WINDHOEK - Twenty eight years after the country’s independence, the veteran who went by the combat name of Tommy as a fighter with the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, PLAN, now in his seventies, still has unaccomplished missions.
So retirement cannot be a proposal. Not while he has so much to catch up on, on lost time in his life which he sacrificed fighting for the liberation of the country. Time cannot be a factor as yet. Not until amongst others, he meets the next of kin of two of Namibian heroes, Tobias Hainyeko and Brendan Simbwaye. Not until Judge Laura Taylor-Swain has pronounced herself on the class action of the Ovaherero and Nama, currently in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Not until the Municipality of Gobabis has done away with the ongoing chaos regarding the allocation of ervens, which has continued to render him, amongst many others, without shelter and homeless despite having been paying for an erf since 2016. Only to learn most recently this erf is not his and belongs to someone else. This seems due to double booking, if not double dealing, which seems the norm within the Municipality of Gobabis.
This notwithstanding, the municipality has lately been haunting residents of Gobabis with debts payment via the infamous Red Force, that has been sending summons to the residents for erven that do not belong to them but seemingly allocated twice or thrice. Heaven only knows how many people may be claiming any one particular erf, like in the case of veteran Tommy who came upon someone claiming the erf he has all this time been believing is, and his only.
How can time be of any meaning with the looming Second National Land Conference which is cardinal to the sacrifices, first of his forebears, and later of himself, through his participation in the national liberation struggle. This is the story of veteran 158041, his veteran number. This is Moses Undjee Nganate, an idling veteran in Gobabis, currently leading the life close to that of a stateless pauper. A life which has condemned him singleton, because he has been unable to bring his family, figuratively still exiled in Botswana. There’s no way they can join him while he does not have a house. While he has barely been surviving on a monthly veteran allowance, the only benefit he has thus far been able to receive as a veteran due to the dire straits of the country’s economy, and concomitantly the government coffers. Plus bureaucratic red tape if not outright maladministration, nationally, and locally, denying him some of the benefits due to him as a veteran, including getting a house for which he qualifies as a veteran. His name has been on the waiting list in this regard but has never seem to be reaching the top of this list.
But why Tobias Hainyeko? Because he was shot in the late 1960s while returning to the front from visiting Nganate in the Zambezi where he was recuperating after he was shot during a skirmish with the South African Defence Force in one of the onslaughts of PLAN. And Brendan Simbwaye because when he was wounded, the village of the old man, as difficult the times may have been, took the risk of taking him under his wings in the village of the eastern part of the then Caprivi. During the day, he would be hidden in the trenches near the river until he was well after he was shot in the leg. After the skirmish, it was everybody to his fate in a group of ten combatants, most unknown to them and only united in one purpose, the liberation of the motherland. Deplete of ammunitions, it was everyone for himself and their gods and ancestors, all scattered in different directions in the unfamiliar and merciless wilderness with Nganate heading to the eastwards. Braving for seven days the wild, leaving off wild fruits and near to death from fatigue, hunger and of course the excruciating pain.
He was left with only one bullet in his assault rifle that he would not dare use except on himself in the eventuality of his capture by the enemy rather than surrender himself to them. At a point towards the end of ending his pain and calamity, he laid in the path of the animals praying that they would prey on him only for such animals to skirt suspicious around him as if he was ambushing, and leaving him to nature and his destiny. To stop the bleeding he used elephant dung and to relieve the pain he used herbs. Eventually, he mastered some courage and soldiered on attempting on the way an SOS by screaming but his scream due to weakening seemed soundless. After walking for about 50 kilometres, he eventually sighted someone on a boat who came to his rescue and took him to the Simbwaye village. Before then Brendan had mysteriously disappeared and since then his whereabouts have never been known. Thus being under surveillance from the enemy’s army it was unsafe to keep Nganate in the village. More so given that the area was a haven of enemy agents. Hence his daily resorts were the trenches along the river. That is why the old man Simbwaye sent him to Shisheke where the regional officer of UNIP, Mutondo was. After hiding, Mutondo then sent a word to the liberation movement about Nganate’s whereabouts, whereupon Hainyakeo went to visit him.
It was while on his way back to the front from this mission that Hainyeko was killed by the enemy. Nganate has mixed sentiments about this, feeling partly responsible for his death in that if he had not been on the mission to attend to him, he may not have been killed. To this day, he not only remains remorseful, but greatly indebted to the Hainyeko family that he would one day wish to meet. Hence the mission unaccomplished. After meeting Hainyeko, Nganate returned to Lusaka in Zambia where the party offered him the choice of going back to Botswana. Being a descendant of Namibians who escaped the 1904 Imperial Germany’s genocidal wars against the Ovambanderu, Ovaherero and Nama into Botswana, this is where he was born in the late 1940s. And with the wind of change for Namibian liberation in the late 1960s, being a refugee so to speak because his parents were the 1904 genocide war refugees in Botswana, he and peers like Zuvee Benjamin Maekopo, Oproman Kavezeri, Raua Tjiriange and Uahahiza Tjimbaue, Kaitire Ruhapo, Caleb Tjipahura, Sam Katoloki Tjitjindua, Gabriel Muhakaona, Katire Kangombe, Gilfert Kaxuxuena and Alexander Maendo could not but join the struggle for liberation. They ended up with Swapo at the White House in Francistown from their native Maun and Mahalapye. From there it was onto Zambia in 1964, then Kongwa in Tanzania, then Tanganyika, and eventually to North Korea where 10 of them underwent warfare training with the likes of Phillemon Shofabambi and Neumbo. For Nganate and co-military, training was the only way to freedom, above schooling. And from North Korea back to Zambia and onto the front until that fateful day when he was wounded and back to Zambia after some ordeal.
His desire is for his family, wife and most currently in Botswana but two, to join him, if only the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, and of course the Municipality of Gobabis can get their acts together regarding getting him a house to which many of his likes have benefitted. Secondly, typically of his cultural inclination being an Omuherero, buying livestock. But buying them with what? Centless as he may be, and to eventually keep them where? as homeless and landless as he is. Unless the land conference, as a must given that the struggle was about land, comes up with some relieve for his likes and others though such may necessarily cannot and shall never be a panacea. “I don’t know how the land question shall be resolved. Our forebears left the country because they were robbed of their land. And that is what we fought for but it seems to have gone forever. Even those who were left behind remain landless. It would be ideal for our forebears for the land to come back,” the veteran dearly wishes.