By: Eba Kandovazu , Ludorf Iiyambo, Hertha Ekandjo
President Hage Geingob says Namibians can honour the sacrifices of heroes and heroines who died at Cassinga by working in unity towards the realisation of a better Namibia.
Geingob said this in his Cassinga day commemoration message on Wednesday.
According to Geingob, this is guided by the principles of social justice, solidarity, and the improvement of all living standards.
Wednesday marked 44 years since the Cassinga massacre and its commemoration in memory of the hundreds of Namibian refugees and freedom fighters who died in the brutal attack by the notorious colonial troops of apartheid South Africa at Cassinga in southern Angola.
He added that Cassinga Day would forever be a scar in the memory of Namibians.
He expressed that Namibians still remember that painful chapter at Cassinga because of the physical and psychological scars, which remain a constant reminder that the freedom and independence of the Namibian people came at a high cost.
“On this solemn day, we pause to remember our compatriots who lost their precious lives on that fateful day, May 4, 1978, on which horrific acts of violence and brutality were committed against the Namibian people. We will remember forever,” Geingob said.
He also paid homage to the survivors of the Cassinga Massacre, whose lives remain traumatised by the events of that fateful day.
“A day of memory, Cassinga Day should continue to remind Namibians about the selfless sacrifices made by thousands of our countrymen and women in the struggle for the independence of our motherland,” he added.
He stated that every Namibian must ensure that the dreams, aspirations and blood of those who laid down their lives for others to enjoy freedom today are not betrayed.
“Let us engage, as a collective, in actions that give deserving respect to those who lost their lives for the freedom and independence of our country. In memory of the 44th anniversary of the Cassinga Massacre, I urge all Namibians to forge ahead with the task of nation-building. Let us pull together in the same direction to build a united and prosperous Namibia for our country’s present and future generations,” Geingob stressed.
Cassinga was a reception centre for Namibian refugees who fled the country into Angola to join the armed struggle for liberation.
YOU WILL BE PAYING GHOSTS
Meanwhile, veterans expressed that the government will be paying ghosts should they take longer to deliver what they promised.
On Tuesday, the group had engaged with the veterans’ affairs minister Frans Kapofi at Katutura Multi-purpose centre.
The ex-combatants said they are ageing, some are sick, have been patients for 32 years, and want to be paid before they die.
According to them, they are more than 12 000 unpaid veterans, but the ministry only takes 276 each financial year.
“We are giving you a short period. There’s no other thing we want from you, just money. We know that there is a total number of people you said you would pay, but it is just a way of calming us down. By looking at the conditions in which some of us are in at the moment, your dream of paying us after five years will never come true because most of us will be dead,” said one of the veterans.
Expressing their views to Kapofi, the veterans cried that the ruling party (Swapo) betrayed, neglected and abandoned them.
“There are some veterans who are already got their money, but the majority of us did not get it. This is not fair. We are not going to leave this place before the minister tells us when he will pay us. Why are you guys not looking back where we came from?” questioned another veteran.
Another ex-combatant stressed that some of them live with disability and don’t have anything to fight for.
She said some people joined Swapo a long time ago, but they still suffer.
Sharing her sentiments, she said she became a freedom fighter at 16, expressing that thinking about it and looking at her current situation brings tears to her eyes.
“When the country got independence, I worked as a police officer, but I did not work for long because I had steel in my body. I could not wear my police boots, and this young police officer wanted me to go on operations like them,” she said.
The veterans asked the ministry to pay them in a time.
“Please pay the people that were not paid. If you could have just paid us, you wouldn’t have seen us gathering here today. Or, if you couldn’t have paid some people, we could have been quiet with our poverty in our residential areas. That’s painful, and it triggered us to come here,” said the grieving veteran.
Speaking to The Villager, one of them said they live in objective poverty, and it’s shameful and embarrassing that some people got the money and some didn’t get it.
NNLVA AND NEKA SING OF BITTER STRUGGLE
President of the Namibian National Liberation Veterans Association (NNLVA), Ben Shikongo, also reminded the Namibians that the struggle was long and bitter; therefore, the peace Namibia is enjoying today has come a long way.
“I am requesting all peaceful and loving Namibians, especially the liberation struggle veterans, to ensure that peace and stability obtained from independence should be respected,” said Shikongo.
He added that Namibia should not forget the fallen heroes and heroines.
“They should be remembered forever. Namibia is not only mourning those that lost their lives during the Cassinga massacre. Namibia is also mourning the lives of fallen heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield in Angola, Zambia, and Namibia.”
Shikongo stated that all battles during the liberation struggle, such as the battle of Indungo, should also be added to the national calendar.
The Indungo battle took place inside Angola in the northern area of Cuvelai. This military operation was intended to eliminate an army base which housed elements of Swapo on 31 October 1987.
Shikongo warns that the peace and stability Namibia has should not be spoiled.
According to Shikongo, the veterans ministry agreed that since people are ageing, it is only to make cash payments to the veterans in place of the pending projects.
He further added that Kapofi said that the government has no money and that the veterans should try to be reasonable and understand the situation.
In a statement, Namibian Exile Kids Association (Neka) said that some of them were born in the refugee camps, and others were born later; however, the wounds and pain of all the fallen heroes and survivors remain with them.
“As we engage in the journey of national reconstruction, let us be motivated by the heroic deeds and actions of all the sons and daughters of the Namibian soil,” it said.
Neka added that Namibia should look ahead and take up the torch toward economic inclusion, emancipation and growth.
“Ours is a fight to break the income inequality gap, provide excellent healthcare to the people, ensure that every Namibian has a roof over their head, access to quality water for all is available and become active participants in building our country.”
Meanwhile, Kapofi stressed that Cassinga Day should not be looked at as a celebration but as a memorial for those that perished.
According to him, the fatalities were primarily children and women and those expecting.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula also emphasised preserving history for future generations to embrace it.