Omuntele Combatants

By By Dr. S V V Nambala
July 2010
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In view of the commemoration of the Heroes Day (26 August) each year, it is also important to note some of the less known events in the annals of the liberation history.

In one previous article we have maintained that many of the liberation battles took place in the northern triangle north of B1 main road and northeastward cordon from Tsumeb, Ondangwa and Oshikango. However, some interesting events plus sporadic skirmishes also took place at certain places on the southern side of main road B1. Omuntele area is an example thereof.

Northern Namibia is traditionally sub-divided into small sections, called wards and districts, under the leadership of headmen and senior headmen. Omuntele is a name of one of the traditional wards in Oshikoto Region.

It is situated in the northwest part of Oshikoto about 60 km southeast of Ondangwa. Omuntele ward was established in the early 1940s by Silvanus Nyambali, the son of the well known Chief Nehale, the son of Mpingana, the son of Shimbu.

However, over the years the name Omuntele was also given to a local parish (church) which was established in that ward in 1964. Hence Omuntele parish covers several traditional wards including Omuntele itself. After independence, one of the constituencies in the Oshikoto Region was also named Omuntele. Omuntele Constituency then includes Omuntele ward, Omuntele parish and other areas.

For better understanding, let us use here Omuntele Constituency as our point of reference.

During the liberation struggle, especially between 1976 and 1980, many liberation activities took place in and around Omuntele Constituency. Among other things, many people left Omuntele to join the liberation struggle abroad. During the above mentioned period (1976 – 1980), SWAPO armed combatants became “civilians” and lived in Omuntele for several years without being detected by the enemy forces. After obtaining all necessary civil documents, they lived in civilians’ houses and moved freely throughout the country under the pretext of being “civilians.”

Reference to Omuntele combatants is in threefold. Firstly, it refers to the people who originally were residents of Omuntele by birth or by migration and left the country to join SWAPO PLAN combatants.

The second group of combatants includes those PLAN fighters who were hosted in the surrounding of Omuntele as “civilians” on reconnaissance missions for many years. The third group of Omuntele combatants is of those who operated or were in full combat readiness around the Omuntele area for long or short periods.

It is not common knowledge to general public that Omuntele played a vital role in the liberation struggle. Around this place, the war was secretly and tactically waged by both combatants and civilians. Interestingly, Omuntele was considered a haven by the South African military. Whenever they fought with SWAPO on the northern side of the main road (B1), they went to take a respite at Omuntele not knowing that they were right in the middle of SWAPO fighters.

One occasion, I remember during 1978, when I arrived at Omuntele Cuca shop, where I found South African forces leaving the establishment. I also found Mr. Malakia Shiluwa (Kangwe) sitting there at the table. He was one of the PLAN “civil” combatants. I asked him: Aahona otaa kongo shike? (“What are the bosses looking for?”) “They are looking for iikulo” (“terrorists,”), he said. “And what did you say?” I asked him. “I told them that I have never seen a “terrorist” in my life.

But we were sitting here with them talking about various issues. They left me sitting here as they are going on in search for iikulo,” he said. We laughed, because they could not tell that one of the persons they were looking for was right here in front of their noses.

At times, armed skirmishes between SWAPO combatants and South African forces also took place in the vicinity of Omuntele. For instance, there were battles at Ombundu-Oshalongo and Oshiteni-Alusheshete areas. Fighters such as Max Nekongo, then Group Commander, was seriously injured at Oshalongo battle. Many fighters also succumbed in combat in the Omuntele vicinity. Some of those who gave their live were: Simon yaAbiatar yaKapiye, died at Omalengefo. “Oshondili” shaMartin, died at peputu lyaMukululwa, Okakoto. “Sondela,” died at pomatope gokOmalengefo, and his body was dropped near Omuntele shebeens and devoured by dogs as people were strictly prohibited by the South African soldiers to bury him. “Makutsi gaNehale” and “Kamati” died in ambush at Simon Kambungu’s house, Oniihandhila.

The Omuntele military movements are directly attributed to the 100 PLAN volunteers. When in October 1974, 100 SWAPO semi-trained military men and women volunteered to open up a new military front in Angola. These militia included men like Filemon Malima, Samuel Mushelenga, Nkuruma Abed Mushelenga, John Mweendi Itamalo, Tomas Itamalo, David Engombe Zambezi, David Mbandeka, Elia Nuuyoma, Shaanika Kalenga Kolubian, Appolos Kahenge Dengeinge, Johannes Shikongo (Shukutula), Simon Nakaziko, Filippus Shikuma Kamati, Niilo Kambwa Taapopi, “Kenaatuka”, Otto Shiyagaya, Lukas “Fogo”, Iintamba “Bongi” Andreas Iintamba, Sikunawa “Shingunguma” Negumbo, Filemon “Nduuvu” Nangolo, Leonard “Kumbo” Nambahu, Ponhele yaFrans, “Makaya”, Mbolondondo, Charles Namholo, “Kathaila” (former wife of Dimo Hamaambo), Nambabi (Platoon Commander who unfortunately drowned in the river) and many others. Another group of fifty combatants joined them later. These men and women opened the Angola front by establishing the first SWAPO base in Angola at Kasapa in the Mexicho Province in January 1975. It was from this group’s success that military operations were extended to the south of the country up to the final victory.

SWAPO in its publication, Their Blood waters our freedom, has also recorded Omuntele born combatants who died during the liberation struggle.

Some of the “civil” combatants who lived at Omuntele included John Alfons Pandeni (Magala), hosted by meekulu Rakel Teteleni family, Omalengefo. Erastus Nghede (Nghede) (3627: died in combat at war zone on 01 January 1978), hosted by Jakob Silvanus Nehale family, Omuntele. Petrus Iilonga (Nangolo; Mutsegwateka) hosted by Eino Kasita family, Omuntele. Malakia Shiluwa (Kangwe) (4677: died in combat at war zone on 01 January 1979), hosted by Simon Bartolomeus family, Omuntele. “Simon” (Makaku), hosted by Mrs. Alma Mbango family, Omalengefo. “Simon,” hosted by Nikanor Iita family, Onewawa.

The inside story of Omuntele combatants and operational strategies can be told by former fighters such as Andreas Iintamba (“Bongi”), Erastus Negonga, “Kapitaholo”, Martin Nashandi, Martin Iifo, “Gali,” “Kahanda,” “Kalunga kondjatha,” Shikuma shaKamati, Markus Nekongo, Nangolo yaNangolo, Jonas Haiduwa, John Iimbili (1417: died in combat at war zone on 1. January 1980), and many others. Fortunately some of these cadres are still with us.

As the nation is celebrating the Heroes Day, the contribution of the Omuntele combatants and their civilian compatriots should also be remembered. There is more to be written about what actually happened during the liberation struggle at this unique place called Omuntele.PF