Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has maintained that President Rupiah Bwezane Banda was involved in the disappearance of Namibian fighters in Zambia when he was foreign affairs ministers.
On the occasion of President Banda’s official visit to Namibia last week, NSHR asked the Zambian leader “to help establish the fate or whereabouts” of many anti-apartheid Namibia freedom fighters who have disappeared without a trace in Zambia during Banda’s tenure as that Zambia’s foreign minister. NSHR said Zambian security forces, acting on instructions of then SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma, rounded up between 1 800 and 2 000 Namibian freedom fighters. They were accused by Nujoma and other SWAPO leaders of being radicals or rebels.
But president Banda denied the allegations saying:
“There is no such a thing and the allegations are totally false. These are the people who are working for the people who colonised us. They are always trying to bring up these matters”.
“You know very well that, that is not true. There will always be a group of people who want to find faults in their colleagues who are running that country. And you know my conscience will not allow me to be a leader even here if I was involved in any disappearance of anybody anywhere in the world. I will not be President of this country and I will be prepared to resign even today. There was no such a thing. And the accusations against the leadership of SWAPO are totally false”
But NSHR Executive Director Phil ya Nangoloh in a statement to the Watchdog today said:
1. As Zambia’s Foreign Minister, President Banda in 1974 supervised the triumvirate secret wheeling and dealing among apartheid SA, Zambia and British conglomerate Lonrho, which resulted in the Détente Scenario. The Détente Scenario which culminated in the so-called Train Summit between then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and then apartheid South African Prime Minster John B Vorster. The controversial summit took place in a train coach straddling the Zambian-Rhodesian border at Victoria Falls on August 25-26 1975. The strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist President Kaunda, who was once described by apartheid SA leaders as “the voice of reason”, also met with SA’s President P W Botha, Vorster’s successor, on April 30 1982 on the Botswana border. The two leaders discussed the political situation in Namibia and South Africa.
2. On October 8 1974, when the well documented Détente Scenario was hatched, General “Lang” Hendrik van den Bergh, apartheid SA’s intelligence chief, flew to the Zambian capital, Lusaka, where he held secret talks at President Kaunda’s State House with Foreign Minister Rupiah Banda as well as with Kaunda’s intelligence head, Mark Chona. Dr. Marquad de Villiers, a South African, represented British business magnate Tiny Roland of Lonrho at the secret machinations aimed at installing neo-colonialist regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Namibia.
3. As part of the Détente Scenario, SWAPO’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN)–like Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) forces in Rhodesia–had to be disarmed and be barred from using Zambia as a springboard to attack SA forces in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. During September 1975 Zambian Minister of State for Defense General Kingsley Chinkuli formally ordered PLAN fighters to cease all military activities on Zambian soil.
4. Not surprisingly, on October 14 1975, Task Force Zulu, a unit of the South African Defense Force (SADF), using part of Zambian soil, invaded Angola to fight against MPLA and Cuban forces in that country, in accordance with a CIA-MI6 Cold War strategy. The SADF invaded Angola with full acquiescence if not express approval of President Kaunda and then Foreign Minister Rupiah Banda.
5. In April 1976 Namibia’s PLAN fighters in southwestern Zambia were violently disarmed by Zambian troops, under the command of Major Martin Mulopa. On or around April 23 1976, between 40 and 60 “radical” PLAN commanders were driven to Lusaka by Mulopa’s forces and thereafter to a prison camp at Mwinilunga, some 600 kilometers northwest of Lusaka. They were later transferred from there to the notorious Mboroma concentration camp near Kabwe, where between 1 6 00 and 1 800 of their comrades were being held by Zambian forces. Here on August 5 1976 Zambian forces massacred four (4) Namibian freedom fighters and wounded more than 10 others. Those killed were John Kadhila, Jerry Mwiiyale, Abner Nangolo and John Kanyemba, who died later in a Zambian hospital.
6. On July 11 1976, SA forces entered Zambia and attacked a PLAN base at Oshatotwa, in southwestern Zambia, killing 25 (some say 200) freedom fighters in the process.
7. Due to growing international pressure, Zambia was compelled to “release” the Namibian freedom fighters at Mboroma. Between 1400 and 1 600 of the Namibian liberation fighters “accepted” Nujoma’s “offer” for “rehabilitation” and, together with the between 40 and 60 “radical” or “rebel” commanders, they were taken to the SWAPO’s Nyango camp near the western Zambian town of Mongu. The rest, being 200 PLAN combatants opted for the protection of the United Nations refugee agency and were taken to the Meheba refugee settlement in northwestern Zambia.
8. At the Nyango camp those who “accepted” to be “rehabilitated”; including the 40 to 60 commanders started disappearing without a trace individually and or in small groups. Over 800 of their number were taken to Angola where a day after their arrival they died in the SADF attack on Cassinga on May 4 1978.
“The above are just some of the facts as we know them regarding President Banda’s collusion with American and British “colonialists” and their apartheid SA allies against both Namibian and Zimbabwean freedom fighters in the mid-1970s. President Banda may now make good of his offer to step down, which I personally seriously doubt he is capable of doing”, said former PLAN combatant, Phil ya Nangoloh.
According to Phil ya Nangoloh, the US and the British governments strongly supported the Détente Scenario in which then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and British Foreign Affairs Secretary Sir James Callaghan actively participated. Moreover, in a speech delivered in London on January 30 1976, ZANU President Robert Mugabe said that the Détente Scenario was “hatched in the cities of Washington and London”. In an interview with the BBC on January 21 1976, Mugabe also expressly accused President Kaunda of inter alia being “the principal factor in slowing down our revolution”. The Zimbabwean leader was referring to the massacre of 13 ZANU soldiers by Zambian troops which took place on September 11 1975 at the Mboroma concentration camp, near Zambia’s northern town of Kabwe.