News and Information

October 26, 2011

The intention of this article is to share my understanding about the Caprivi political dispute, and to support the call for an independent Caprivi Strip as an end to the political oppression and victimization that we as a people of Caprivi Strip are enduring from Namibia. Nothing is new in this article; I am simply echoing what some people might have already said. I am one of thousands of Caprivi Strip residents who believe that Caprivi Strip deserve to be granted self-determination in a form of complete political independence.

The beginning of the Caprivi political struggle

In the year 1963 a few Caprivian students who were in South Africa came up with political ideas of fighting the apartheid South African government in Caprivi Strip. The political aspirations of people of Caprivi had to be fought for and achieved politically, hence, after learning and understanding the political situation in Caprivi, a national political party was formed largely led by professional teachers in 1963 at a Holy Family Mission School, now Kizito College. The party was called Caprivi African National Union (CANU). The people (membership and leadership of CANU) wanted nothing but independence for Caprivi Strip against South African occupation.

Early 1964, CANU leaders fled into Zambia fearing arrest by South African police forces. In Zambia, where Mr. Muyongo met Sam Nuyoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba for the first time, a merger was proposed by SWAPO. SWAPO leaders proposed and insisted to merge SWAPO with CANU. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) which is now African Union (AU) also came out to support SWAPO in its bid to merge with CANU. Mr. Muyongo took a difficult decision to merge SWAPO with CANU. We can imagine how difficult it was to take such a decision. We are all sensible of the fact that whatever decision taken, whether by a majority, a few, or a single man, it is for better or worse.

The original and immediate political objective of Caprivians shall always come around as Namibia keeps chasing it around hoping to bury it. It is unfortunate for Namibia because the objective or aim is more of a spiritual virtue than a physical vice. At the spring of this spirit I doubt if there is any man or government that can stand in its way. The aim and objective of CANU was to liberate Caprivi Strip into total political and economic independence. This objective is what today appear to be a threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Namibia which was then South-West Africa.

SWAPO proposed the merger for operational reasons because the Strip was the only territory under the apartheid South African rule which was geographically and politically exposed (or easily accessible) for entry to SWA from Zambia, and at which SWAPO could militarily assault the South African regime forces. Angola was still under colonial Portuguese regime then.

OAU supported the merger proposal to economize scarce resources so that they only support one organization (instead of two) against one common enemy in its commitment to liberate Africa from colonization of that time. This is why it crowned SWAPO the status of being a “sole and authentic representative” of Namibians while there were other organizations which also represented Namibians such as SWANU, Traditional Councils, etc. It is not because SWAPO was “sole and authentic” as such but to economize scarce resources.

While the reasons above are as well true, we must identify and recognize the most important reason for the proposal which is that SWAPO could not operate in Caprivi Strip simply because it was not part of SWA. It required of them to seek such a mandate from native Caprivians. Mind you, SWAPO as a national liberation struggle of SWA was formed in 1960, meaning it took four years to come into contact with Caprivians. Separate we were. People must understand that the merger never meant to incorporate Caprivi Strip to SWA but to work together against a common enemy. Even if Caprivi Strip was incorporated to SWA by German or South Africa, a good question is: whose interest or mandate was it, Native Caprivians or the then colonizers (Britain, German, and South Africa)? A political case can also begin from this point especially when we find ourselves oppressed and victimized by Namibia.

The Administration history of Caprivi Strip prior 1964

Some individuals in the Namibian government who hails from Caprivi Strip have sacrificed the supreme political goal of the Simbwaye-Muyongo-Ndopu generation by defending the presence of the Namibia government in the Strip. Some argue that Mr. Muyongo gave Caprivi Strip to SWA. Some base their proud Namibian citizenship and patriotism on the 1964 merger but blame Mr. Muyongo for the same merger. We all know the fact that it is Britain which ceded the Strip to German on 1 July 1890. On the 27th of January 1909, German (not Caprivians) incorporated it to SWA. After a number of administration changes from SWA, on the 1st day of September 1929 it was re-incorporated into South West Africa. From August 1939 it was administered by South Africa; under the Department of Native Affairs. Caprivi Strip became a Native reserve on 26 July 1940, administered by South Africa directly from Pretoria not Windhoek.

Let us take note that at the time of the formation of CANU, Caprivi Strip was administered by South Africa directly from Pretoria as a separate entity from SWA. The political understanding of CANU leaders and followers (then and now) was, and remains that Caprivi Strip is a separate entity from SWA/Namibia. This is the supreme idea that the United Democratic Party (UDP) exist to advance and realize. This is an idea which appears to be a taboo or criminal to talk about it in the Republic of Namibia by government officials (Cabinet ministers and their deputies) and some individuals, not necessarily by the constitution of the country.

The CANU-SWAPO relationship (Before Namibia Independence)

This is a relationship characterized by discrimination, torture, and forced disappearance of CANU leaders and followers by SWAPO. It is also well known for tribal divisions between Caprivi tribesmen by SWAPO and South Africa. It saw the killing of late Greenwell Matongo and many other CANU leaders and followers.

The history of arbitrary detentions among Namibians in exile started in 1965 in Tanzania with the detention of George Mutwa, and Alfred Tongo Nalisa (sic), the leader of the Caprivian group at Kongwa. Their complaint was that the Caprivians were being discriminated against, not regarded as full Swapo members. After the two's release from detention, Swapo disowned them and they made their way to Kenya. Much had happened among Namibians in Zambia during the 1970s, culminating in the Lubango dungeons of southern Angola where hundreds of people were detained during the 1980s. (The Namibian: 17. 10. 2006)

“Since charity begins at home, I have several confessions to make. Having been myself a junior PLAN officer in the reconnaissance detachment between 1974 and 1975, I know that atrocities (such as torture, execution, and enforced disappearances) have been committed against, among others, Caprivi African National Union (CANU) followers. I have personally never taken part, whatsoever, in those atrocities. Nevertheless, I sincerely and unequivocally apologize for having been unable to publicly speak out against such wrongs for fear for my own life.” (Namrights Director, Phil ya Nangoloh: Sep 13, 2010)

In any case, the relationship was blessed with all opportunities and/or possibilities to unite the two different peoples but failed to do so. Instead it misfired, creating personal and political hatreds between the two peoples. New hope with a measure of confusion came around for Caprivi political and traditional leadership at the independence of Namibia. The silent question then, in these sections of leadership should have been: is Caprivi Strip part of SWA, and is the independence victory of Namibia in particular apply to Caprivi? This question still stand, we know the answer but some individuals don’t want to accept it.

Caprivi–Namibia relations (post Namibia independence)

Politically, Caprivi-Namibia relationship has seen thousands of Caprivian refugees in Botswana, Canada, USA, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, and elsewhere fearing political persecution from Namibian authorities. More than 300 men were tortured and detained mainly from a single tribe after the 2nd August 1999 Caprivian uprising. Some of these detainees allegedly disappeared without trace. Some 110 of them are still kept in prison for twelve years now without conviction while about nineteen have already died in detention.

Many things happened after the 2nd August 1999 spring, here is a tip of an iceberg, “AFTER he allegedly shot her brother six times and then slit his throat, the alleged executioner, Captain Henry Mwilima of the Namibia Defense Force (NDF), then ate tinned beef while family members looked on in horror, a witness claims. Frieda Tungulu, the sister of Hansmare (Hansmeyer) Sitoboha Tungulu, recently claimed she was a witness to the killing of her brother on September 2 1999 in the Sibbinda Constituency in the Caprivi Region. She said she decided to come forward because she wanted to know where the bodies of her brother, and her husband, Shadrick Semusa Chainda, are buried in order to give them a decent burial.” (Namrights website)

We do not forget that it is in this era that the United Democratic Party (UDP) have been banned by Namibian authorities while its (UDP) objective is to find a lasting solution to this political stalemate peacefully.

In terms of development, marginalization has been the order of the era. Infrastructural and social-economic development is more concentrated in other parts of Namibia except Caprivi Strip. Caprivi remain the poorest “part of” Namibia. The National Planning Commission of Namibia can attest to this. We have learnt that above 65% of school children in Caprivi are Orphans & Vulnerable Children (OVC) due to HIV/AIDS, poverty, and political detention of Caprivi male parents. Most government services meant for inhabitants of Caprivi are centralized in Kavango region. This strategic political hand over of Caprivi Strip to Kavango has been publicly criticized by the citizens of the Strip but nothing has been done by the Namibian Government. Patients of various illnesses are always on the road, transferred to Rundu, a town in Kavango. Some make it to Rundu which is about five hundred and ten kilometers from Katima Mulilo (Caprivi’s capital) while some die in road accidents. This is not propaganda.

Socially, the relationship is characterized by tribal disputes in Caprivi Strip among native tribal authorities which are engineered by the SWAPO led government to divide and rule the people of Caprivi. In this era, we are seeing Caprivi citizens, their tribal and political leaders being undermined by the Namibian government by stretching the border limit of Kavango region from Mukuvi to Bagani (Divundu), again from Bagani to Bwabwata, then recently from Bwabwata national park to a few kilometers before Kongola check point. This is deliberate disrespect and provocations to traditional leaders and ancestors of Caprivi Strip. This is an attempt to cause conflict between leaders and the general public of Kavango and Caprivi who have lived harmoniously in their traditional histories. Some reasons are related to diamond mining in the concerned parts of Caprivi Strip.

It must be clear that in every situation above, bad as it is, there are innocent generations, current and future children at the receiving end. Generations to come shall bare the heaviest yoke and pay the highest price we continue to ignore these realities on the ground. There is a need to be worried. Let us also not undermine the mental and emotional intelligence of both the old, current, and coming generation to resist. Of all generations of human beings in history, there is no single generation that settled for oppression and there will never be such a generation.

The right to Self-determination

All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of this right any peoples can freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. People of Caprivi Strip cannot be left out in respect of this universal right which is prominently embodied in Article I of the Charter of the United Nations. All political stakeholders in Namibia and Caprivi must recognize this right at all costs to address all forms of political or social sufferings that people of Caprivi Strip inside and abroad are enduring. Every conscious man must be aware that self-determination is not a privilege but a right. Even demons must know and acknowledge this. We are fighting for our right to be free and to build our own society.

What else apart from political independence can anyone suggest to us after all we have gone through and all that we are currently going through?

A Happy Ending

To the UDP leadership and followership in Caprivi and abroad, the struggle for independence is a calling. You are not where you are by mistake; you were called to fight for a nation, your motherland, the Caprivi Strip. It is forward ever, backward never. We cannot choose a sad ending. I wish you success in the mission you started or joined.

To the youth in Caprivi and abroad, the liberation touch is at your finger tips. For some of you, it is already in your hands. Lift the liberation torch up and high for no one must climb a mountain to see it. Those who have not held it yet, simply liberate your soul and mind from the bondage of fear, doubt, limited comfort and leisure. Find light to cast aware the political darkness that surrounds you. Find your place in this struggle to free our motherland. Everybody wants a happy ending.

To the government of Namibia, banning UDP from operating peacefully in Namibia or particularly in Caprivi Strip is contrary to the spirit and practice of democracy. Such an act does not only put pressure on UDP to do otherwise but pours much pressure on yourself in the sense that you confirm to yourself and the world that you are a political oppressor and the world will question you. One wonders what approach you want if not a peaceful one! You must lift the ban on UDP and unconditionally release Caprivi high treason suspects. Such a move will reinstall the lost values of democracy and freedom in Namibia. The onus is on you to concede to these calls, most importantly to that of a referendum to measure the claim of the people of Caprivi for secession. You have equally lost more than enough to this situation. How much more would you sacrifice to lose? Our happiness shall be yours too.

Southern African Development Coorperation (SADC) and AU, you must find your place in this political dispute before it is too late. Some people have said that where there is smoke there is fire, especially when smoking has come a long way.

By Manja Manja

Concerned Caprivian

Source: United Democratic Party (UDP)

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