SWAPO in Exile and After: Dilemmas of Pragmatic Nationalism

by: Bernard C. Moore

Heroes' Acre Obelisk. Photo by Bernard C. Moore.
Heroes’ Acre Obelisk. Photo by Bernard C. Moore.

February 2015 saw the first burial of a non-SWAPO member in the cemetery at Heroes’ Acre. Gerson Veii, a lifetime member of SWANU, was arrested in 1967 by the South African apartheid police and sentenced to prison on Robben Island, convicted of inciting “racial hatred.” His burial this years marks the first break in a long-line of SWAPO (and mostly Ovambo) state funerals at Heroes’ Acre, bringing to light difficult questions of who has the right to declare someone a hero.

In 2002, the Namibian Government inaugurated the memorial cemetery, Heroes’ Acre, located roughly 10k south of Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, at the feet of the Auas Mountains. Construction began in 2001 by the North Korean architecture firm, Mansudae, who, in 2000 provided Namibian President Sam Nujoma with a tour of their Pyongyang sculptures, museums, and monuments.1 Even a casual visitor to Heroes’ Acre can see the very politically charged imagery which the monuments give off. After paying a nominal admission fee, one drives through a high Korean-style gate and slowly makes the trek up the slope. The roads are wide so to allow military equipment to enter: it’s clear that one of the main uses of the site is as a parade-ground.

Heroes Acre: Bronze Relief
Heroes Acre: Bronze Relief

There’s a reception center at the main level: it’s generally closed when SWAPO isn’t holding an event. Looking up from the reception center, one sees several levels of graves – some filled, some empty – leading up to a large bronze statue before a stone obelisk. Though officially known as the “unknown soldier,” he bears a striking resemblance to Founding President Sam Nujoma; in his right hand, he holds a Model 24 stick grenade ready to throw, in his left an AK-47. Behind the “unknown soldier” and the obelisk is a bronze relief depicting the Namibians’ march from slavery and colonialism to armed struggle and victory under SWAPO. Mansudae designed the historical relief to emphasize a seamless transition: the epitome of nationalist history.2

From 1960 through 1989, the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO, Namibia’s anti-apartheid movement), engaged in armed struggle and diplomatic mobilization against South African apartheid occupation of Namibia, then called South West Africa. During this period, most of SWAPO leadership was in exile, operating out of military and refugee camps in Tanzania, Zambia, and Angola. From 1969, they became the only officially recognized liberation movement by the international community – declared by the Organization of African Unity as the “sole and authentic” representative of the Namibian people; SWANU and others were excluded.

Heroes Acre: The Unknown Soldier. Photo by Bernard C. Moore
Heroes Acre: The Unknown Soldier. Photo by Bernard C. Moore

This paper explores the history of SWAPO in exile with particular emphasis on three contentious issues in the movement’s history: SWAPO’s relationship with UNITA, dissension in Zambia in 1976, and the “spy drama” of the 1980s in Angola. It is argued that from early in SWAPO’s history, the movement developed a pragmatic view of Namibian nationalism; the aim was independence under a SWAPO government at all costs. Each of these three periods of SWAPO’s history represent instances where the Heroes’ Acre bronze relief would not flow so seamlessly, and for that reason, SWAPO has sought to downplay, forget, or reconstruct these periods of the movement’s history to fit within its perspective of contemporary Namibian nationalism: a backward-looking “Janus-faced” nationalism, partly progressive and partly reactionary.3

National Archives of Namibia (NAN) Poster Collection (POCO) 0502
National Archives of Namibia (NAN) Poster Collection (POCO) 0502

From the early 1960s, SWAPO leaders had a close relationship with UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola), one of the main anti-colonial movements of Angola, then under Portuguese rule. Nujoma and UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi, possessed a strong friendship, which enabled cooperation between the movements in funneling Namibians into exile via Angola or sheltering UNITA soldiers from Portuguese forces. This relationship continued after the 1969 OAU declaration that UNITA was not an “authentic” liberation movement; SWAPO continued to engage in joint military operations as late as February 1976, nearly a full year after UNITA began receiving military aid from Pretoria to fight SWAPO and Angola’s MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola). After SWAPO finally severed the relationship in December 1976, they have denied this limbo-period in between UNITA’s alliance with South Africa and SWAPO’s departure. Much of the “official” SWAPO literature downplays this relationship.

In a similar vein, SWAPO has had difficulty coming to terms with the Cold War histories of the 1970s in Zambia. When Kenneth Kaunda’s government in Lusaka came under pressure from rising oil prices and plummeting copper revenues, he struck a deal with Rhodesia’s Ian Smith and Pretoria’s B.J. Vorster to limit the activities of the liberation movements within the Zambian borders in exchange for economic security. SWAPO’s leaders were hard-pressed to oppose the constraints Kaunda was putting upon them, and they were forced to comply, to an extent. These decisions came up against a flood of young, radical, and educated SWAPO recruits who went into exile in the mid-1970s. This crisis nearly caused a split in SWAPO and the movement’s destruction.

Finally, I will elaborate on the history of detentions in SWAPO camps in Angola, notably Lubango. Throughout most of the 1980s, extreme insecurity and fear of SADF-UNITA attacks caused the military commanders in the military/refugee camps to oust perceived South African spies from within the ranks. The witch hunt spiraled out of control, nearly costing SWAPO majority in the country’s first democratic elections. The detainee issue is representative of broader dilemmas regarding (the lack of) truth and reconciliation in Namibia, as the SWAPO government still cannot come to terms with the human rights abuses which took place in Angola.

Throughout this paper I constantly refer to the dilemmas inherent in SWAPO’s model of anti-colonial nationalism. I argue that the liberation struggle solidified a perception that SWAPO was the Nation and the Nation was SWAPO. Dissent from SWAPO or lack of support implied a rejection of the Namibian nation in its entirety. In each of the sections, I refer to memoirs, interviews, and personal histories which provide a counter-narrative to the liberation struggle, noting when the bronze relief didn’t run so seamlessly.

This paper largely relies on published works on Namibia’s exile history, I have incorporated several interviews conducted in 2012 and 2013 in Namibia and Washington, as well as interviews from published memoirs and collections of Namibian personal histories. I complement the textual analysis with photographs and interactive time-maps of the exile period.

Collective Memory and Nationalism

This paper is not merely a political history of SWAPO in exile; it is also an exploration into the politicized nature of memory, history, and reconciliation in Namibia. A national policy of “reconciliation” has its place in the preamble of the Namibian constitution, yet, this concept has remained vague. No truth and reconciliation commission has been established in Namibia, and it is not likely to take place; most of the perpetrators of apartheid violence are now citizens of South Africa, and there are certain periods of SWAPO’s history which the movement would prefer be left alone.

SWAPO’s policy of reconciliation without truth reflects Ernest Renan’s old argument regarding collective forgetting:

Forgetting, I would even go so far as to say historical error, is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation, which is why progress in historical studies often constitutes a danger for [the principle of] nationality. Indeed, historical enquiry brings to light deeds of violence which took place at the origin of all political formulations, even of those whose consequences have been altogether beneficial . . . every French citizen has to have forgotten the massacre of Saint Bartholomew.”4

Benedict Anderson explores Renan’s argument further, noting the role that state school systems and historians play in creating these “national genealogies;” truth-seeking and historical production, from the perspective of a “nationalist” government is entirely political.5 One is increasingly reminded of what one has already forgotten, as though it is a civil duty.

Nujoma and Namibian delegates with Kim Il Sung, DPRK. NAN 13944
Nujoma and Namibian delegates with Kim Il Sung, DPRK. NAN 13944

This politicization of memory is explored further by Ross Poole. He argues that there are two aspects of collective memory and historical production: cognitive, relating to transmission of information, and conative, relating to transmission of will and action.6 Collective forgetting, termed “oblivion” by Poole, relates not to the cognitive aspects of memory (what actually happened), but the conative (what will be done with the memory). Through oblivion, memory becomes history, no longer bearing on present situations. Poole is clear that “acts of oblivion are, almost by definition, political;” the results of these interventions are intended to alter the way in which citizens identify and align themselves in the present.7

In the case of Namibia, we see that acts of oblivion are a process; memories die hard. In order to present a very specific historical narrative, SWAPO must actively intervene into the daily lives of citizens, regimenting their bodies and minds to accept certain truths.8 Public ceremonies, monument building, film commissions, autobiographies, and other symbols play a significant role in this process. Indeed, Giorgio Miescher argues that the process began before independence was even won:

They invented this country through ideas . . . One of the successful inventions was the Namibian flag, the Namibian colors. The colors, this blue, red, green, which would later become the colors of the new National Flag were used as political expression. So during the struggle, in the 1970s and 80s, if you wanted to express your political ideas, you would wear a shirt with these three colors, or you would dress in these colors. So it played a big role.”9

Women at the Funeral of Gerson Veii, dressed in the SWANU colors. Courtesy of Namibian Press Association, 2015.
Women at the Funeral of Gerson Veii, dressed in the SWANU colors. Courtesy of Namibian Press Association, 2015.

Aspects of political allegiance and regimentation, whether bottom-up or top-down, do not, however, remain uncontested. At the funeral of Gerson Veii, a long-time South West Africa National Union member, Herero men and women in the crowds waved SWANU flags and emphasized the yellow in their dress.10 Despite SWAPO’s emphasis on “patriotic” history – equating SWAPO with the nation – alternative histories are produced; counter-narratives are not silent. According to Christian Williams, “If such histories seem to have been silent, however, it is only due to a national history which has been projected so loudly that the many stories which contradict it have become too difficult or jarring to hear.”11

Interlude: A Very Brief Background on Colonialism in Namibia

National independence on 21 March, 1990, marked the end of 106 years of colonial rule in Namibia. The roots of European influence, coercion, and domination go back further, to the late 18th Century with the development of mercantile capitalism and increased trade networks with the Cape Colony.12 Gradually, there was increased German presence in Central Namibia with the foundation of the Rhenish Mission colony at Otjimbingwe in 1864. The mission station was heavily dependent in the trading economy and served as a nexus for sales of arms and ammunition, despite a prohibition by the Rhenish Mission headquarters in Wuppertal.13 In Ovamboland, northern Namibia, the Finnish Mission Society opened several stations in 1871 and was linked to the trading economy as well.14 Merchant capital changed social relations; the increased access to weapons and general uneasiness about missionaries and settlers centralized polities and led to raiding by Oorlam commandos throughout Namibia.15

Map of German South West Africa, 1913. The "Red Line" is not included on this map; at this time, the line was an arch with northern termini at Sessfontein, Namutoni, and Rietfontein. NAN Map Collection 05960
Map of German South West Africa, 1913. The “Red Line” is not included on this map; Miescher notes that the path of the Red Line changed depending on settlement patterns, though the Northern Terminus remained between Namutoni and Oshivelo. NAN Map Collection 05960

The 1884-5 Berlin Conference awarded Germany with what became known as Deutsche-Südwest-Afrika, roughly mirroring the contemporary borders of Namibia. Formal German colonialism, however, remained south of the Red Line, a veterinary cordon fence which demarcated the extent of where “Police Protection” was guaranteed and where cattle could be sold.16 From 1884, organizations such as the Deutsche-Kolonialgesellschaft promoted emigration to Namibia, and by 1913, at least 1,331 farms of roughly 13.4 million hectares were sold or leased to settlers, many of whom were former soldiers in the Schutztruppe, the German colonial army.17

Increasing German settlement for agriculture and ranching quickly came into conflict with the pastoral economy of the Herero. Tony Emmett elaborates on this:

The underlying logic of these two forms of production are inherently incompatible and antagonistic, so that the survival of one system is dependent on the destruction or strictly enforced limitation of the other . . . While pastoral systems are based on unrestricted physical mobility, settled farming and private property are premised on the demarcation of clearly defined boundaries, on fencing, and on strict control over the movement of stock. Secondly, private property and settled farming demand veld conservation strategies based on planned stocking and the strict limitation of stock numbers. These are diametrically opposed to pastoral strategies, which emphasize the accumulation of stock as a compensatory mechanism against droughts and epidemics.”18

Although conflict between Herero and German were already becoming a serious problem in the first decade of formal colonialism, the 1897 Rinderpest epidemic exacerbated these tensions further. Between 80-95 percent of cattle in Ovamboland perished, and at least two-thirds of Herero cattle died as well.19 German (and Afrikaner) settlers took this opportunity to obtain cheap wage labor on farms, proletarianizing large segments of the Herero and Nama populations.

Distressed Herero launched a military campaign in March and April 1904 against settler farms in Central Namibia. German forces under Generals Leutwein and von Trotha responded with exterminationist vigor. Roughly half of the Herero population was wiped out over the course of the war; in addition, the Nama of southern Namibia lost roughly a third of its population.20 Many of these deaths took place in concentration camps in Swakopmund and Lüderitz, where Nama and Herero built the Namibian railway and countless other projects.21 The war is widely considered the first genocide of the twentieth century.22

Herero women unloading a crate, Swakopmund, 1905. Likely detainees in the Swakopmund concentration camp. NAN 5041
Herero women unloading a crate, Swakopmund, 1905. Likely detainees in the Swakopmund concentration camp. NAN 5041

A major socio-economic result of the genocide of the Herero and Nama is that the labor shortage which already existed in central and southern Namibia was exacerbated further. This led to importing workers from Ovamboland, northern Namibia, on a contract basis. This began during the German period, though it expanded heavily after the South African administration took over the colony in 1914-5. Gradually through migrant labor, Ovamboland became more fully integrated into the colonial economy, which at that time was highly reliant on agricultural production and extractive diamond mining in Lüderitz. It should be noted that this was a very unequal economic relationship, as Ovamboland was only integrated into the colonial economy through migrant wage labor and alterations in consumptive behavior. Little agricultural innovation or industrial development took place in Ovamboland until the apartheid-era Bantu Investment Corporation began to expand into the Bantustan in the 1970s.23

Labor Recruitment in Northern Namibia, 1953. Photo produced for Pretoria State Information Service. NAN 3270
Labor Recruitment in Northern Namibia, 1953. Photo produced for Pretoria State Information Service. NAN 3270

The first Namibian political organization was formed in 1957 by Ovambo contract workers (notably Andimba Toivo ya Toivo and Andreas Shipanga) in Cape Town: known as the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO). Ben Ulenga elaborates:

What became SWAPO later started in Cape Town. It started as OPO, whose main point of complaint was the migrant labor system in Namibia. Not apartheid, or not explicitly against apartheid. And not explicitly for independence [at that time]. So it wasn’t exactly the “Winds of Change” that Macmillan spoke about. It was not “Nkrumah” really.”24

The Ovamboland People’s Organization spread to Windhoek and other urban centers in Namibia: it was there that Sam Nujoma joined the movement. The OPO operated independently from the two other major Namibian organizations, SWANU (directed by Jariretundu Kozonguizi) and the Herero Chiefs Council (led by Chief Hosea Kutako). After the massacre of Namibians by police outside the Old Location beer hall in Windhoek in December 1959, members of OPO, particularly Sam Nujoma went into exile in Tanganyika and transformed OPO into SWAPO.25

From 1960, more and more Namibians traveled into exile to fight against apartheid. SWAPO’s first office was in Dar es Salaam, though it expanded throughout the continent as more countries obtained independence. On 26 August 1966, SWAPO cadres launched their first attack on Namibian soil at Omugulugwombashe, in the Omusati region of Ovamboland. From this point, SWAPO’s main goals were producing quality military units to launch small-scale guerrilla attacks at police posts in Northern Namibia and Caprivi, maintain refugee camps in the Frontline States for those forced out of the country, and to petition the international community for assistance in attaining independence for Namibia. SWAPO approached independence very pragmatically. Herbert Jauch explains this further:

The early demands inside the country were very pragmatic. There was nothing like scientific Marxism-Leninism in SWAPO’s own thinking. It was an end to the occupation, and end to the racism; that was a key one. SWAPO in that sense was much more of a nationalist movement than a socialist movement.”26

Independence became the sole goal for the movement, and especially after the 1969 Khartoum Conference, which solidified OAU and East-Bloc economic support for SWAPO’s liberation struggle, “independence” and “SWAPO” become conflated in the movement’s theory and praxis.

I have chosen to focus heavily on the exile period of SWAPO’s history, from the mid-1960s through the late 1980s for a number of reasons. First, over this period, a substantial percentage of the Namibian population moved into exile as soldiers, refugees, students, or politicians. Estimates vary as to the scale of the exodus, but figures range from 43,00027 to 60,000.28 When considered in relation to the exile population of South Africa, it represents a much larger percentage of Namibia’s African population. Second, SWAPO’s governing structure was almost entirely based in the exile community. This is partially due to the fact that although SWAPO was not explicitly banned during the apartheid period, it was very difficult to maintain any sort of formal organization in Namibia. In addition, the exile leadership of SWAPO felt threatened by the younger, radicalized internal wing, and they took steps to marginalize the internal movement such that power could be ceded to the exile authorities.29 When SWAPO began campaigning for the 1989 elections, the vast majority of their political candidates were among the exiled movement; many of these individuals received academic degrees from universities abroad, preparing them for government leadership. These sorts of opportunities were usually unavailable to the internal SWAPO membership.

Most importantly, SWAPO’s hyper-pragmatic political ideology developed in exile according to the structural conditions they were facing. As Herbert Jauch pointed out above, SWAPO’s goal in exile was very pragmatic and opportunist; independence under SWAPO government was the aim, at all costs. Alternative political mobilizing both in exile and within Namibia was discouraged and often virulently condemned by SWAPO’s exile leadership.30 This political rhetoric of “SWAPO is the Nation and the Nation is SWAPO” has changed little in recent decades.31

In short, SWAPO’s exile history played an immense role in charting the trajectory of the movement after independence.32 The three periods of SWAPO’s history I expound upon below are strong examples of SWAPO’s “pragmatic nationalism” in practice, and each also features prominently in politicized memory in Namibia.


SWAPO and UNITA: A Contentious Cold War Relationship

In 1974, after completing grade ten at St. Mary’s Mission School in Odibo, Jackson Mwalundange left South West Africa with a few other students for Zambia to join SWAPO. They had grown tired of Bantu Education; St. Mary’s, one of the best schools in Ovamboland, could no longer offer grades eleven and twelve. They had grown tired of arbitrary detention by the South African Police, who had become the embodiment of apartheid in Northern Namibia.33 They understood that ending apartheid in Namibia was a necessity, and it seemed as though SWAPO was the most likely organization to succeed. They traveled to Kalabo, a small town in the Western Province of Zambia, roughly 70k from the Angolan border. They knew that SWAPO and UNITA shared a military training camp nearby at Yuka.34

Anyone familiar with the Southern African Border War will find this odd: UNITA has the reputation of being apartheid’s proxy in Angola. Funds were sent directly to Jonas Savimbi’s organization by the SADF to purchase weapons on the black market; South Africa was also serving as a nexus for UNITA’s ivory hunting.35 Allegations abound of UNITA’s use of diamond-smuggling to fund its military activities as well.36 For these reasons, much of the nationalist historiography of SWAPO insists on long-term animosity between SWAPO and UNITA.37

NAN POCO 0474
NAN POCO 0474

Reading through exile narratives such as Jackson Mwalundange’s, it becomes clear that this relationship was much more nuanced. Philemon Moongo, the future vice-president of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, met UNITA in 1974 in Zambia and was provided shelter and food in their camp.38 He elaborates:

We met UNITA people. It was the first time we saw UNITA, fighters with AK 47; it was impressive. If only we could liberate Namibia and rule ourselves! . . . We found accommodation at another place in the area where the UNITA fighters were lodged. We told them we belonged together, we were the same, we were SWAPO. UNITA and SWAPO were close friends at that time. Then UNITA accepted many of our people.”39

This narrative is in line with Vilho Shigwedha’s research on UNITA;40 as of 2014, his is the only academic work detailing their relationship with SWAPO. He argues that UNITA and SWAPO shared pragmatic visions of independence at all costs and that their relationship was amicable until late-1976, when the alliance between UNITA and the SADF became more apparent with the SADF’s Operation Savannah, a seven month military intervention in Angola from the south with the intention of installing UNITA in power.41

Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba

As I have mentioned earlier, a key aspect of SWAPO’s exile strategy was pragmatism and opportunism. Nghiyalasha Haulyongjaba’s narrative embodies this early strategy well. Haulyondjaba left SWAPO’s Zambian camp (presumably Nyango) with about fifteen other PLAN fighters in 1973 to “open a new front in northern Namibia through Angola.”42 This was to be negotiated with UNITA, with whom SWAPO was still on decent terms. He and the other SWAPO cadres participated with UNITA in two attacks against the Portuguese; actions like these built trust between Haulyondjaba and Savimbi, and in 1974, he was officially appointed SWAPO representative to UNITA.43 He notes that this relationship was pragmatic: SWAPO needed a corridor to funnel Namibians into exile, and UNITA could provide protection from the SADF.

NAN POCO 0473
NAN POCO 0473

It wasn’t until 1975 that the relationship changed, Haulyondjaba argues. The coup in Lisbon led to a rushed withdrawal of Portuguese and increased Cold War involvement in Angola. He noticed an increased number of Whites and South Africans at UNITA’s Moxico base; Windhoek Lager began to be sold in the canteen. Haulyondjaba could see that SWAPO’s and UNITA’s mutual pragmatism was moving in different directions. He elaborates:

He [Jonas Savimbi] was a kind man . . . a pragmatic soldier . . . he helped us get into Angola . . . we suffered together . . . I have no personal hatred towards him . . . Savimbi played off one side against the other by providing cover for SWAPO soldiers following UNITA collaboration with the Boers. As SWAPO’s attache to UNITA, I was undercover as a UNITA captain with the name Capitão Kamalonga . . . [at one time] we shared a table with Brigadier [Dawie] Shoemann, who was chief of the SADF in Angola in 1976 . . . Savimbi camouflaged me from the enemy. He was playing off one side against the other.”44

Haulyondjaba remained undercover in UNITA camps through December 1976, when Operation Savannah was successfully beaten back by the joint MPLA-Cuban retaliation. Even at that stage, Jonas Savimbi ordered his followers to protect Haulyondjaba “at all costs.”45 Haulyondjaba’s narrative complicates the story of SWAPO and UNITA, showing that each movement’s pragmatism caused convergence and divergence among the leadership and the cadres. It wasn’t until December 1976, after a UNITA attack on a SWAPO military detachment near Ondjiva, that SWAPO and UNITA permanently cut ties.46

Haulyondjaba does not recall any armed cooperation with UNITA against the MPLA, as he argues there was a 1972 non-aggression pact between the FLNA, MPLA, and UNITA; the Portuguese enemy was more important.47 This contradicts the testimony of Phillip Shuudifonya, who claims to have participated in a battle with UNITA troops against MPLA forces in 1975 near Okangube, Angola.48 He notes that in 1975, when he left Namibia to join SWAPO in exile, he met UNITA troops in Ondjiva, south-central Angola, observing rallying calls such as “One UNITA, One SWAPO!” He was briefly stationed at a based jointly operated by SWAPO and UNITA at Omantangue called Kasaba; SWAPO and UNITA shared weapons, training, and jointly participated in military operations, according to Shuudifonya.49

UNITA and the “Hot” Cold War50

Why did UNITA command such support and respect from SWAPO, while also courting South African and American funding? Elaine Windrich argues that UNITA cultivated the image of “African Nationalists” and “Freedom Fighters” using extensive propaganda campaigns.51 The motion-picture Red Scorpion was filmed in Namibia with the co-operation of the SADF; it featured Jonas Savimbi and UNITA forces, portrayed as heroic anti-communist freedom fighters rather than pro-Pretoria sympathizers.52 UNITA hired lobbyists in Washington to plead their case for “anti-communism” in Angola; they won the support of the Christian right evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, as well as the pro-Pretoria lobbying group, the International Freedom Foundation.53 The IFF previously hosted the anti-communist Democratic International, a.k.a the Jamba Jamboree, at UNITA’s headquarters in south-eastern Angola in June 1985. Attendees represented the SADF, UNITA, the United States Marine Corps (Lt. Col. Oliver North), the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Afghan Mujahideen. Although published material on the conference is scarce, it was presumably held to negotiate arms provisions, as the 1976 U.S. Clark Amendment was soon to be repealed.54

The end of these arms restrictions (stipulated by Clark), according to former Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker, would “send a signal to the MPLA: ‘America is back.’ It was send a signal to the Cubans: ‘America is back;’ and to the Soviets.”55 For this reason, Crocker argues that a very modest package of military support was offered to the UNITA forces. Craig challenges this assertion, however, arguing that although it was indeed a small amount (monetarily) of military aid compared to the Soviet support for the MPLA and SWAPO, it was very strategically placed in the form of specialized military technologies such as FIM-92 Stinger Missiles, of which UNITA received over three-hundred.56

After the repeal of Clark, an article in the conservative journal Policy Review was published on the need to combat “Soviet Colonialism” in Angola; authorship was attributed to Jonas Savimbi.57 In the article, Savimbi appeals to American political elements for financial and military support to remove Cuban and Soviet troops from Angola. He holds that “the world must not be fooled into thinking that the MPLA truly represents the Angolan people or that it has control of the nation.”58 Furthermore, he justifies his previous alliance with the People’s Republic of China by stating that: “From Mao and the Communists, I learned how to fight a guerrilla war. I also learned how not to run an economy or a nation. . . . People must be free to practice their religions, and observe their tribal traditions.”59

This was key to Savimbi’s charm not only among televangelists in the USA, but also among Christians in South Africa. According to Dylan Craig:

There’s a[n American] guy called Don McAlvany who used to do the rounds in Southern Africa. McAlvany would come out to bat for Jonas Savimbi directly during his talks. And he would phrase Savimbi as being a brave defender not only of the capitalist system . . . because communism wasn’t seen as being as scary as the government was saying. But what McAlvany hammered in was that if the communists have their way, the first thing that will burn in South Africa are the Churches. And I remember that being a really strong component of his PR campaign. Jonas Savimbi is not just protecting your economic way of life, . . . he is standing in the way between you and Godlessness . . . Communism wasn’t scaring people anymore, but Godlessness, that had some reach.”60

Savimbi became seen as the “key to Africa,” to quote Fred Bridgland.61 Even if apartheid were to fall, supporting Jonas Savimbi could bring to power a non-communist, potentially sympathetic alternative in Angola.

Covert and overt arms supplies from South Africa and the United States began to flow starting in 1975,62 gradually transforming UNITA from a grassroots-style guerrilla movement into a much more conventional military force. William Minter elaborates on this transformation:

I recall one of the UNITA deserters I talked to in Angola spoke about it in a very interesting way. He said ‘Our unit had the right to one C-130 load of ammunition dropped every quarter.’ So this is a guerrilla operation, and they were guerrillas, but it’s a guerrilla operation that can count on having a C-130 of supplies every quarter and good communications so they can predict on that – that’s not your classic live-off-the-land guerrilla.”63

Previously, however, UNITA was able to court support from the East-Bloc as well. According to Dylan Craig: “This is a guy who could switch from being a Maoist to a Reaganite and apparently have no one caught on that there had been some political entrepreneurship.”64 Indeed, Jonas Savimbi traveled to Beijing in 1964 for military training and political education, and he returned in 1965 to obtain supplies and funds.65 Until 1975, most Chinese support went to Holden Roberto’s organization, the FLNA, based out of Zaire; when the United States began to contribute funds to Roberto, the Chinese pulled out and redirected their attention to Savimbi and UNITA.66 Savimbi also won support from President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and President Abdul Rahman Arif of Iraq; Savimbi returned from a 1966 meeting in Baghdad with a modest supply of arms and funds.67 Similar to SWAPO, Beijing and other East-Bloc states were caught off guard when Savimbi began courting Pretoria’s support and engaging in military operations against the MPLA. Chinese support was quickly withdrawn, though UNITA continued to proclaim a vague motto of “Socialismo, Negritude, Democracia, Não-Alinhamento,” as evidenced by stickers issued for UNITA’s twentieth anniversary celebrations in 1986.

"Socialismo, Negritude, Democracia, Não-Alinhamento"
“Socialismo, Negritude, Democracia, Não-Alinhamento”

Crucially, however, Jonas Savimbi criticized apartheid. He was willing to engage with the SADF and Pretoria, but he publicly declared the inevitability of apartheid’s downfall. In Dylan Craig’s words:

Here is an anti-communist, black nationalist who was willing to outright oppose, or at least provide discursive opposition to apartheid. Savimbi is very careful to say ‘apartheid is a bad thing, I don’t support the South African regime. But they help me when the rest of the world won’t; they’re valuable partners in the anti-communist crusade.’ It wouldn’t have worked it he were clearly seen as an accomplice of the apartheid regime.”68

He chose to play the anti-communist but non-aligned card. He appeased those who wanted an “alternative” government in Luanda and he made sure to provide lip-service to the Christian elements in South Africa and the United States. Central to all of these positions, Maoist, Reaganite, non-aligned, etc., is a deep pragmatism embedded within Savimbi’s political mindset. Savimbi had his eyes on Luanda in the same way that SWAPO looked to Windhoek, and he chose to use any means necessary to attain it. Unfortunately for their relations, SWAPO’s and UNITA’s pragmatic outlook eventually clashed beyond repair.69

UNITA and Nationalist Histories

Within SWAPO literature, pre- and post-independence, the relationship between UNITA and SWAPO is either downplayed or denied. Peter Katjavivi argues that although there were some distant ethnic affinities between the Kwanyama and the Angolan Ovimbundu because of the artificial drawing of the Namibia-Angola border, there was never a formal alliance between SWAPO and UNITA.70 He merely alludes to individual exceptions to the rule.

Oswin Namakalu argues similarly. In his military history of the People Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), he details one instance when a number of SWAPO cadres were separated from the pack in 1975 in southern Angola. The SWAPO soldiers were picked up by UNITA forces and taken to Silva Porto (Bié), where they were told by UNITA commanders: “You have reached SWAPO, because SWAPO is UNITA and UNITA is SWAPO. We will give you what you want.”71 Namakalu provides his analysis of the situation:

SWAPO members were compelled by the situation to pretend to be friends with UNITA while in reality they were not. The offensive of FAPLA and the Cubans freed them from the enemy circle, as some of them were close to UNITA bases. PLAN fighters were observing the movements of enemy troops, especially at the centre of the operation. The South African operations HQ based a Bié (Silva Porto) was commanded by a certain Brigadier who stayed in a small flat near Savimbi’s house.”72

It is likely that the events Namakalu is relaying took place around the same time as Haulyondjaba’s post as SWAPO representative to UNITA. It was around then that UNITA began receiving significant SADF support, though as stated earlier, the relationship was not severed until December 1976. Pekka Peltola argues that a number of Namibia exiles who first entered UNITA camps remained and became members, though most moved on to SWAPO’s Zambia bases.73 These events also took place pre-1976.

In his “autobiography,” the Namibian Founding President Sam Nujoma lambasts those who argue that there was a pragmatic alliance between SWAPO and UNITA. It is worthwhile to quote at length:

Those who spread false stories that SWAPO and UNITA were allies did not know of the connections between SWAPO and MPLA – and especially the relationship between me personally and President Neto – which had begun long before in Dar es Salaam . . . It also became part of the mythology that the Ovambos and the Ovimbundu were closely related tribally, which is also untrue . . . Their leader, Jonas Savimbi, was known to work for PEDE [sic. PIDE (Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado)], the Portuguese secret police, and now UNITA was fully in the pay of the South Africans. We knew that Savimbi had flown to Pretoria to beg the South Africans to stay on in Angola after the collapse of their ‘operation Zulu.’ How could SWAPO collaborate with such a traitor? Such friendship we had with UNITA had existed long before Angolan independence and was no more than with all other liberation movements, such as those from the Seychelles, Comoros, and elsewhere.”74

Nujoma’s take on the SWAPO-UNITA relationship reveals several discrepancies. Firstly, he denies the supposed ethnic “cousinship” between Ovimbundu and the Kwanyama.75 Although this may have some truth, the Ovimbundu community of central-Angola’s Bié area were not the only supporters of UNITA; Savimbi’s organization had significant membership in Angola’s south-east, where it eventually set up its headquarters at Jamba. In addition, Bridgland points out that many of the Oshikwanyama-speaking Angolans were UNITA members under the command of Antonio Vakulukutu; a number of his soldiers were dual members of UNITA and SWAPO as of February 1976, well after South African support was being provided to UNITA.76

Rundu carpenter resident in Namibia since 1976 remembers his country of birth, Angola and his support for Holden Roberto's FLNA - which led to his eventual exile in Namibia." Photo by John Liebenberg, 1987. NAN 12280.
“Rundu carpenter resident in Namibia since 1976 remembers his country of birth, Angola and his support for Holden Roberto’s FLNA – which led to his eventual exile in Namibia.” Photo by John Liebenberg, 1987. NAN 12280.

Secondly, SWAPO’s president, Sam Nujoma had a historic relationship with Jonas Savimbi. According to Savimbi, UNITA’s first weapon was a Tokarev pistol: a gift from Nujoma in 1966.77 Nujoma was also responsible for transferring Savimbi and some of his supporters from Dar es Salaam to their base in Angola, “protecting him from the MPLA [who] would have killed Savimbi if they got their hands on him.”78 Finally, according to Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, a joint UNITA-SWAPO-SADF attack on MPLA forces at Munyango, Bié province, Angola took place no earlier than April 1976. He claims that Haulyondjaba was involved in the assault.79

Most of the cooperation between UNITA and SWAPO listed above took place well after the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Conference of January 1969 in Khartoum. This post-Sino-Soviet split event was meant to solidify the “authentic” liberation movements of Southern Africa for the purpose of economic, military, and rhetorical support. The conference appealed to “recognize as the sole official and legitimate authority of the respective countries of the following fighting movements: MPLA (Angola), PAIGC (Guinea-Bissau), FRELIMO (Mozambique), ANC (South Africa), SWAPO (Namibia) and ZAPU (Zimbabwe), and to recognize them as the accredited representatives of the people’s organizations in these countries.”80

UNITA of Angola and SWANU of Namibia were largely supported by the People’s Republic of China, and were therefore left out of this Soviet-aligned arrangement. With regards UNITA, however, SWAPO continued to strengthen their alliance until December 1976. This is completely neglected from SWAPO nationalist histories. “Presented this way,” according to Shigwedha,

Histories that do not conform to the narrow confines of nationalist history are under threat, as nationalist leaders purge those branches of history that they consider disloyal and unpatriotic. This is done with the intent to encourage forgetfulness of those histories that demonstrate the complex and multifaceted realities of the liberation struggle for the independence of Namibia and other countries. In fact, by attempting to obscure such histories, nationalists not only interpret and package history as a trajectory of linear events crafted by a single experience, meaning, insight and reality, but also solicit the ‘exceptionalisation or marginalisation’ of problematic histories and the replacement of them by a simplistic and flat interpretation of the past. Such nationalist histories may have the effect of effacing important aspects of the liberation struggle across southern Africa, if the production of history is left unchallenged by micro-narrative historical realities.”81

In other words, Shigwedha is arguing that SWAPO’s history must not be represented as the bronze relief at the Heroes’ Acre; understanding SWAPO as a political party means engaging with the messiness of its history. A platform must therefore be given to those who wish to articulate alternative histories of SWAPO.82 This shows the importance of memoirs in the creation and challenging of public memory; although they are often intended for a specific demographic with small print size, these personal narratives are able to elicit disproportionate effect. Non-partisan newspapers have printed a number of brief exile autobiographies which touch briefly on this issue of SWAPO-UNITA relations.83

On another level, the UNITA issue has entered into public discourse through political “name-calling.” SWAPO stalwarts will often verbally assault opposition party members by calling them UNITA supporters; the accused, generally RDP or CoD members, will respond with equal force by bringing up this very contentious period of SWAPO’s history.84 Although this seems insignificant, it’s a small step towards addressing what Poole termed the conative aspects of public memory: the political significance of history and knowledge.85


Crisis in Zambia: Divisions within the Ranks

At the back of your mind, especially at night when you went to sleep, you are conscious that you could be bombed any day. So we had a few scares. Thank God in our Nyango refugee camp [in Zambia] we had never been attacked such that people were killed. But we had scares, like when [Ian] Smith of Rhodesia, when his jet fighters passed overhead and we started shooting at them, but they didn’t drop any bombs on us. . . . It’s traumatizing, and that always remained at the back of your mind. . . . Right now, I’m living with my nieces, and when I’m cooking, I’m sure to remind them not to sneak up on auntie. Don’t just come into the kitchen without announcing, otherwise I’ll scream from fright. . . . And they said to me ‘auntie, were you traumatized, why are you so jumpy?’ . . . And so I thought that back then in the camps, you were always listening for that ‘boom,’ and so I feel that maybe that’s why I’m this way.”86

Maria Mboono Nghidinwa’s description of exile life as traumatic is an apt analysis; it was a time plagued by uncertainty and fear. She was a child in 1974 when her father escorted his family from rural Ovamboland to exile in Zambia via Ondjiva, Angola. In the aftermath of the Portuguese coup of 1974 and the violence after the boycotted Ovamboland Bantustan elections of 1973, between 4000-6000 Namibians fled into exile, eventually making their way to the Old Farm and Nyango refugee camps in Zambia.87 Although during this period SWAPO was not explicitly banned within the borders of South West Africa, the murder of Minister of Ovamboland Chief Elifas was blamed on SWAPO infiltration, and a subsequent crackdown on SWAPO members ensued, prompting the movement of exiles.88

Camps in Zambia. from C.A. Williams 2009: 281
Camps in Zambia. from C.A. Williams 2009: 281

Logistically, SWAPO camp commanders were woefully under-prepared to manage this flood of new exiles. Camp commanders struggled to provide sufficient food, accommodation, and transport to other camps.89 In addition, a significant proportion of the exiles were women and children (Williams estimated ~ 20%);90 previously, most of the exiles were destined for military training from the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), though now schools and other services had to be coordinated. Importantly, as Serfontein points out, the bulk of the new exiles were “the cream of the Ovambos . . . the educated and fairly Westernized elite . . . Many were matriculants who could not continue their studies because they had been involved in some of the student and high school protests in previous years.”91

Many of these educated Namibians fleeing into exile were SWAPO Youth League (SYL) activists who were instrumental in the operations of the internal wing of SWAPO. Some like Zhu Mbako were political radicals, inspired by leftist politics across the continent. An English teacher in Oranjemund, Mbako eventually liked up with SYL:

When we were not teaching we used to stay in the library, and I was looking through the books and I found these books about Uhuru and Jomo Kenyatta, so I started reading and reading and got really interested in African studies, and in following African politics, about Kenya, and so on; and then I joined the SWAPO [Youth League] executive there. They put me in the information section.”92

Mbako eventually left Oranjemund and traveled to SWAPO’s offices in Lusaka via Botswana. He was detained and suspected of being an educated “troublemaker” and a South African spy.93

Dr. Libertine Amathila treating a child at the clinic in Nyango camp, Zambia. NAN 12305.
Dr. Libertine Amathila treating a child at the clinic in Nyango camp, Zambia. NAN 12305.

Zhu Mbako’s story is not unique among educated SYL activists moving into exile in the mid-to-late 1970s. Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, one of the founders of SWAPO Youth League, left for exile in 1974 along with Sheeli Shangula, SYL’s Secretary General, and about a dozen other men and women. Upon arrival into SWAPO’s Senanga Centre in Western Zambia, SWAPO’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Peter Mueshihange addressed the group of exiles. Nathaniel narrates the situation:

He said that he understood that there were intellectuals among us, although he didn’t say what was wrong with that. He did, however, warn that SWAPO was a movement of illiterate people – as if that was how he would have preferred us to be. ‘White Belts,’ he said again and again, were not for us, adding that he would take whatever measures were required to crush the ‘white belts’ in the movement. A white belt, we later learned, was a term used in Eastern Europe for ‘intellectuals.’ Mueshihange also warned that those who thought they were popular at home had to forget their popularity. For abroad, he reiterated, there was only one leader and he was the law. He demanded that we say after him, ‘One Namibia! One Nation! One SWAPO! One Leader!’ Quite stunned by what I was hearing, I kept my mouth shut while some of the others shouted the slogans.”94

Time-Map of Namibians studying abroad while in exile (non-exaustive). Click to link out.
Time-Map of some Namibians studying abroad while in exile (non-exaustive). Click to link out.

Nathaniel, Shangula and others were coming to terms with the fact that there were distinct divisions between the internal and external leadership, as well as generational divisions between the youth and the older SWAPO leadership. According to Dobell, the 1974-1975 exodus placed within SWAPO’s ranks a significant number of radicalized and idealistic youth who conceived of SWAPO’s role according to a broader framework than the established pragmatic goal of independence at all costs.95 This posed a challenge to the existing SWAPO leadership in the Zambian camps, and it wasn’t long before a formal crisis ensued: between 1974 and 1976, roughly 2000 of the newly-exiled SWAPO combatants were arrested, detained, and some tortured.96

Détente in Zambia

Before we get into the details of the 1976 SWAPO Crisis, it is essential that we understand how the 1974 Coup in Portugal affected the Southern African security situation. Between 1966 and 1973, South Africa began to outsource a large portion of its security interested to the Portuguese colonial military. For example, between 1969-1970, in what was declared “joint defense efforts,” South Africa provided nearly 200 million Rand in loans and donations to Portugal. According to Jamie Miller, this totaled nearly half Pretoria’s annual defense budget for the period.97 Overall, between 1966-73, South Africa’s reliance on Lisbon to contain Black Nationalist and “communist” forces became overwhelming; the proportion of Pretoria’s budget dedicated to defense decreased from 21% to 12% over these seven years.98

Because Pretoria had been outsourcing its defense to Lisbon, the April 1974 Carnation Revolution and the end of the Estado Novo created a massive reversal of defense policy, bringing forth a 400% increase in military spending and a rise in “total onslaught” rhetoric.99 Indeed, by this point, as referenced in the previous section, the SADF was beginning to entice UNITA to take on a similar role that the Portuguese once played, and plans for Operation Savannah were being drafted.

Pretoria took a slightly different strategy in Zambia. Starting in 1966, Kenneth Kaunda’s regime in Zambia offered support to the Southern African liberation movements; SWAPO had several camps, the largest at Old Farm and Nyango. In addition, both Zimbabwean movements (ZANU and ZAPU) had offices in Lusaka, as did the ANC and FRELIMO. Zambia, however, was overly reliant upon South Africa, Rhodesia, and the Portuguese regimes in Angola and Mozambique for its economic well-being. Most of Zambia’s electricity came from the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River, jointly-operated with Ian Smith’s regime in Salisbury; most of Zambia’s copper exports relied on smooth operation of Angola’s Benguela Railway to the west and access to Beira to the east.100 To complicate things further, the 1970s plummet in copper prices made Zambia further reliant on South African economic engagement: regular air service between Lusaka and Johannesburg had been resumed by 1973 and the boycott of South African goods was lifted in the capital.101 In short, Kaunda’s regime in Zambia during the years 1973-1975 became increasingly precarious; he had an increasing number of armed fighters in his territory with little ability to control them, and the threat of Rhodesian attacks led him to agree to talks with the White regimes.102

Caption by Andreas Shipanga, 1989.
Caption by Andreas Shipanga, 1989.

The South African Prime Minister Vorster proposed a détente by which Kaunda protects his economic interests and solves South African and Rhodesian insurgency issues at the same time. Kaunda’s assistant Mark Chona met with Gen. Hendrik van den Bergh, head of the S.A. Bureau of State Security, and Marquard de Villiers, S.A. Director of Lonrho PLC, in Paris, New York and Lusaka between March-October 1974 to discuss the terms.103 On October 8, 1974, a document titled “Towards the Summit: An Approach to Peaceful Change in Southern Africa” was produced and signed, calling for a “peaceful, negotiated settlement” regarding the liberation movements.104 According to Trewhela:

The detente document envisaged circumstances in which ‘the current armed struggle will be replaced by a new spirit of co-operation and racial harmony . . .’ Zambia ‘and friends’ would ‘use their influence to ensure that ZANU and ZAPU desist from armed struggle and engage in the mechanics for finding a political solution in Rhodesia.’ A similar clause relating to South Africa covered ‘ANC or other insurgent activities.’ In addition Zambia ‘and friends’ undertook to persuade SWAPO ‘to declare themselves a party not committed to violence provided the SAG [South Africa Government] allows their registration as a political party and allows them to function freely as such’ – a minimal concession, since SWAPO was already technically legal within Namibia, despite unrelenting harassment.”105

The document had little to do with apartheid or racial issues; it was plain, power politics, and in the economic decline of the mid-1970s, Zambia had to play ball and agree to the terms.

From 1974, in line with the “peaceful,” “anti-communist” and “negotiated settlement” terms of the Summit, the Zambian army took up a major role in policing the liberation movements within its borders. In the same way that the Portuguese military and police played a major role in Pretoria’s defense policies, UNITA and Lusaka took over. As Williams points out, “as a guest in Zambia, SWAPO may have also been pressured to align itself with other aspects of détente, including the Zambian government’s support of UNITA.”106 However, after the exodus of the 4,000-6,000 young, educated SWAPO members who had adopted a more socialist-driven ideology, identifying themselves with Angola’s MPLA, not UNITA, major issues began to arise.

Détente” Causes Conflict – The SWAPO Crisis of 1976

In order to protect their right to a base in Zambia, the SWAPO leadership openly ceded a good deal of authority to the Zambian officials administering the camps, even if it put the military strategy in jeopardy.107 Regardless of whether SWAPO agreed with Kaunda’s discussions with Smith and Vorster, they had to comply because of the large amount of refugees and fighters in Western Zambia. Williams describes this situation:

SWAPO did not denounce the Zambian government for negotiating with its arch-enemy, and it stopped delivering weapons and ammunition to its soldiers at the battlefront in southwestern Zambia. SWAPO avoided taking sides officially in the conflict between the three Angolan liberation movements [until late 1976], and it unofficially delivered weapons to, and fought alongside UNITA – probably even after September 1975, by which time South African forces had entered Angola and began staging joint SADF-UNITA operations.”108

The SWAPO leadership had to maintain a delicate balancing act; the armed struggle, at least from within Zambia, had to be slowed down until alternative options could be negotiated. For this reason, the Zambian government and SWAPO repeatedly delayed, redirected, and buried (literally) numerous weapon caches destined for the front.

The first major discovery of this taking place was in late 1974, when Martin Taneni, a SWAPO cadre guarding an island in the Kwanza River, discovered a large metal box buried under the sand. It contained mortars, AK-47s, and vast amounts of ammunition, as well as a lock-box of South African Rand; at this stage, most of the soldiers on the western front were using carbines.109 He wrote a letter to the commanders at Central Base, and he was promptly arrested and detained with allegations of “spying” for the South Africans.110 The execution sentence he received was never carried out.

Dutch aid delivery to SWAPO camps in Angola, 1980s. NAN 15874
Dutch aid delivery to SWAPO camps in Angola, 1980s. NAN 15874

During the beginning of the détente, SWAPO was able to maintain some degree of order within its camps and at the front because of its monopoly of aid distribution. Ilana Feldman has argued regarding Gaza the interconnections between poverty-relief and state legitimacy. Indeed, she argues that bureaucracy and aid delivery “worked less through making subjects ‘legible’ to the state than through making government palpable to the populations.”111 Likewise, Christian A. Williams has taken this statement further, arguing that SWAPO sporadically dispersed and withheld aid, “with the aim or effect of making those whom they governed more compliant to their will.”112

By late-1974 and early-1975, the numbers in the camps had swelled to bursting capacity, and SWAPO was hard-pressed to maintain order. Occasional letters and rumors from the front of instances like Taneni’s were causing dissent within the camps, especially among the more radical SYL members and their supporters. Many fighters were returning from military training in East-bloc countries with very different military objectives than their commanders. Many questioned SWAPO’s relationship with UNITA and the entire détente scenario. Many were influenced by socialist thought and praxis which they became exposed to abroad.

Ben Ulenga was among this group of radicalized cadres. He was a SWAPO member and trade unionist in Namibia until he left for exile in 1974. He was promptly sent by SWAPO to study in the Soviet Union and receive military training there. In his engagement with the Namibian leadership regarding the Soviet Union, he quickly noticed a disconnect:

In the Soviet Union, the leaders in my SWAPO group, they said no, no, no, no. Don’t get involved with these people; don’t even listen to what they are saying. So SWAPO was writing in their writings that ‘we are the Soviets, the Russians are our friends,’ but they SWAPO leaders were telling us to be careful and not trust these people. That’s what they told me. I thought, no, these guys are really “Moscow,” you know. But no, they [SWAPO] were not. . . . They were never like that. In my experience, SWAPO leaders were never really socialist, they were not communist, they were not even communist-influenced. Not really. They were more Nkrumah, Nasser; they were, perhaps, the African aristocracy, the African noblemen who were angry that their lands were taken by the Portuguese. . . . Although they were not chiefs, they behaved as though they represented the chiefs.”113

NAN POCO 0359
NAN POCO 0359

Upon return, SWAPO members like Ulenga, who had deep ideological commitments reflective of the Cold War-era, returned to Zambia to find SWAPO at its nadir. It had ceded authority to the Zambian army; it was engaging in armed struggle alongside UNITA, and many leaders were engaging in corrupt business practices with SWAPO funds.114 Many of the SWAPO military units (especially those who had been SYL cadres in Namibia) began to demand, as Leys & Saul describe, “to know what they were fighting for, and to have a clear constitutional base for the organization.”115

The 1960s exiles, the old guard, assumed that the newcomers would submit to the existing authority structure and allow the camp leaders to run SWAPO as they saw fit; this would not transpire as they hoped. The ensuing crisis that developed, as Dobell puts it, “did not begin as a power struggle:”

Though it may, owing to the leadership’s intransigence, have developed into one. The exodus of 1974-1975 had infused the external movement with a large number of radical, idealistic young members who, in demanding to know precisely what they were fighting for, presented a fundamental challenge not only to the established leaders’ control over the movement, but to their diplomatic campaign. It was a challenge which, had it succeeded, might have forced a thorough re-evaluation of SWAPO’s project, and an explicit outlining of its vision.”116

A group of disaffected SWAPO cadres came forth, calling themselves the “SWAPO Anti-Corruption Fighters,” demanding accountability among the leadership, a concrete military strategy, and a congress to discuss the future of the movement. Many of them were SYL members who were educated and looked to the ANC as inspiration; they addressed the leadership in correspondingly militant rhetoric.

Time-Map of the global travels of Andreas Shipanga based on his memoirs, who was eventually imprisoned in Tanzania by SWAPO leadership after the 1976 Zambia Crisis. Click to link out.
Time-Map of the global travels of Andreas Shipanga, who was eventually imprisoned in Tanzania by SWAPO leadership after the 1976 Zambia Crisis. (Locations based on his memoirs) Click to link out.

We would like . . . the whole world to know that what is currently taking place in SWAPO is an ideological struggle between the nationalist bourgeoisie comprised of the ruling cliques . . . and the ‘anti-corruption fighters’ . . . who are Marxist, socialist oriented guerrillas. The Zambian government is being used to crush the Marxists in SWAPO . . . We want to make it categorically clear that under no circumstances will we . . . fight a bourgeois revolution . . . We want a clear-cut Marxist-socialist oriented party line, which each and everybody will be obliged to follow.”117

There was some minor violence between soldiers and officers surrounding the demands for a conference, although it should not be classified as “rebellion” or “mutiny” as Katjavivi describes it;118 rather, as Saul & Leys posit, “the soldiers were after a real accounting from the leadership, and a democratic congress with power to, among other things, make changes in the Central Committee.”119 SWAPO President Sam Nujoma and Acting Vice President Mishake Muyongo both rejected the idea of holding a congress, particularly if the SYL agitators were present. Nujoma and Muyongo decided that the best way to move forward was to detain the agitators.120 The SWAPO leadership called for the assistance of the Zambian authorities to quell the “mutiny” within the ranks.121

Photo of Andreas Shipanga, London 1978.
Photo of Andreas Shipanga, London 1978.

On 18 June 1976, most of the leadership of SWAPO Youth League and the members of the SWAPO Politburo sympathetic with their aims were arrested by the Zambian police on behalf of SWAPO. This included Andreas Shipanga, Secretary of Information, Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, founding president of SYL, Sheeli Shangula, Secretary General of SYL, Solomon Mifima, Martin Taneni, and Zacharia Shikomba.122 They were transported to Dodoma Prison in Tanzania, where they were detained without charge until 1978.

With the main agitators locked away, the SWAPO leadership could now afford to hold a congress; the Enlarged Central Committee Meeting was held in Nampundwe, Zambia, from 28 July to 2 August, 1976. Its main feature was the adoption of the 1976 Political Programme, the first and last to be adopted by the exiled movement. Supporters of the Programme remarked at how it showed a “fundamental transformation in SWAPO’s development as a movement,” citing its revolutionary socialist rhetoric.123 But, as Dobell points out, this was not a development in the political ideology of SWAPO, but rather a pragmatic response to the changing international political scene. Changes in the diplomatic arena facilitated Namibia’s appeals to the East Bloc for military aid and recognition under the United Nations. This also was part of the reason for SWAPO’s decision to move the headquarters from Zambia to the MPLA’s Angola124

SWAPO Constitution, 1976.
SWAPO Constitution, 1976.

Former SWAPO activist and founding member of SWAPO-Democrats, Kenneth Abrahams described the 1976 Political Program as follows:

In fact, the 1976 programme was just drawn up to give a revolutionary gloss to what SWAPO was doing . . . It wasn’t discussed seriously within SWAPO circles itself, . . . and SWAPO did not take steps to translate the programme into any kind of practical reality . . . In other words, to a large extent it was rhetorical.”125

Even if the 1976 Congress was largely rhetorical, Saul & Leys argue that locked into place was a political culture “that frowned upon open debate within the movement, sanctified (as the ‘mother body’) a largely untransformed SWAPO and gave free rein to whose who safeguarded its ‘security.’”126

The SWAPO leadership tried to appease foreign benefactors who were concerned with the situation in Zambia by holding a commission of inquiry to the events. Led by John Ya-Otto, the commission presented the crisis as a power struggle between Andreas Shipanga, Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, and the existing SWAPO leadership. It must be noted that the Ya-Otto Commission did not here any evidence from the dissidents who were detained or otherwise.127 Nahas Angula, one of the commissioners, described the purpose of the Ya-Otto Commission: “We had to somehow demonstrate to the [OAU] Liberation Committee, to our host in Zambia that somehow we are in control of the situation. So one way of legitimizing that was to have a commission. I think that’s how the Ya-Otto Commission came about.”128

The 1976 Crisis in Zambia represented the precarity of SWAPO camps in Zambia. Divisions between educated and uneducated, young and old, East-bloc and Western became increasingly apparent and led to open dissension and detention. During this period, SWAPO began to solidify its concept of “pragmatic nationalism:” independence at all costs. Young, educated members who sought to address broader social issues in Namibia and democratic accountability within SWAPO were treated as counterrevolutionaries in the name of maintaining “unity” within the movement. The irony is that the numerous crack-downs on dissident SWAPO members had the effect of fracturing SWAPO to an extent, creating the parallel, though short-lived organization SWAPO-Democrats (with heavy involvement from Shipanga).

As SWAPO gradually moved its focus to Southern Angola in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this sense of insecurity remained. The 1980s in Angola began the “Spy Drama” of SWAPO’s history, to borrow Trewhela’s term; similar to the 1976 crisis, increasing numbers of SWAPO exiles led to further suspicion and crackdown by SWAPO leadership. It will be explained in depth in the next section.


Spies, Dungeons, and Precarity: SWAPO’s Detentions in Angola

SWAPO’s most publicized upheaval, the Detainee Crisis, took place in Angola in the period after 1978. After Angola’s independence from Portugal, SWAPO moved most of its military operations to Southern Angola to both avoid the détente in Zambia and get closer to its targets in Ovamboland. Shortly after, the South West Africa administration began planning its internal settlement, known as the Turnhalle Talks and the formation of the Pretoria-funded, “multi-ethnic” Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), which maintains itself today as one of Namibia’s few opposition parties. In 1978, these plans eventually led to South African acceptance “in principle” of the United Nations Resolution 435, which outlined the steps for decolonization of Namibia.129 A few months later, however, the SADF launched Operation Reindeer, the aerial and ground assault of SWAPO’s base at Cassinga, Southern Angola, leading to the deaths of at least 600, with estimates ranging upwards of 1,200 Namibians, including women and children.130

NAN POCO 0186
NAN POCO 0186

Cassinga is one of the more contentious events of the entire border war, with SADF veterans arguing that Cassinga was first and foremost a military camp, and SWAPO vets mourning the deaths of civilians. Indeed, Cassinga became an important mobilizing tool for SWAPO, as it was portrayed as the epitome of apartheid injustice. The “official” SWAPO history, To Be Born a Nation, describes the attack this way:

On 4 May, its [SADF] troops poured across the Namibia/Angola border and brutally massacred Namibian refugees in a settlement at Kassinga. 150 miles inside Angola. Out of 3,000 people living there, 867 were killed, 464 wounded and over 200 taken prisoner and hauled off to concentration camps in Namibia. It is by far the worst atrocity yet in a brutally repressive war. Most of these camp residents were women, children, and old people.”131

In contrast to the polar opposite takes displayed above, Williams argues for a more nuanced approach that examines the camp’s history closely; simple binaries of “refugee” camp or “military” camp won’t do. He examines the foundation of the camp to show that although there were a significant number of refugees in transit to and from Cassinga, one of the central features of the camp was the PLAN military office, the first building constructed on premises.132 The camp was therefore neither “purely military” nor “purely civilian.” This is in line with the human rights research by Justine Hunter of the Namibia Institute for Democracy.133

Photo of Cassinga mass grave, by Per Sanden. NAN 12372
Photo of Cassinga mass grave, by Per Sanden. NAN 12372

Cassinga reshaped SWAPO’s view of security and internal politics; it epitomized the fear that SWAPO in exile was constantly under attack, from without and within. Immediately after the attack, SWAPO officials suspected that spies had alerted the SADF of the Cassinga location and the opportune time to bomb. According to Torreguitar, “SWAPO’s response was to identify the spies who, they suspected, had made the attack possible. People were detained by SWAPO police inside the camps, brought to interrogation, tortured and abused until they signed a confession.”134 During the period 1978-1988, almost 1,000 SWAPO members were arrested by PLAN commanders, primarily in the Tobias Hainyeko Detention Centre 15k from Lubango, Angola. Of these thousand, nearly 700 were not accounted for fifteen years later – disappeared after arrest by SWAPO.135

Spies and Insecurity

Camps in Angola. From C.A. Williams 2009: 282
Camps in Angola. From C.A. Williams 2009: 282

There were countless reasons why someone could be arrested by SWAPO for spying for the South Africans. Oftentimes, individuals from minority groups were identified with spying; Coloured Namibians or those from the south were often suspected because of their proficiency in Afrikaans.136 Williams shows that many of these non-Oshiwambo-speaking Namibians often sought each others’ company; this increased the sense of suspicion that they were South African spies.137 Torreguitar points out that many Namibians en-route to exile were intercepted by the South West African Territorial Force (SWATF) or Koevoet near the Angolan border and told to spy on SWAPO, using threats to their families as collateral. Some of these Namibians came forward to the SWAPO leadership of their instructions, and that they were not going to be following through with the spying; in a sense, this sealed their fate.138 This was even the case with Sam Nujoma’s wife, who was placed under house arrest and interrogated. Namibians with university education or trade union experience were also targeted lest another 1976 incident break out.

Interrogation techniques were remarkably Stalinist. Those suspected of subversive behavior or for spying for Pretoria were placed in one of many hand-dug “dungeons” for a length of time between a few weeks and a few years. They were fed minimally, and many died of malnourishment or disease. Periodically, they were called into the PLAN office to produce an “autobiography,” depicting their life story, their acquaintances, and how they came into exile. PLAN Commanders also requested information about their spying activities: who they were reporting to and who else in the camps was spying.139 If they did not identify other spies or provide convincing “autobiographies” of their subversive activities, they would be executed or detained further.140

Depiction of SWAPO's "Hell-Hole" dungeons in Angola. Drawn by Frederick "Cheetah" Gomaseb, ex-detainee (in Basson & Motinga 1989: 18).
Depiction of SWAPO’s “Hell-Hole” dungeons in Angola. Drawn by Frederick “Cheetah” Gomaseb, ex-detainee (in Basson & Motinga 1989: 18).

According to Torreguitar, “the spies were the system’s raison d’être; this produced a vicious circle that just led to further abuses.”141 Indeed, as the persecution of suspected spies continued, the sheer number of people implicated grew and grew. Rev. Siegfried Groth, the Rhenish missionary assigned to attend to SWAPO cadres in exile witnessed the self-reproducing fear this system produced:

On March 4 hundreds of SWAPO-members were invited by SWAPO-leaders to the Namibia Institute of the United Nations in Lusaka. From the afternoon up to one o’clock in midnight the invited people had to watch video tapes which were shown to them. On these tapes Namibians were confessing about South African actions among SWAPO people in Zambia and Angola. According to the confessing Namibians they were recruited as spies for South Africa . . . As far as I know, a lot of SWAPO- members disappeared and were brought from Zambia to Angola. As I heard in a lot of confidential talks with old friends among SWAPO, these brothers are accused to be spies of South Africa. They must be in detention after internal SWAPO-trials.”142

Groth suspected early-on that a significant number of those being detained and forced to confess were lying to end the torture and detention.143 As they were inevitably forced to give names of other Namibians in exile; the cycle continued.

"Commanders of SWAPO detachments receiving political indoctrination and military training at an Angolan base near the Namibian border." NAN 12396. According to Williams' research, this is not Lubango (2009: 304).
“Commanders of SWAPO detachments receiving political indoctrination and military training at an Angolan base near the Namibian border.” NAN 12396. According to Williams’ research, this is not Lubango (2009: 304).

One cannot underscore how important the sense of fear and mistrust was in fostering a discourse of spying in the SWAPO camps. By the early 1980s, SWAPO was fully at war with UNITA in southern Angola, and SADF attacks were a major possibility as well. Christian A. Williams argues that in analyzing the SWAPO discourse on spying, one sees parallels to Oshiwambo descriptions of witchcraft.144 Indeed, the sense of fear and uncertainty present in the camps dovetails nicely with Maija Hiltunen’s historical ethnography of witchcraft in pre-colonial and early-colonial Ovamboland. She argues that in an era of rapid socio-economic change, the late 1800s saw witchcraft accusations flourish in Ovamboland; rinderpest was killing large percentages of cattle, missionaries were changing consumer habits, Oorlam commandos were raiding kraals. She elaborates: “Witchcraft provides a solution to the problem of causation . . . it is concerned with the singularity of misfortune. It explains why particular persons at particular times and places suffer particular misfortunes.”145 This kind of analysis is in line with Evans-Pritchard’s narrative of why the granary collapsed at that particular moment.146

Julien Bonhomme has argued that accusations of witchcraft in contemporary Africa tend to deal with issues of insecurity and anonymity among migrants to African cities.147 He points out that in contrast to village life, large cities amplify the spread of rumors and fears amidst an abundance of strangers; he shows that “urban public space is a ‘world of strangers,’ where they have become the norm rather than the exception.”148 Using Bonhomme’s framework, we can draw parallels to SWAPO camps. In these spaces, Namibians from different parts of the country were put into contact with more strangers than ever before, and anonymity was the norm rather than the exception. It’s not surprising, therefore, that “witches” or “spies” would be sought out.

Adam Ashforth has argued that it is difficult to understand reprisal against witches within a Liberal political framework, as one must be able to move outside of a secular mindset to grasp this retributive justice.149 Although it would be problematic to simply replace analyses of witchcraft with that of spies, it’s useful to make the comparison in order to understand why the response was so harsh. The SWAPO camps in Angola were truly precarious; SADF-UNITA attacks were not just possible they were probable. One begins to get the impression that SWAPO and PLAN leaders were fearing a complete breakdown of administrative order in the camps worse than had taken place in 1976, and they felt that cracking down on “spies” was a way to maintain order.

Detainees Come Forward

By the mid-1980s the stories of the detainees were beginning to make their way into Namibia as well as to international NGOs. Some of those who were released from the dungeons in 1985 plead their case to journalists and aid workers. It must be stressed that most of these ex-detainees were not condemning the ultimate goal of SWAPO, independence, but the means by which they were attempting to achieve this. In 1985, the relatives of disappeared detainees formed an organization known as the “Committee of Parents” in order to gather evidence of the whereabouts of their family members and to hold SWAPO accountable.150

Poster produced by Committee of Parents (in Basson & Motinga 1989: 166).
Poster produced by Committee of Parents (in Basson & Motinga 1989: 166).

Despite the documentation the Committee produced, SWAPO was unrelenting in its denial of human rights abuses in Lubango, arguing that the spread of such rumors were “a well calculated campaign organized by South Africa.”151 This was the narrative SWAPO leaders stuck to through 1989: associating detainees stories with South African anti-SWAPO propaganda. Williams explores the significance of this decision:

Any government, solidarity movement or church which criticized SWAPO publicly risked being seen as undermining Namibian liberation and being called a collaborator with, or puppet of, South Africa – the international pariah. Under these circumstances, there was little impetus for international institutions to look closely into the allegations made by the Committee of Parents about SWAPO abuses in exile.”152

In fairness, the Committee of Parents didn’t help themselves in this regard, as they sought assistance and funding from the Internationalle Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte, a Frankfurt-based organization with right-wing, anti-SWAPO affiliations. Despite the potential value of the Committee’s findings, they fell of deaf ears in pro-SWAPO circles.

SWAPO Secretary General Andimba Toivo ya Toivo speaking to detainees, 25 May, 1989. Photo by John Liebenberg
SWAPO Secretary General Andimba Toivo ya Toivo speaking to detainees, 25 May, 1989. Photo by John Liebenberg

The situation changed in May 1989, however, when SWAPO Secretary General Andimba Toivo ya Toivo chose to visit some of the camps outside of Lubango to confirm that SWAPO political prisoners were being released in accordance with the UN Resolution 435 agreements; he was accompanied by a number of journalists who intended to interview some of those who were released. All accounts concur that ya Toivo was immensely disturbed by the conditions of the dungeons and the detention centers; his time at Robben Island and his internal activities after is release in 1984 sheltered him from much of SWAPO’s activities in exile.153 Detainees spoke to ya Toivo and the journalists about the excesses of PLAN commander Solomon Hawala, who was present for the talks.154 These incidents in May and June 1989 led to the repatriation of 153 detainees to Namibia under the auspices of the UNHCR.155

It was only after these discussions and interviews were made public that SWAPO officials began to agree that “some mistakes were made” in the camps, though the overwhelming consensus is that these were the exception, not the norm. Media pressure by the Committee of Parents and the efforts by former detainee Ben Motinga and South African reporter Nico Basson’s book Call Them Spies156 gave the DTA and other political opposition parties ammunition against SWAPO in the first democratic elections. Indeed, Justine Hunter argues that SWAPO’s inability to meaningfully address the detainee issue cost them a two-thirds majority in the 1989 elections.157 SWAPO won the elections with 57.4% of the total vote, a sufficient majority over the DTA that they chose not to challenge the elections (despite irregularities on the DTA’s side), but not a two-thirds majority where the party can unilaterally draft a constitution.158

Contested Memories of the Detainee Crisis

In 1995, Rev. Siegfried Groth of the Rhenish Missionary Society of Wuppertal, Germany, translated his memoirs into English and published them in Windhoek.159 Groth was assigned as pastor for Namibian Lutherans in exile during the 1980s. His text was particularly profound, as it meticulously documented human rights abuses in Lubango, interrogation procedures, rapes, and the general culture of fear present in the Angolan camps. Significantly, Groth interspersed Bible passages, Church Documents, and human rights rhetoric to push forth the argument that neither the SADF nor SWAPO can hide from human rights abuses in exile. In his words: “We cannot avoid the issue of the past and people’s efforts to come to terms with it . . . Only through this act of forgiveness can ‘honest and lasting reconciliation’ be achieved.”160

Groth's Memoirs: "The Wall of Silence"
Groth’s Memoirs: “The Wall of Silence”

Rev. Groth is clear throughout his text that SWAPO was justified in its use of armed struggle against the apartheid government. He draws heavily from the liberation theology in the sermons of Pastor Zephania Kameeta, a long time SWAPO supporter and Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia to put forth the image of “just war.”161 Where Groth dissents is the use of internal policing within SWAPO’s ranks: abuses of power and the like.

The memoirs caused significant outcry within SWAPO’s ranks. Though they were published after Namibia’s second elections, where SWAPO won its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, many SWAPO leaders felt personally attacked by the text. President Sam Nujoma made a public statement on television and radio condemning the book and Rev. Groth, arguing that it was “false history” created to “blacken the name of the ruling party” and the liberation movement.162 Similar statements were made by SWAPO veteran Moses //Garoëb that revisiting the past could only reopen wounds and dislodge the democratic project.163

In March 1996, several members of the Parents Committee and other supporters founded the “Breaking the Wall of Silence Movement” (BWS) to raise awareness about the detainees crisis and issues of reconciliation in post-apartheid Namibia.164 They partnered with the Namibian National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), directed by ex-detainee Phil ya Nangoloh to produce lists of SWAPO cadres and detainees who were still unaccounted for six years after independence.

SWAPO responded with the release of the so-called “Book of the Dead,” a publication documenting the deaths of SWAPO cadres in exile.165 The contributors attempted to provide full-names, combat-names, date of death, age, location of death, and cause of death. Most causes were combat related, although a number were for other reasons. This was a bold step by the SWAPO Party, although it still fell short of what the BWS and NSHR were demanding. Ya Nangoloh’s NSHR published a counter report showing that only 140 of the 772 missing detainees were accounted for in the “Book of the Dead.”166

The detainee crisis remains a strong political issue up to the present in Namibia, because analysis of the 1980s in Lubango and 1976 in Zambia provides one with an in-depth understanding of transformations within SWAPO. It also reveals contradictions in SWAPO’s policy of reconciliation without truth: Namibia never allowed a truth and reconciliation commission to take place. This was for two reasons: first, it would reveal human rights abuses by SWAPO in exile (as the South African TRC did with ANC’s Quatro Camp),167 and second, because countless perpetrators of the war crimes are now citizens of another country (South Africa). In addition, it wasn’t until 2009 that detainees in Lubango were confirmed as War Veterans and therefore eligible for benefits and pensions.168 Others have pointed out that although it is a step in the right direction, it is long overdue and falls short of the restorative justice the detainees require.169

Although “detainees,” in the broadest definition, are eligible for veteran status, these Namibians are still vetted for political affiliation during the struggle; this is a continuation of the assumption of guilt which took place during the crisis in Lubango. Interviews are conducted with ex-detainees in order to “distinguish between ‘dissidents’ and those who remained true to the ideals of the liberation struggle.”170 Those classified as “dissidents” are far less likely to receive veteran pensions, funerals, and medical benefits. This is in line with the SWAPO policy of excluding former SWATF and Koevoet soldiers from obtaining veteran status, as their political actions (coerced by apartheid forces or not) worked against SWAPO’s liberation goals.171

Cover of Basson & Motinga "Call Them Spies" (1989)
Cover of Basson & Motinga “Call Them Spies” (1989)

SWAPO’s handling of the detainee crisis reveals a great deal of their version of Namibian nationalism. As has been argued throughout this paper, SWAPO framed its vision of the Namibian nation in very pragmatic terms: the aim was independence under SWAPO guidance. André du Pisani elaborates on this:

Logically speaking, if Namibia is identical with liberation and the freedom struggle [identical] with SWAPO, it is in principle impossible to be a Namibian Nationalist, i.e. to be for the liberation of the entire country, without being a supporter or sympathizer of SWAPO. Further, if not supporting or sympathizing with SWAPO, one can only be a ‘traitor,’ for SWAPO and the nationalist cause are one and the same.”172

Outrage over the treatment of detainees in SWAPO’s Lubango camps was interpreted as a rejection of SWAPO’s liberation war. This is a profound disconnect between SWAPO and activists like Phil ya Nangoloh and Siegfried Groth regarding the detainees (and Andreas Shipanga and Keshii Pelao Nathaniel in the 1970s): the latter viewed liberation as more than changed control. All of these activists who were critical of SWAPO were keen supporters of the independence movement, broadly. However, they disagreed with SWAPO’s means to get there, as well as what Namibia would look like after 1990.

Understanding how SWAPO represents the past, deals with the past, is key to understanding SWAPO’s vision for Namibia. Tom Nairn’s “Modern Janus” is a key analogy for this progressive, yet reactionary ideology:

Nationalism can in this sense be pictured as the old Roman god, Janus, who stood above the gateways with one face looking forward and one backwards. Thus does nationalism stand over the passage to modernity, for human society. As human kind is forced through its strait doorway, it must look desperately back into the past, to gather strength wherever it can be found for the ordeal of ‘development.’”173

What was surprising about SWAPO throughout the liberation struggle, according to Dobell, “was the apparent absence of any consistent beliefs other than the fundamental desire for independence from colonial rule.”174 It would be wrong to argue that SWAPO’s form of nationalism was (and is) baseless, but it isn’t farfetched to say that SWAPO’s nationalism is the epitome of anti-colonial nationalism, dependent on constant engagement and manipulation of memory and history in order to maintain full legitimacy. Hence, SWAPO must constantly maintain a delicate balance of remembering and forgetting the liberation struggle.


Conclusion: The Past in the Present

What I see in SWAPO, we preach about democracy, but in practice, uh-uh [no]. SWAPO is not a democratic organization anymore. SWAPO we have today is not the SWAPO of yesterday . . . Those of us who suffered [Ya Toivo gestures] ‘you must go.’ And I think I am one of those people now.”175

I had the privilege to interview Andimba Toivo ya Toivo on August 17 & 19, 2012, in Windhoek. Ya Toivo is widely considered one of the most important figures of the liberation struggle. Were it not for the political status of Dr. Sam Nujoma, Ya Toivo would have the title “Father of the Nation,” although he probably wouldn’t accept it. Also known by his Christian name, Herman, Ya Toivo was one of the founders of the Ovamboland People’s Organization and SWAPO. He was one of the Namibian leaders arrested in 1966 as part of the first trial under the South African “Terrorism Act.” He was sentenced to twenty-years imprisonment on Robben Island, where he was in the same block as Nelson Mandela. He was released in 1984, and he returned to Namibia where he took up the position of SWAPO Secretary General.

Throughout the liberation struggle, Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo was iconized in SWAPO’s posters, pamphlets, and party histories. Like for Mandela, international campaigns demanded his release. He is still highly respected in Namibia despite his falling out with a number of the SWAPO leadership: he is too popular to fully condemn, however, so SWAPO keeps quiet.

It took a while to get in touch with Mr. Ya Toivo, but we finally arranged an interview. Unlike many of the interviews we conducted, he wanted to come to us, and see where we were staying (rather than hosting the interview in his home). His daughters’ husband drove him to the very cheap hostel we were staying at, and we held the interview at the kitchen table. When my colleague, Matthew Ecker, and I had our camera set up, he asked if we had picked up any books on Namibian history during out stay. We said we had, and he asked if we could show him. Most of them were memoirs and autobiographies, and a few publications from the Basler Afrika Bibliographien. As he sifted through the seven or eight titles, his cheerful expression reversed when he saw Where Others Wavered: The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma. He placed the book on the bottom of the stack, and requested that we begin.

It has taken me a long time to piece together why Ya Toivo was so upset by the Nujoma “autobiography.” It has been widely criticized by Namibians and non-Namibians for its heavy use of nationalist histories; indeed, Chris Saunders has argued that the book was really meant to update the 1981 SWAPO publication To Be Born a Nation, as there is little personal information about Nujoma in the memoir.176 It’s much more of a history of SWAPO in exile than a history of Nujoma.177 I can’t imagine, however, that Ya Toivo was upset over historiographical issues; this seemed personal.

I believe the answer lies in Ya Toivo’s imprisonment and release. In his memoirs, Andreas Shipanga narrates Sam Nujoma “losing” his briefcase in London in 1966; he had left it unattended and it was “stolen.” Shipanga says that the documents in the briefcase were used in the trial of Ya Toivo the next year.178 In informal conversations with other Namibians, I have heard both support and denial of this accusation. Although in his memoirs, Shipanga seems to be implying that Nujoma “lost” the briefcase intentionally to lock Ya Toivo away on Robben Island and take full control of SWAPO, I’m not sure that this was the case. If the documents did indeed lead to Ya Toivo’s conviction, I’m not sure that it’s a personal grudge that he’s holding against Nujoma due to these particular mistakes.

Without trying to put words into Andimba Toivo ya Toivo’s mouth, I believe that when he was released in 1984, he was reunited with a very different liberation movement. In the mid-1960s, when Ya Toivo was heavily active with SWAPO, it was the early days. At this time, when Ruth First wrote her classic, South West Africa, it still wasn’t clear whether SWAPO or SWANU would prevail.179 When Ya Toivo was released, however, SWAPO was in the midst of the detainee debacle, the “spy drama.” Many of his former comrades, Andreas Shipanga, Solomon Mifina, and others were banned from SWAPO, and had started their own party, SWAPO-D to participate in the “Government of National Unity” along with the DTA. What was once a party of contract workers and radicals looking to end exploitation was now a centralized nationalist movement in exile whose word was law.

Original Caption: "19th April 1984. 24th Anniversary of the Founding of SWAPO." Issued by SWAPO of Namibia in Luanda, Printed in Lusaka. NAN POCO 0343
Original Caption: “19th April 1984. 24th Anniversary of the Founding of SWAPO.” Issued by SWAPO of Namibia in Luanda, Printed in Lusaka. NAN POCO 0343

And all over SWAPO’s imagery, alongside Sam Nujoma, was Ya Toivo’s face. According to Miescher and Henrichsen:

One of the few leaders to be propagated visually and on posers as an individual was Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo . . . [he] became the Namibia political prisoner par excellence. On a number of posters he symbolised the suffering of the Namibian people, while Nujoma represented its active fight against oppression.”180

He had become one of the main faces of this very changed movement.

Let me be clear: Ya Toivo was SWAPO through and through. However, I believe it is fair to say that after his release, he was seen as a liability by the other SWAPO and PLAN leadership. Indeed, after independence, SWAPO has slowly distanced themselves from Ya Toivo, eventually denying him membership in the Politburo, likely because of his critical comments regarding SWAPO’s “reconciliation” policies and his condemnation of Sam Nujoma’s unconstitutional third-term as president.181

New Independence Museum with Stature of Sam Nujoma in Civil Attire. Architects: Mansudae, DPRK
New Independence Museum with Stature of Sam Nujoma in Civil Attire. Architects: Mansudae, DPRK

Unlike many other SWAPO leaders who were excluded after independence, notably Andreas Shipanga and Eliaser Tuhadeleni, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo will be buried at Heroes’ Acre. He is a hero; and he’s just too big to deny him that burial place. One may be able to effectively remove Andreas Shipanga from political memory, to “enact oblivion” as Ross Poole calls it,182 but one cannot do so with Ya Toivo. Indeed, even Andreas Shipanga’s legacy as a “traitor” is being re-evaluated by non-SWAPO members. Hidipo Hamutenya, president of RDP, spoke at Shipanga’s funeral, making sure attendees understood that “he was no villain.”183 No SWAPO Politburo or Central Committee members attended his funeral; Shipanga was indeed a pariah.

The Past in the Present: Mural in the Independence Museum, also constructed by Mansudae
The Past in the Present: Mural in the Independence Museum, also constructed by Mansudae

The past is present within SWAPO. I titled this paper “Dilemmas of Pragmatic Nationalism” for an important reason. Throughout the liberation struggle, the only consistent belief within SWAPO theory and praxis was the fundamental desire for independence. Once SWAPO was declared the “sole and authentic” representative of the Namibian people, “nationalism” and “liberation” became equated with complete allegiance to SWAPO leadership. There was and is nothing “cultural” about this form of nationalism; there is nothing inherently “ethnic” about this nationalism; there is not even a consistent political program beyond vague rhetoric about equality and reconciliation. SWAPO’s version of nationalism is pragmatic; it is about political allegiance, both in the pre- and post-independence periods. It will be interesting to see if this changes over the next few decades, as the “born-free” generation takes party-reins and is able to direct policy and alter SWAPO’s vision for the future and of the past.


Abbreviations:

ANC – African National Congress

BWS – Breaking the Wall of Silence Movement

CoD – Congress of Democrats

DTA – Democratic Turnhalle Alliance

FNLA – Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola

FRELIMO – Frente de Libertação de Moçambique

IFF – International Freedom Foundation

MPLA – Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola

NAN – National Archives of Namibia

NSHR – National Society for Human Rights

OAU – Organization of African Unity

OPO – Ovamboland People’s Organization

PAIGC – Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde

PIDE – Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado

PLAN – People’s Liberation Army of Namibia

POCO – Poster Collection (National Archives of Namibia)

RDP – Rally for Democracy and Progress

SADF – South African Defense Forces

SWANU – South West Africa National Union

SWAPO – South West Africa People’s Organization

SWATF – South West Africa Territorial Forces

SYL – SWAPO Youth League

TRC – Truth and Reconciliation Commission

UNHCR – United Nations High Commission for Refugees

UNITA – União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola

ZANU – Zimbabwe African National Union

ZAPU – Zimbabwe African People’s Union


1 Meghan L.E. Kirkwood, “Post-Independence Architecture through North Korean Modes: Namibian Commissions of the Mansudae Overseas Project.” in A Companion to Modern African Art, edited by Gitti Salami & Monica Blackmun Visonà (New York: Wiley, 2013), 548-571.

2 Ibid., 549.

3 Tom Nairn, “The Modern Janus,” New Left Review 94 (Nov-Dec 1975).

4 Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation? [1882]” in Nation and Narration, edited by Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990), 11.

5 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), 201.

6 Ross Poole, “Enacting Oblivion,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 22 (2009), 149.

7 Ibid., 153.

8 For further theoretical context, see Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London: SAGE, 1995).

9 Interview with Dr. Giorgio Miescher: Windhoek, Namibia (August 10, 2012).

10 See funeral footage. NAMPA News, “Veii Laid to Rest,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Yeqtkq-Mg

11 Christian A. Williams, “Exile History: An Ethnography of the SWAPO Camps and the Namibian Nation,” Unpublished Dissertation, University of Michigan (2009), 267.

12 See Dag Henrichsen, “Ozongombe, Omavita, and Ozondjembo: the Process of (Re)Pastoralisation amongst the Herero in Pre-Colonial 18th Century Namibia,” in People, Cattle, and Land: Transformations of a Pastoral Society in Southwestern Africa, edited by Michael Bollig and Jan-Bart Gewald (Köln: Rüdiger Köppe, 2000), 149-186. See also Dag Henrichsen, Herrschaft und Alltag im Vorkolonialen Zentralnamibia: Das Herero- und Damaraland im 19. Jahrhundert (Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2011).

13 Marion Wallace, A History of Namibia: From the Beginning to 1990 (London: Hust, 2011), 72.

14 See Harri Siiskonen, Trade and Socioeconomic Change in Ovamboland, 1850-1906 (Helsinki: Soumen Histoiallinen Seura, 1990). See also Gregor Dobler, Traders and Trade in Colonial Ovamboland: Elite Formation and the Politics of Consumption under Indirect Rule and Apartheid (Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2014).

15 Wallace, A History of Namibia, 91.

16 See Giorgio Miescher, Namibia’s Red Line: The History of a Veterinary and Settlement Border (New York: Palgrave, 2012).

17 See SWAPO, To Be Born a Nation: The Liberation Struggle of Namibia (Luanda: SWAPO Department of Information and Publicity, 1981), 17.

18 Tony Emmett, Popular Resistance and the Roots of Nationalism in Namibia, 1915-1966 (Basel: P. Schlettwein, 1999), 50.

19 Wallace, A History of Namibia, 91, 144. See also Gary Marquardt, “Open Spaces and Closed Minds: A Socio-Environmental History of Rinderpest in Namibia and South Africa, 1896-1897.” Dissertation: University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2007.

20 Wallace, A History of Namibia, 178.

21 See Casper Erichsen, The Angel of Death Has Descended Violently among Them”: Concentration Camps and Prisoners-of-War in Namibia, 1904-1908 (Leiden: Afrika Studiecentrum, 2004).

22 This is a highly contested aspect of Namibian historiography, and it has been the source of a longstanding debate in Namibia and in Germany. See Brigitte Lau, “Uncertain Certainties: The Herero-German War of 1904,” in History and Historiography: Four Essays in Reprint (Windhoek: MSORP, 1995), 39-52. Werner Hillebrecht, “Certain Uncertainties: Or Venturing Progressively into Colonial Apologetics” Journal of Namibian Studies 1 (2007), 73-96. Jürgen Zimmerer & Joachim Zeller (eds.), Genocide in German South West Africa: The Colonial War of 1904-1908 and its Aftermath (Monmouth: Merlin, 2008). Andreas Eckl, “The Herero Genocide of 1904: Some Source-Critical and Methodological Considerations,” Journal of Namibian Studies 3 (2008), 31-61. Matthias Häußler, “From Destruction to Extermination: Genocidal Escalation in Germany’s War against the Herero, 1904,” Journal of Namibian Studies 10 (2011), 55-81.

23 See Dobler, Traders and Trade in Colonial Ovamboland.

24 Interview with Ben Ulenga: Windhoek, Namibia (18 August, 2012).

25 See Milly Jafta et. al. An Investigation into the Shooting at the Old Location on 10 December 1959 (Windhoek: MSORP, 1999).

26 Interview with Herbert Jauch: Windhoek: Namibia (July 25, 2012).

27 Kristof Tamas, “After Return: Repatriated Exiles in Independent Namibia,” Namibia Institute for Social and Economic Research, Discussion Paper # 15 (November 1992).

28 Christian A. Williams, “’The Spy’ and the Camp: SWAPO in Lubango, 1980-1989,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, edited by Hilary Sapire & Chris Saunders (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2013), 164. I am told that Williams’ number is high, and that by 1989, the amount of Namibians in exile was closer to 45,000. Personal communication with Dr. Henning Melber, November 2014. It should be noted that exiles left and returned to Namibia on several occasions sometimes, especially after the “amnesty” policy of the late 1970s was passed: some returned at this time rather than in 1989.

29 See Colin Leys & John S. Saul, “SWAPO inside Namibia,” in Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two Edged Sword, edited by Colin Leys and John S. Saul (Oxford: James Currey, 1995), 67.

30 See William Heuva, Media and Resistance Politics: The Alternative Press in Namibia, 1960-1990 (Basel: P. Schlettwein, 2001), 41.

31 Henning Melber, “’SWAPO is the Nation and the Nation is SWAPO:’ Government and Opposition in a Dominant Party State – The Case of Namibia,” in Political Opposition in African Countries: the Cases of Kenya, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, edited by Karolina Hulterström, Amin Y. Kamete, and Henning Melber (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2007), 61-83

32 See arguments I have made briefly elsewhere. See Bernard C. Moore & Matthew Ecker, “Namibia’s Liberation Struggle and the 2014 Elections (Analysis),” AllAfrica, 20 March 2015. Available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201503201580.html

33 “Jackson Mwalundange: SWAPO and Intellectuals,” in Barbara Becker, Speaking Out: Namibians Share their Perspectives on Independence (Windhoek: Out of Africa, 2005), 24-29.

34 Ibid., 25.

35 Interview with Dr. Dylan Craig: Washington, USA (19 April, 2013).

36 Assis Malaquias, “Diamonds are a Guerrilla’s Best Friend: The Impact of Illicit Wealth on Insurgent Strategy,” Third World Quarterly 22, no. 3 (2001), 311-325.

37 Interview with Kanana Hishoono: Windhoek, Namibia (14 August, 2012). SWAPO, To Be Born a Nation: The Liberation Struggle of Namibia (Luanda: SWAPO Dept. of Information and Publicity, 1981), 263-265.

38 “Philemon Moongo: A Revolutionary,” in Becker, Speaking Out, 12-23.

39 Ibid., 16.

40 Vilho Amukwaya Shigwedha, “The Relationship between UNITA and SWAPO: Allies and Adversaries,” Journal of Southern African Studies 40, no. 6 (2014), 1275-1287.

41 Ibid., 1282.

42 David Lush, “Caught in the Eye of a Cold War Hurricane: Interview with Nghiyalasha Haulyondjaba,” Insight Namibia February 2011.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid.; Shigwedha, “The Relationship between UNITA and SWAPO,” 1283.

45 Lush, “Caught in the Eye.”

46 Shigwedha, “The Relationship between UNITA and SWAPO,” 1281.

47 Lush, “Caught in the Eye.”

48 “Epilogue: Phillip Shuudifonya,” in Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, A Journey into Exile: The Story of a Namibian Freedom Fighter (Aberystwyth: Sosiumi Press, 2002), 188.

49 Ibid., 189.

50 Terminology borrowed from Vladimir Shubin, The “Hot” Cold War: The USSR in Southern Africa (Scottsville: UKZN Press, 2008).

51 Elaine Windrich, “Savimbi’s War: Illusions and Realities,” in Beyond the Border War: New Perspectives on Southern Africa’s Late Cold War Conflicts, edited by Gary Baines & Peter Vale (Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2008), 195-206.

52 Ibid., 197. Red Scorpion, directed by Joseph Zito, Produced by Jack Abramoff (1988). See also James Verini, “The Tale of ‘Red Scorpion’,” Salon (17 August 2005): available at http://www.salon.com/2005/08/17/abramoff_2/ .

53 Windrich, “Savimbi’s War,” 197. The IFF was affiliated with Abramoff.

54 The 1976 Clark Amendment, named for U.S. Senator Dick Clark (D-Iowa), modified the U.S. Arms Export Control Act to ban military sales to paramilitary groups operating in Angola.

55 Interview with Chester Crocker: Washington, USA (2 February, 2013).

56 Interview with Dr. Dylan Craig: Washington, USA (19 April, 2013).

57 Jonas Savimbi, “The War Against Soviet Colonialism: The Strategy and Tactics of Anti-Communist Resistance,” Policy Review 35 (Winter 1986), 18-24.

58 Ibid., 20-21.

59 Ibid., 19.

60 Interview with Dr. Dylan Craig: Washington, USA (19 April, 2013).

61 Fred Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi: A Key to Africa (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishers, 1986).

62 “Official” American aid was cut during the period in which the Clark Amendment was in effect, 1976-1985.

63 Interview with Dr. William Minter: Washington, USA (20 April, 2013). Emphasis his.

64 Interview with Dr. Dylan Craig: Washington, USA (19 April, 2013).

65 Ian Taylor, China and Africa: Engagement and Compromise (London: Routledge, 2006), 76-77.

66 Ibid., 80-81. See also Indira Campos & Alex Vines, “Angola and China: A Pragmatic Partnership,” Paper Presented at CSIS Conference: “Prospects for Improving US-China-Africa Relations,” Washington (5 December 2007).

67 Stephen L. Weigert, Angola: A Modern Military History, 1961-2002 (New York: Palgrave, 2011), 36.

68 Interview with Dr. Dylan Craig: Washington, USA (19 April, 2013).

69 Shigwedha, “The Relationship Between UNITA and SWAPO,” 1286.

70 Peter Katjavivi, A History of Resistance in Namibia (Paris: UNESCO Press, 1988), 86.

71 Oswin O. Namakalu, Armed Liberation Struggle: Some Accounts of PLAN’s Combat Operations (Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan, 2004), 30.

72 Ibid., 30-31.

73 Pekka Peltola, The Lost May Day: Namibian Workers Struggle for Independence (Jyväskylä: Finnish Anthropological Society, 1995), 131.

74 Sam Nujoma, Where Others Wavered: The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma (London: PANAF Books, 2001), 236237.

75 Term borrowed from analysis by Susan Brown, “Diplomacy by Other Means: SWAPO’s Liberation War,” in Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two Edged Sword, edited by Colin Leys & John S. Saul (Oxford: James Currey, 1995), 24.

76 Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi, 229.

77 Cited in Andreas Shipanga, In Search of Freedom: The Andreas Shipanga Story (Gibraltar: Ashanti Publishers, 1989), 102. Also cited in Bridgland, Jonas Savimbi, 229.

78 Shipanga, In Search of Freedom, 102.

79 Nathaniel, A Journey into Exile, 136.

80 Conference proceedings cited from Tor Sellström, Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa (Vol. II): Solidarity and Assistance (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2002), 30.

81 Shigwedha, “The Relationship between UNITA and SWAPO,” 1286-1287.

82 Ibid., 1287.

83 See, for example, Ananias Kaseven Aipinge, “Lessons of Lubango,” The Namibian (May 24, 2005).

84 See Luqman Cloete, “Geingob Incited Murder, Charges RDP,” The Namibian (November 19, 2009).

85 Poole, “Enacting Oblivion.”

86 Interview with Maria Mboono Nghidinwa: Washington, USA (2 February, 2013).

87 Christian A. Williams, “Ordering the Nation: SWAPO in Zambia 1974-1976,” Journal of Southern African Studies 37, no. 4 (2011), 693-713.

88 Lauren Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia 1960-1991: War by Other Means (Basel: P. Schlettwein, 1998), 47.

89 See Peter H. Katjavivi, A History of Resistance in Namibia (Paris: UNESCO Press, 1988), 106.

90 Williams, “Ordering the Nation,” 693.

91 J.H.P. Serfontein, Namibia? (London: Collings, 1977), 220.

92 “Zhu Mbako: Diamonds and Supermarkets – Surviving inside Namibia,” in Colin Leys & Susan Brown, Histories of Namibia: Living Through the Liberation Struggle (London: Merlin Press, 2005), 21.

93 Ibid., 25.

94 Keshii Pelao Nathaniel, A Journey into Exile: The Story of A Namibian Freedom Fighter (Aberystwyth: Sosiumi, 2002), 65.

95 Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 50.

96 John S. Saul & Colin Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” in Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword, edited by Colin Leys & John S. Saul (Oxford: James Currey, 1995), 46.

97 Jamie Miller, “Things Fall Apart: South Africa and the Collapse of the Portuguese Empire, 1973-1974,” Cold War History 12, no. 2 (2012), 188.

98 Ibid., 189.

99 Ibid., 196-197. Also see Christo Botha, “South Africa’s Total Strategy in the Era of Cold War: Liberation Struggles and the Uneven Transition to Democracy,” Journal of Namibian Studies 4 (2008), 75-111.

100 Paul Trewhela, “The Kissinger/Vorster/Kaunda Detente: Genesis of the SWAPO ‘Spy Drama,’ – Part I,” Searchlight South Africa 2, no. 1 (July 1990), 76.

101 Ibid.

102 Saul & Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” 47.

103 Trewhela, “The Kissinger/Vorster/Kaunda Detente . . . Part I,” 78.

104 M. Tamarkin, The Making of Zimbabwe: Decolonization in Regional and International Politics (London: Frank Cass, 1990), 27.

105 Trewhela, “Kissinger/Vorster/Kaunda Detente . . . Part I,” 78.

106 Williams, “Ordering the Nation,” 701.

107 Ibid., 702.

108 Christian A. Williams, “Exile History: An Ethnography of the SWAPO Camps and the Namibian Nation,” Unpublished Dissertation, University of Michigan (2009), 92. Reworked version of the dissertation forthcoming: Christian A. Williams, National Liberation in Post-Colonial Southern Africa: A Historical Ethnography of SWAPO’s Exile Camps (New York: Cambridge, 2015).

109 See Nathaniel, A Journey into Exile, 94.

110 Ibid.

111 Ilana Feldman, “Government without Expertise? Competence, Capacity, and Civil Service Practice in Gaza,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 37 (2005), 487.

112 Williams, “Ordering the Nation,” 698.

113 Interview with Ben Ulenga: Windhoek, Namibia (18 August, 2012).

114 Andreas Shipanga describes how PLAN Commander Peter Nanyemba would purchase supplies in Lusaka, send the bill to a Swedish anti-apartheid benefactor, and then resell the goods for a profit. Nanyemba, Nujoma, and Mueshihange were also accused of being “in partnership” with regards to the Kilimanjaro and Lagodara hotels/nightclubs. See Shipanga, In Search of Freedom, 101.

115 Colin Leys & John S. Saul, “Liberation Without Democracy? The SWAPO Crisis of 1976,” Journal of Southern African Studies 20, no. 1 (1994), 130.

116 Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 50-1.

117 Cited in Ibid.

118 Katjavivi, A History of Resistance in Namibia, 106-7.

119 Saul & Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” 49.

120 Paul Trewhela, “The Kissinger/Vorster/Kaunda Detente: The Genesis of the SWAPO ‘Spy Drama’: Part II,” Searchlight South Africa 2, no. 2 (1991), 52.

121 Saul & Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” 49.

122 Nathaniel, A Journey into Exile, 152-153.

123 Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 56.

124 Ibid.

125 Kenneth Abrahams, cited in Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 57.

126 Saul & Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” 50.

127 Ibid., 51.

128 Nahas Angula, cited in Williams, “Exile History,” 111.

129 Marion Wallace, A History of Namibia: From the Beginning to 1990 (London: Hurst, 2011), 290.

130 Ibid. See also Gary Baines, “Conflicting Memories, Competing Narratives and Complicating Histories: Revisiting the Cassinga Controversy,” Journal of Namibian Studies 6 (2009), 10.

131 SWAPO, To Be Born a Nation: The Liberation Struggle of Namibia (Luanda: SWAPO Department of Information and Publicity, 1981), 242.

132 Williams, “Exile History,” 32.

133 Justine Hunter, Die Politik der Erinnerung und des Vergessens in Namibia: Umgang mit schweren Menschenrechtsverletzungen der Ära des bewaffneten Befreiungskampfes, 1966 bis 1989 (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2008). See also Justine Hunter, “Dealing with the Past in Namibia: Getting the Balance Right between Justice and Sustainable Peace?” in The Long Aftermath of War: Reconciliation and Transition in Namibia, eds. André du Pisani, Reinhart Kößler & William A. Lindeke (Freiburg: Arnold Bergstraesser Institut, 2010), 403-434.

134 Elena Torreguitar, National Liberation Movements in Office: Forging Democracy with African Adjectives in Namibia (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2009), 230.

135 John S. Saul & Colin Leys, “Truth, Reconciliation, Amnesia: The ‘Ex-Detainees’ Fight for Justice,” in Re-Examining Liberation in Namibia: Political Cultures Since Independence, edited by Henning Melber (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2003), 69-86.

136 Williams, “Exile History,” 131.

137 Ibid.

138 Torreguitar, National Liberation Movements in Office, 243-244.

139 See Christian A. Williams, “’The Spy’ and the Camp: SWAPO in Lubango, 1980-1989,” in Southern African Liberation Struggles: New Local, Regional and Global Perspectives, edited by Hilary Sapire & Chris Saunders (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2013), 163.

140 Saul & Leys, “SWAPO: The Politics of Exile,” 55.

141 Torreguitar, National Liberation Movements in Office, 230.

142 Letter from Rev. Siegfried Groth to Rev. Paul Isaak (Chicago): 8 July 1985. Letter in author’s possession.

143 Siegfried Groth, Namibia: The Wall of Silence – Dark Days of the Liberation Struggle (Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag, 1995), 106.

144 Williams, “’The Spy,’” 169.

145 Maija Hiltunen, Witchcraft and Sorcery in Ovambo (Helsinki: Soumen Antropologinen Seura, 1986), 53-54.

146 E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Magic, and Oracles among the Azande (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976 [1937]).

147 Julien Bonhomme, “The Dangers of Anonymity: Witchcraft, Rumor, and Modernity in Africa,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2, no. 2 (2012), 205-233.

148 Ibid., 213.

149 Adam Ashforth, Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 12.

150 Williams, “Exile History,” 158.

151 “SWAPO alleges a massive spy network in its ranks,” The Namibian (February 21, 1986).

152 Williams, “Exile History,” 170-171. Interview with Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: Windhoek, Namibia (August 19, 2012).

153 Torreguitar, National Liberation Movements in Office, 267.

154 John Liebenberg, “Detainees Speak of Ordeal,” The Namibian (June 9, 1989).

155 Williams, “Exile History,” 186.

156 Nico Basson & Ben Motinga, Call them Spies: A Documentary Account (Windhoek: Africa Communications Project, 1989).

157 Justine Hunter, “No Man’s Land of Time: Reflections on the Politics of Memory and Forgetting in Namibia,” in Beyond the Border War: New Perspectives on Southern Africa’s Late-Cold War Conflicts, edited by Gary Baines and Peter Vale (Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2008), 312.

158 Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 98.

159 Siegfried Groth, Namibia: The Wall of Silence – Dark Days of the Liberation Struggle (Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag, 1995).

160 Ibid., 195. See Buys & Nambala, The History of the Church in Namibia (Windhoek: Gamsberg MacMillan, 2003).

161 See Groth, The Wall of Silence, 27.

162 Hunter, “Dealing with the Past in Namibia,” 416.

163 Ibid.

164 Williams, “Exile History,” 206.

165 SWAPO Party, Their Blood Waters Our Freedom (Windhoek: SWAPO Party, 1996).

166 NSHR, “Critical Analysis: SWAPO’s ‘Book of the Dead,’” (Windhoek: NSHR, 1996).

167 See Paul Trewhela, Inside Quatro: Uncovering the Exile Histories of the ANC and SWAPO (Cape Town: Jacana, 2010).

168 Denver Isaacs, “SWAPO Lubango Dungeon Victims also War Veterans,” The Namibian (August 12, 2009).

169 “Veteran Status not Enough for ex-Detainee,” The Namibian (August 17, 2009).

170 Paulus Ashipala, “PS Tells Ex-Detainee that They Have to be Vetted,” The Namibian (August 25, 2011).

171 See Lalli Metsola, “Out of Order? The Margins of Namibian Ex-Combatant ‘Reintegration,’” in Transitions in Namibia: Which Changes for Whom? Edited by Henning Melber (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2007), 130-152. Also see Metsola, “Reintegration as Recognition – Ex-combatant and veteran politics in Namibia,” Dissertation, Faculty of Social Sciences: University of Helsinki, 2015.

172 André du Pisani, “The Discursive Limits of SWAPO’s Dominant Discourses on Anti-Colonial Nationalism in Postcolonial Namibia – A First Exploration,” in The Long Aftermath of War: Reconciliation and Transition in Namibia, eds. André du Pisani, Reinhart Kößler & William A. Lindeke (Freiburg: Arnold Bergstraesser Institut, 2010), 22.

173 Tom Nairn, “The Modern Janus,” New Left Review 94 (Nov-Dec 1975), 18.

174 Dobell, SWAPO’s Struggle for Namibia, 17.

175 Interview with Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: Windhoek, Namibia (August 19, 2012).

176 Chris Saunders, “Liberation and Democracy: A Critical Reading of Sam Nujoma’s ‘Autobiography,’” in Re-Examining Liberation in Namibia: Political Culture Since Independence, edited by Henning Melber (Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 2003), 89.

17 See André du Pisani, “Memory Politics in Where Others Wavered: The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma,” Journal of Namibian Studies 1 (2007), 97-107.

178 Shipanga, In Search of Freedom, 93-94.

179 See Ruth First, South West Africa (London: Penguin, 1963).

180 Giorgio Miescher & Dag Henrichsen. “Fathers and Sons of the Namibian Nation: Posters, Visuality and African Leaders.” in Posters in Action: Visuality in the Making of an African Nation, edited by Giorgio Miescher, Lorena Rizzo & Jeremy Silvester (Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2009), 129.

181 Interview with Andimba Toivo ya Toivo: Windhoek, Namibia (August 19, 2012).

182 Poole, “Enacting Oblivion.”

183 Uuhehe-Merja Iileka, “Shipanga was no Villain – Hamutenya,” Namibian Sun (May 21, 2012).


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