By: CATHERINE SASMAN
THE Mboroma mass detention camp shooting in which four Namibians were killed and 15 seriously wounded by Zambian soldiers on August 5 1976, allegedly on request from the top Namibian ruling party (Swapo) leadership then in exile, was commemorated for the first time in Namibia on Sunday.
The commemoration was held at the Commando Hall in Katutura, Windhoek, where descendants of the 1904 to 1908 genocidal German imperial war on Namibians now meet to plot their plans for restoration from the German government.
A survivor of the massacre, Hizipo Moses Shikondombolo, said survivors of the Swapo atrocities in exile are forming a civic organisation, to be called the Namibia Truth and Justice Association, that will see to the annual observance of August 5 as well as July 4, which marks the day when survivors of the Lubango dungeons in southern Angola returned to Namibia in 1989.
Shikondombola was among the second group arrested for their activities in what became known as the anti-corruption committee that questioned poor conditions in the military camps.
These conditions arose from poor supply of weapons, shortages of food and medicines, clothes and blankets, which were allegedly supplied to Jonas Savimbi’s Unita.
The Mboroma camp was a former Zanu detention centre, and Shikondombola and 1 847 others were kept isolated under extremely harsh conditions.
“We were starved deliberately, eating once a day in every three days a week and food was always not sufficient. We had to collect wild plant leaves and green grass, boiled it and ate it. Often we were assaulted physically by Zambian soldiers guarding us,” Shikondombolo remembered.
When conditions became unbearable, the detainees asked the Zambian government to provide them with transport to Angola where they wanted to join other Swapo liberation fighters.
On August 5 1976, a Zambian army captain told the Mboroma detainees that their request to leave for Angola was granted, provided that they walked in two files while on Zambian soil.
The group formed the two files and started moving out of the camp, but when they reached the gate of the camp where the Zambian soldiers had their tents pitched, orders were given to shoot.
Those killed were Jerry Mwiiyale, Johannes Kadhila, Abner Nangolo and Johannes Kanyemba.
Among the wounded were Eunice Haimbodi, Gideon Ambunda, Immanuel Fillipus, John Kavandje, Immanuel, Kanyanye, Johannes Shilongo, Joseph Kalondoka, Josephine Petrus, Lukas ‘Truck’ Nauyoma, and Paulus Shilongo.
The survivors were taken back to camp where conditions worsened and some died of malnutrition.
Shikondombolo and two others – Sakaria Elago and Mikael Stefanus – escaped from the Mboroma camp on March 11, 1977 through Kenya to Tanzania.
Stefanus got arrested in the Mkushi district of central Zambia and is understood to have been handed over to Swapo. He is said to be missing to this day.
The other two arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and reported to the home affairs ministry there to seek refugee status, but were instead driven to the Swapo office, from where they escaped as well, and arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 25 1977.
There they drafted an appeal for the release of over 1 000 Namibians in detention in Zambia and Tanzania.
Recalling the chilling events, Shikondombolo struggled to contain his emotions when mentioning the names of some of his fallen comrades.
The purpose of the commemoration, he said, is for the public to know what happened, and to ensure that something similar does not repeat itself in independent Namibia.
“[We] want Namibia’s so-called policy of reconciliation to be revisited so that the discrimination by the Namibian government against former Mboroma detainees and other former detainees who had left Swapo is brought to an end,” said Shikondombolo, and called on human rights lawyers and activists, clergy, civic organisations, parliamentarians and others to join them in their struggle for recognition.
The commemoration was organised by breaking the Wall of Silence, the Forum for the Future and NamRights.