Onesmos Namakulu: Pains of a living hero

By By Dorcas Mhungu and Jemima Beukes
August 2011
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On 9 March 1958, Catherine and Onesmos Namakulu were blessed with a baby boy, and as they held him close to their hearts and cherished the precious gift, little did they know that one day, baby Oswin would be among the thousands of Namibians that would fight to free the country from colonial bondage.

Now at the helm of Outapi Town Council, since 1999 Oswin Namakulu narrates the bitter- sweet feeling of triumph and prides in being part of the guerrillas that fought for the liberation of his motherland.

It is at Outapi that 27 guerrillas massacred by the South African forces on April 1 1989 are buried in a mass grave.

Outapi Town Council is currently lobbying for funding to make the site a national shrine and give the burial place the dignity that befits sons and daughters who died for a worthy cause.

The massacre of PLAN fighters on that April night,in violation on the United Nations Transition Action Group (UNTAG), has been told many times over, but it is the recognition of the final resting place of these gallant fighters that Outapi Town Council believe would be the ultimate honour of any hero, as Namibia marks its Heroes Day this August.

According to Namakulu the council has approached targeted organisations for funding to build the shrine that cost over N$ 10 million.

Of the 27 slain heroes, 20 of them were ambushed while celebrating the truce at a homestead in Onhokolo, and the South Africa Defence Forces, that time regarded as the enemy, buried the 20 facing the direction of Ongandjela, the district where the Founding Father, Dr Sam Nujoma hails from.

For the South Africans, this to them was a message to Sam Nujoma.

Only one guerrilla survived the ambush.

Another seven fighters were also killed in another location in the same evening bringing the total to 27 buried in the mass grave only referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Out of the 27 fighters buried in the mass grave, two were identified by the villagers because they hailed from the area. But the whereabouts of the lone survivor are still unknown and also sadly, the whereabouts of the families of the two identified guerrillas.

The story goes in Outapi that some days after the gruesome murder of his comrade, the lone soilder came back to collect his rifle he had hidden in the area. No word was ever heard of him, says Namakulu.

“It is very unfortunate and I don’t feel comfortable with it. I do not feel happy with my colleagues who endured hardships during the struggle and they have not documented it. So far, I am the only one who has written a book on planned military operations during the liberation struggle from 1963 to 1989. There are a lot of graves in the former war zones and the graves are not taken care of.

“I appeal to Government to do something and I urge ex-fighters to write books for the new generation to know how the liberation came about. Many have died since and they die with their history and legacy. I am writing my second book about people who took part in the struggle inside the country,” says Namakulu passionately.

He wrote a book in 2004, entitled Armed Liberation Struggle – Some Account of Plan’s Combat, published by Gammsberg Macmillan Namibia Publishers.

Outapi Town Council has also converted a dug out camp used during the liberation struggle, to a museum. The Council is working towards equipping it properly. Currently it has audio-visuals of the struggle, military uniforms and other materials used during the war.

Namakulu was born in Omahokwe village and after completing primary education at Lower Omuulukila School, he attended Amulenge Seconday School, now called David Sheehama in honour of a liberation hero who was killed at the height of the struggle for giving financial and material support to the guerrillas.

After completing his secondary school he went into exile in Angola where he received military training for six months in Lubango. “I was trained in small arms, topography, physical and military guerrilla warfare tactics and strategies,” he recounts.

After the military training, Namakulu remained in the Greenwell Matongo camp as a military instructor until he was awarded a scholarship in 1980 to study Public Administration and Management in Zambia at the United Nations Institute for Namibia. The training was in line with strategies to serve the country effectively post independence. Namakulu did his internship in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and was capped in 1983 and assigned position of Chief Administrator of Namibia Health and Education Centre in Nyango, Zambia.

The following year, he went to study Political Science in the German Democratic Republic and graduated with a Diploma in Political Science and went back to Zambia in 1985.

The Swapo Party in June 1986, appointed Namakulu as Chief Administration Officer for all Swapo settlements in both Angola and Zambia. His position entailed administering the centres in terms of education and health.

“In 1989, I played the critical role of UN Repatriation Coordinator responsible for repatriating all Namibians in Kwanza-Sul and Kwanza North in Angola. I happen to be the person who repatriated the highest number of exiled people and in excess of 16 000 refugees.”

He came home in 1990 and assumed the position of Swapo Regional Coordinator in Otjozundupa region and three years later came to Windhoek to work at the Namibia Protection Services as 2nd in command.

The following five years saw Namakulu working at the office of the President as an Administrator from 1994 to 1999. In September of 1999, after Outapi was given town status, Namakulu was offered the reign to run the Council as Chief Executive Officer, the same year he graduated from the Polytechnic of Namibia with a Diploma in Public Management.

Although Outapi has no known mineral wealth, Namakulu says the only tourist attraction is the Ombalantu Tree, a huge Baobab tree that was used as a church by the South African army during the apartheid era and as a post office because it was holed out and accommodates 30 people.

His heart bleeds at the lack of heritage cites where the battles were fought by Namibians in the regions.

“The only attraction site we have is the church used by the South African army. We have a lot of places that we can enshrine, be they battlefields or mass graves and according the fallen heroes the status they deserve,” he concludes. PF