol and maintain a healthy lifestyle in order for them to live prosperous lives. 

* Hilmah Hashange is an information officer at MICT Oshikoto.

2023-03-24  Correspondent

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