Monday 14 June 2021
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Dungeon talks pure electioneering: Swapo elders

The Swapo Party Elders Council (SPEC) says some people are using their experiences of the dreaded “Lubango Dungeons” as a electioneering ploy to discredit the ruling party ahead of the 2019 national polls.
SPEC secretary Mukwaita Shanyengana called on all Namibians to remain steadfast to the National Reconciliation Policy adopted after independence to preserve peace and stability in the country.
Speaking exclusively to The Patriot this week, Shanyengana said there were casualties in the struggle because war is about “killing or being killed”.
“This [dungeon talks] is just electioneering because it always comes up before elections, we have seen it in the past. When you have elections people start discussing this issue, but we know after the elections it will go away,” he said.
The ‘Lubango dungeons’ as they are infamously known refers to the disposal of Swapo dissidents in the dungeons during the liberation struggle on suspicion of being South African spies.  The dungeons are considered by certain quarters as the most painful chapter in the history of Namibia and a probe thereof is seen as imperative to get closure.
According to historic records, Swapo established a secret intelligence service to spy on other Swapo members. This led to the arrest of perceived spies within Swapo at the time.  Swapo claimed that such people were sent by South Africa to spy and to give information regarding its military operations to the enemy.
Shanyengana says: “We cannot deny the fact that some of our people were used to kill their fellow Namibians. Some of our own people valued the money they were paid to betray their own people.”
“We must not forget that people were used as puppets to give information to the Apartheid regime, in fact we had spies on both sides, that is what war is all about. If we had not adopted the reconciliation policy after independence we would have continued killing each other.
But as you can see, that policy helped to foster national integration over the years,” he said.
Shanyengana wants all victims to move on from the past and forgive those who trespassed against them.
“Although I do not expect those who suffered to forget, they must forgive in order to move on because by seeking revenge we will not achieve anything, in fact it will prevent development in our country,” he cautioned.
He said: “My house and shop was also bombed in 1982 by people within our village[Okalongo] who used to be puppets, I know them to this day, but I am not hostile towards them.”
The ‘dungeon talks’ have gained traction in recent years, alternating between condemnatory indictments on the ruling party and how the matter is being swept under the carpet and the legacy of the dungeons. But while the rhetoric is certainly stirring, the backdrop of the debate on the matter speaks emphatically about the unwillingness of the ruling party to address the matter.
Going forward, it is expected that those who were victims of the dungeons will continue to bring up the matter. Whether their plight is genuine – or merely political opportunism like Shanyengana says– will be shown in time.
Just recently, Oiva Angula penned a book titled “Swapo Captive” in which he shares his experiences in the dungeons. The book has been a sell-out since hitting the shelves.
As some survivors continue to fight for justice while demanding their names are cleared they say the atrocities committed by Swapo during the liberation struggle on its own people should be treated as an injustice, others say only the truth would bring closure.
These are complex matters that cannot be fully documented in one go on this matter, but the need to move away from the mainstream media’s snapshot journalism and easy headlines could go a long way as the nation seeks to find closure on this dark chapter.
Analysts have thrown their weight behind an inquest, which they say, must aim to investigate the real cost and impact of the dungeons to the families, to communities and – through this microscope of this new Namibia – that the Lubango Dungeon saga has ushered in.
There is scant political will to institute a probe into the matter to uncover the truth of the fatal happenings and give closure to the families, with Swapo cautioning that an avalanche of problems might emanate if plans to conduct a probe into the infamous ‘Lubango dungeons’ saga should proceed.
Traumatised families dealing with unresolved grief are descending further into heartache.
What happened in Lubango was a deep echo from the party’s apartheid past. It was unrestrained and brutal.
It was also said to be Swapo-administered.
In the 1980s the conflict started within Swapo which started to suspect its own comrades and set up dungeons in the town of Lubango in southern Angola, hence the term “Lubango Dungeons”.

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