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Subtitle: Man and Myth - The Biography of a Barefoot Soldier
Kaxumba kaNdola, alias Eliaser Tuhadeleni, is well remembered in Namibia for his personal courage, which made him larger than life itself.
A political activist and founding member of SWAPO, he spoke up for the rights of his people.
In this book, Ellen Namhila takes us to northern Namibia during the apartheid era and follows Eliaser Tuhadeleni, who, as a leader of the early nationalist movement, was persecuted by the South African Government and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island.
Evoking the memories of Kaxumba through extensive interviews with members of his immediate family, neighbours, and people who were nurses and teachers, she forces us to think about the morals of a society under occupation.
"It is the legacy of people like the late Kaxumba that lives on to help us remember, to look back, to understand who we have been, who we are and from where are have come, and hopefully pave the way/or our destiny.
For those who wish to understand the political dynamics of the liberation struggle row.
The point of view of people at the grassroots, and the mass mobilisation of the people to support and join the struggle for liberation, I urge you to read this book....
Thanks to our founding fathers, the unwavering Tuhadeleni and others, who kept the fire of the struggle burning."
Andimba Toivo yaToivo
Kaxumba kaNdola, also known as Eliaser Tuhadeleni, is well remembered for the sacrifice and enormous contribution he and his family made towards the struggle for the freedom and liberation of Namibia. In northern Namibia, he is still remembered as a man of myth and legend, as a pillar of strength and courage to stand up against colonial domination and apartheid.
Kaxumba was a very peaceful man, who had no tolerance for injustice. He was a hardworking man, even in his old age. When he returned to his home after Namibia had at last gained freedom, Kaxumba still had the energy to rebuild his house with his bare hands with hardly any financial support. I met the late Eliaser Tuhadeleni when he was a guava seller at Oluno, and again later when I arrived in Cape Town in June 1952, where I found him working for a construction company.
The late Tuhadeleni was a generous man, who accommodated all the Namibian newcomers in Cape Town. The name Kaxumba kaNdola originates from when he used to sing in church. The name literally means 'the organ of Endola'. When he left Cape Town around about 1953, he bought two organs, one for the church and one for himself.
Comrade Kaxumba was courageous and fearless. For instance, when he was arrested and kept in the house of headman Elia Weyulu for a long period of time, he got so fed up with his house arrest one day, that he decided to leave with his handcuffs on and go home. No one followed him. Once, when there was a conflict in Ombalantu between headman Kaimbi and members of SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organisation), which led to the arrest of Comrade Benyamin (Shimbu), Comrade Shimbu was placed in the headman's kraal under house arrest.
He too, one day, decided to walk away with his handcuffs on and reported to Comrade Kaxumba's home. Kaxumba removed the handcuffs and took them to Ondangwa to Mr Webber, who was the equivalent of the Deputy Native Commissioner. Shimbu was freed and people wondered at how even the Commissioner just let Kaxumba have his way. Kaxumba was an excellent organiser, an outstanding speaker, and an honest man. He was I highly respected by the contract workers for whom he acted as spokesperson. He was a politician, who knew how to talk to the people in order to get their support.
His disadvantage lay in his lack of education. Kaxumba did not get proper schooling and he could not express himself well in languages other than his mother tongue. Those of us who were there remember that the political meetings, held under the banner of OPO (Ovamboland People's Organisation) and later SWAPO, were called oyoongiyaKaxumba (Kaxumba's rallies), because he was the main mobiliser. When SWAPO sent its first combatants from Tanzania to Namibia in 1965, they were given clear instructions by the Party to report to Comrade Eliaser Tuhadeleni Kaxumba kaNdola, because of his self-sacrificing nature, generosity, honesty, and dedication to the liberation struggle.
His house became the first SWAPO military base inside Namibia, until the South African police force started looking for combatants there. There was a shoot-out at a cuca shop belonging to a Portuguese businessman at Ehenge Lomushii in Angola. After a police investigation, it was found that some of the ammunition was Russian made. This gave rise to the police's suspicious, leading to a raid on Comrade Tuhadeleni's home. The combatants then moved away with their ammunition to establish other bases in the bush. Kaxumba joined them and was made second-in-command.
In due course, the South African apartheid regime arrested Kaxumba and sentenced him to life imprisonment on Robben Island. His legacy lives on even after his death. It is the legacy of people like the late Kaxumba that lives on, helping us to remember, to look back, to understand who we have been and who we are and from where we have come, and hopefully pave the way for our destiny. For those who wish to understand the political dynamics of the liberation struggle from the point of view of people at the grassroots, and the mass mobilisation of the people to support and join the struggle for liberation, I urge you to read this book.
It was not easy to mobilise the people to stand up for their rights, and to rise against a powerful, oppressive colonial government that used its entire means to crush any opposing views. Our thanks go to our founding fathers, the unwavering Tuhadeleni and others, who kept the fire of the struggle burning. Viva Comrade Tuhadeleni. Aluta continua.
Andimba Toivo yaToivo
Kaxumba was a very generous man. When I arrived in Cape Town for the first time in 1952, he made me a kind offer to stay with him until I got a place of my own. Many Namibians going to Cape Town for the first time lived with Kaxumba or came to him for meals. He was a very charitable man who helped his fellow country men without expecting any thing in return. (Andimba Toivo yaToivo)
Tate Kaxumba was a great man. I regarded him as my father and a great friend. I joined SWAPO because of him. He was the one who recruited me into SWAPO and made me realise the need to stand up and to fight for justice and for what is right. Tate Kaxumba opened my eyes to the ideas of liberation and independence and he was my political mentor. It was because of him that I and many other people of my age became active SWAPO members. He was a courageous and inspiring father, comrade and friend. He was an amazing man in the way he did and said things, his nature of loving and caring, yet straightforward in his dealings. With him you always knew where you stood on any issue.
I went from village to village, from community to community in northern Namibia asking people 'who is Kaxumba kaNdola?' I was told he was 'a guerrilla fighter, a freedom fighter who changes into objects in order to camouflage himself from the South African Security Police and that he was also 'a well-known singer'. I asked a retired schoolteacher in Ongwediva, who Kaxumba kaNdola was, and he said to me: If you want to know about Kaxumba, I will tell you a story. I did not know him personally, but have heard all sorts of stories about him. I came face to face with Kaxumba during the ploughing season of 1960 when the traditional authority at Ohangwena issued a general invitation to a public meeting.
A high-level delegation of South African white officials from Pretoria as well as their representative from Windhoek also attended. At this meeting, the senior headman of Oukwanyama told the gathering that: There are people in this country who are going around confusing our people with their SWAPO communist ideology and trying to turn our country to communism. I urge you to reject and isolate these communists and to report them to the police. These activities can no longer be tolerated and during this meeting we shall demonstrate to you our seriousness about rooting out SWAPO communism from our society.
You will see for yourself how we are going to shoot and kill Eliaser Tuhadeleni who is the leader of the SWAPO people and notorious for creating a lot of trouble for this tribal authority. He will die here today at this meeting. We want this to happen openly so that you can all see for yourself that we are not playing when we say that Swapo must be destroyed, it must be buried by each and everyone of you and never to be heard of again. All SWAPO leaders must be killed. Kaxumba must be killed today in front of this gathering so that you can all see what will happen to you if you follow in his footsteps. I warn all of you that if you want to live like Kaxumba then you must be willing to die like him.'
There was a big uproar from the crowd and people were clearly shocked by the harsh words from one of their traditional leaders. We were all fully aware that according to the customs of our people, the traditional authorities never condemn their subjects to death. It is never done or never heard of. Even war prisoners captured during an invasion by another tribe were not killed.
hey may be exchanged by relatives against goods and cattle or left as slaves, but not killed. Also, the hearings at the traditional courts were open to any member of the community to hear the story of the accused as well as the defendant. After listening to evidence for and against, the person chairing the hearing asked all present that 'You have listened to the two sides, is there anyone who wants to give further evidence, comments or judgement on the case?' People discussed the cases and commented on the judgements. In Kaxumba's case, there was no hearing on the matter.
The chief only read out the verdict to us, but we did not know how he arrived at it. The crowd was told to keep silent and the chief proceeded with the meeting. People from all parts of Owambo attended this meeting. They were shocked by the cruel decision to condemn Kaxumba to death without a hearing. However, none of them stuck out their necks in protest for Kaxumba's life. We were afraid to protest against the chief's decision and did not know what to do. Someone suggested that we must go to Ohalushu to fetch Simon Kaukungwa to come and lead the protest or tell the people what to do. Ohalushu was about ten kilometres from Ohangwena. It was not possible to get there on foot and to return to this meeting.
The chief was determined to have Kaxumba's life terminated and called upon one of the senior headmen to come forward. He handed him a machine gun and ordered him to shoot and kill Kaxumba. The senior headman accepted the responsibility and moved forward. Suddenly, all the white officials stood up, got into their cars and fled the scene. They left the meeting without saying a word. In the meantime, the headman got into action and cocked his gun, pointing it at the whole gathering. Everyone sat silently waiting for things to happen. Suddenly, Kaxumba stood up quietly amongst the people and said:
'Dear senior headman, I understand you love these people above all else and this is why you want to get rid of me and save them from my political influence. Please, do not pose a further danger to them by shooting at me while I am sitting between them. They may loose their lives because of me. Please wait for me to move out of the gathering to the empty space over there so that you can shoot me without hurting these innocent people whom we all love so much. One thing, if you shoot me while in the crowd my blood may spill all over on the bodies of these people and wherever my blood lands new seeds for the struggle will grow. I am sure you do not want to assist in the process of planting more seeds for the struggle, do you?'
For the first time I realised that Kaxumba had a voice of authority, yet was calm and very composed. He was a real politician who knew what he was doing. The senior headman looked startled and very shaken. So, Kaxumba started moving out of the crowd and walked straight and tall about 20 metres away from the crowd. There he stood alone. He lifted up his arms and his body made a cross sign. He spoke again. He called out the headman's name and surname and said, 'please shoot me now'. The headman walked toward Kaxumba with his gun pointing at him. He suddenly stood and took up a shooting position. He cocked his gun and cocked it again. Pointing the gun firmly toward Kaxumba, the headman went for the trigger. At this point some people were praying. […]
Foreword, by Andimba Toivo yaToivo
II Political Formation
III Namibia, the International Community, and the Military Option
IV Omugulu gwombashe Attacked
V The Legend
VI The Hero Falls into the Enemy's Net
VII Robben Island
VIII Kaxumba Freed
IX The Return Home
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African National Congress (ANC)