Monday 17 May 2021
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August 26: A symbol of sacrifice and triumph for Namibians

The date of 26th August is the Heroes’ Day on the Namibian calendar. In the popular mind 26th August is associated with the battle of Omugulu-Gombashe which took place in the morning of August 26, 1966 in the then western Ovamboland.
For some workers, 26th August is a nice day-off. For some the day provides an opportunity to taste free game meat! In official circles Heroes’ Day is an occasion of flowery speeches some- times devoid of mentioning any single hero.
Heroes’ Day is not an event. Heroes’ Day represents sacrifices of many Namibians since the advent of colonialism. Colonialism lasted for more than hundred years in Namibia. Namibia was under German colonial rule from 1884 to 1915, then under Apartheid South African domination from 1920 to 1990.
During these periods heroic Namibian, sons and daughters, resisted foreign occupation. Communities were massacred, leaders killed or deposed, and many wars were fought. August 26th represents these sacrifices. Eventually, on 21st March 1990 the people of Namibia emerged triumphant.
The Founding President of our Republic, on that day declared: Namibia is free for ever! Namibia will only be free for ever if the new generations of Namibia are prepared to defend Namibia’s independence. It is for this reason that Namibia Heroes’ Day should be commemorated as a solemn and dignified occasion. The nation should stand at attention and honour those whose blood waters our freedom.
Our struggle against foreign domination could broadly be delineated into two phases, namely, the Communal Nationalism Struggles and the Patriotic Nationalism Campaigns. The Communal Nationalism Struggles were led mainly by traditional rulers. They led the struggles in defence of their independence, their sovereignty, their dignity and their means of livelihood. Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi of the Nama communities succinctly captured the spirit of the time. Writing to Germany colonial Governor Lieutwein on 18th August 1894 he stated: “ … God has created different states and therefore I know and believe that it is no sin or crime that I should remain Kaptein of my land and my people”. He declared: “ … If you wish to kill me on account of my independent rule over my country, and without any cause on my part, that cannot do me any harm or occasion me any disgrace, for then I shall die in honour, in defence of my rights”. Kaptein Witbooi died in honour on 20th October 1905 in a battle against German colonial troops near Rietmond in Namaland. On Heroes’ Day we shall commemorate his sacrifices.
We shall in the same vein remember and honour the sacrifices of the heroes of the Battle of Hoornkranz of 12th April 1893, the Battle of Otjeunda of March 1896, the execution of Chiefs Kahimemua Nguvauva and Nicodemus Bahahiza Kavekunua on 13 June 1896 at Okahandja, the Battle of Ohamakari of 11 August 1904, the Battle of Amutuni of 28th January 1904, just to mention a few. The Communal Nationalism Battles were wide-spread throughout the country.
Many traditional leaders led their communities to resist colonial disposition, domination and exploitation. The sacrifices made during these struggles inspired new generation of leaders to emerge and forge patriotic struggles aimed at freeing the whole country from foreign domination.
These struggles started in the 1940s. Chief Katjikururume Hosea Kutako declared: we have no place to dwell on! This clarion call fired the imagination of many patriots. Nationalist pollical parties were formed to struggle not for communal interests but for national interests.
The spirit of the time was captured by Andimba Toivo ya Toivo at the end of the trial of Namibian patriots in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1968  Ya Toivo  speaking on behalf of fellow accused told the presiding judge: “…I am a loyal Namibian and I could not betray my people to their enemies.”
He declared: “… I admit that I decided to assist those who had taken up arms.
I know the struggle will be long and bitter.” He concluded: “… I also know that my people will wage that struggle, whatever the cost”. The cost was indeed high. Ya Toivo himself spent eighteen years at Robbin Island in South Africa. The SWAPO of Namibia he helped to establish and organize waged a protracted struggle for three decades and made great sacrifices until the achievement of independence.
Sacrifices were made during this period started from the Battle of Omugulu-Gombashe of 1966 to the Battle of Kuito Cuanavale of 1988. On the Heroes’ Day the nation should salute the heroes and heroines who made supreme sacrifices during different battles for the freedom of the Motherland.
It must be emphasized again that the Heroes’ Day should not be treated as an event. Heroes’ Day is history. This history is important to the young people of today. It would be ideal that a week preceding the actual Heroes’ Day should be dedicated to thematic activities targeting young people.
Essay competition on topical themes could be launched in schools through out the country. The theme of this year’s Heroes’ Day commemoration could have been chosen by the residents of Kavango West Region where Heroes’ Day shall be remembered this year.
Former Robbin Island prisoners may be asked to share their experiences.
Former commanders of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) could also be asked to do likewise.
We should not also forget the role played by the Frontline Line States, Cuba and Nigeria, the solidarity groups in different countries who campaigned against apartheid until sanctions were imposed on the regime.
The former Soviet Union supported our armed struggle. The people of Russia are also our heroes.
The idea here is that Heroes’ Day should be made to be a living legend in the psyche of our nation. It should serve as an umbilical cord which binds the nation to its past, present and future.
The blood of our heroes and heroines, waters our freedom. As we commemorate Heroes’ Day this Saturday we should all remember that the freedom we enjoy today was achieved through suffering and sacrifices. We too are required to make some sacrifices for the betterment of our country and its people.

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