This article chronicles the life of National Council member, honourable John Mukaya, who passed away in the Zambezi region in a tragic car accident on 26 May 2021, a day after Africa Day. He was born and bred in the Caprivi (now Zambezi) at a time when many were leaving for exile to fight against apartheid South Africa.
At an early age, he became active in student politics in the Caprivi, and joined the Swapo Party Youth League to fight the political injustices of the time.
At the time of his passing, he was standing up against corruption and the vilification of Zambezi lives. Indeed, a sad time for Zambezi and Namibia as a whole to have lost such a vibrant leader, who served in the National Council for less than six months from late 2020 to mid-2021.
I wish to join hundreds of people who were greatly touched by the life, legacy and heroism of a true son of the soil, son of the Caprivi, in celebrating his life; a life of true heroism and bravery, and a man who stood tall when it was unpopular to do so. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal, and honourable John Mukaya refused to remain silent when his own people were being harassed, intimidated and killed mercilessly by an invading army of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF). Honourable Mukaya refused to join the armchair approach of state organs when the livelihoods of his people were at stake. He defended the life of the peasant farmer, the fisherman, the cattle herder, our aged parents. All those, he defended with distinction! Namibia is not mourning an ordinary life here, but the life of a man who became a pillar of ‘Caprivianism’ in the sense of speaking his mind and engaging government openly, as empowered by the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia.
We remember his contribution on the Ministry of Defence’s budget some weeks ago. Although he was in support of the vote, he had serious reservations because of the security situation of the people along the Chobe River because Namibian lives have been lost at the hands of the trigger-happy BDF. He questioned the stance and approach of the Ministry of Defence. He argued that the BDF was committing these acts of war against civilians because our army did not have the capacity to defend the territorial integrity of Namibia due to a lack of military equipment and training. He argued that many innocent lives have been lost at the hands of the BDF because Botswana was undermining our military capabilities. He thus called for the NDF to be equipped with modern warfare, and be deployed at the borderline, not in villages as is the case currently. He ended his speech with serious words that “If the further loss of life will continue, our people will be left with no choice but to defend themselves. We cannot be turned into the second Palestine’’ in our own country.
From the life of our John ‘Magufuli’ Mukaya, let us learn to normalise speaking out when the truth is at stake. Let us normalise standing up for our people, even against state machinery, because it is the right thing to do! Even if we have been programmed not to accept truth, it is time we normalise truth as a part of our life. Honourable Mukaya understood the difference between presidential appointments and people’s representatives. He showed this region, this country, and this great continent of Africa that he was NOT a government representative, but was the people’s representative. He understood with distinction that he was elected by the people to speak on behalf of the people, and not on behalf of government! He understood what many people still don’t understand: that he was sent to the National Council to petition government on behalf of NOT only the Katima Mulilo Urban constituency, but as a representative of the people of the Zambezi region.
Honourable Mukaya understood what it meant to operate above tribal and political differences while at the National Council. Indeed, Honourable Mukaya set the bar where it should have been always! He was not a radical man, as some might think, but a man who spoke the truth. When truth is viewed as radicalism, then be sure to know you are operating in a near-dictatorship environment. Fellow Namibians, let us normalise speaking the truth, no matter the price and cost.
May the spirit of the late honourable John ‘Magufuli’ Mukaya burn in the young hearts of the brave sons of the soil and the minds of the daughters of the savannah!