Wednesday 12 May 2021
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The dungeon debate

As I write this week’s editorial, I am overwhelmed by the amount of emotions that came with my topic of choice – two of Namibia’s darkest chapters in its rich history, the 1904-1908 Nama and Ovaherero genocide and the infamous ‘Lubango dungeons’ during the liberation struggle – the difference being, one massacre was inflicted upon us and the other by us upon our own.
Firstly, however, I want to make it clear that calling for a probe into the dungeons saga to score political points or to target individuals indirectly should be discouraged by all means.
Let me put this into perspective, 1904-1908, around 100 000 Namas and Ovaherero people died at the hands the German imperial forces.
Meanwhile, during the liberation struggle, about 4000 young Namibians were incarcerated in the dungeons of Lubango.
At present, over 3800 of those are unaccounted for as only less than 200 returned home in 1989 when the implementation of the UN Resolution 435 came into effect – this happened under the auspices of the present day ruling party, SWAPO.
During this dark phase of our history, young men and women were forced out of schools and left their homes for exile in Angola. They believed that they were going to fight for the liberation of their motherland, Namibia, just like any patriotic Namibian would do – to defend and protect the country’s sovereignty.
However, what happened next is astounding. SWAPO had established a secret intelligence service to spy on other SWAPO members. This led to the arrest perceived spies within SWAPO at the time. Those members who were perceived as moles were kept in the ‘dungeons’.
Here, in the ‘Lubango dungeons’, torture, mutilation, rape, harassment, death and mayhem to name but a few ills were the order of the day.
Today, the ‘Lubango dungeons’ as they are infamously known are the most painful post-German genocide chapter in the history of Namibia. Thus, a probe into the saga and a formal apology against the victims is seen as imperative in closure of this dark chapter.
To the contrary, however, our government believes that the notorious ‘Lubango dungeons’ saga is a closed chapter, and everyone is expected to smoke a peace-pipe and move on.
This stance by government and the ruling SWAPO party goes without saying, those who were accused of being spies during the liberation struggle never got a fair trial and are yet to be exonerated from the ‘spy tag’.
Government has gone as far as instituting a N$400 billion lawsuit against the Germans, yet it is unable account, apologize and take responsibility for the lives of its own people which were lost in Angola.
Wretchedly however, today, those who survived the mysterious ‘Lumbango dungeons’ are left to die as paupers and walk around with the tags of spies while their counterparts are accorded state funerals and heroes statuses each day that goes by.
Today, the wounds and the scars of the ‘dungeons’ still haunts the survivors, with families still asking for the whereabouts of their children who never pitched up; and some of the returnees have been rejected by their families because they came back as ‘spies’.
To sum it up, 27 years after independence, in the spirit of Harambee and reconciliation, the time is ripe for our government to take a bold step and do justice to the victims of dungeons and their families and put to bed one of the longest standing sagas of our times. It is hypocritical to expect the Germans to apologise  for the genocide while the leaders of the ruling party will not do so, to their own.

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