“Most of the PLAN fighters killed on 1st of April in 1989 in the North, were able bodied and untrained prisoners from the dungeons, sent deliberately into Namibia, in violation of United Nations Resolution 435 and mowed down by the South African Army,” a former detainee sobbingly told Informanté this week. About 400 PLAN fighters died that day.
A purported new hit-list to assassinate certain prominent members “who know too much,” has prompted one survivor of the ‘Lubango’ dungeons to reveal her ordeal of how she was incarcerated in exile. Claudia Namises believes that her name is on the hit-list and wanted to tell Informanté her story before anything happens to her. The alleged assassination plan, she says, is related to the controversial and disputed 2009 National Elections.
Namises related how she was forced into exile in 1984 when the apartheid security forces surrounded the Swapo Youth League welcoming party for Robben Island and Mariental prisoners at Dobra High School on the outskirts of Windhoek that same year.
“I was with Jerry Ekandjo when the notorious Inspector Nel gave instructions that all in attendance will be photographed and arrested. Among those arrested were Hendrik Witbooi, Nelao Kondombolo, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, Reverend Erwin Tjirimuje, late Frans Kambangula, Solomon Gamatham, Rosa Namises (sister), Ida Hoffman, the late Anton Lubowski’s wife, Gabi and many others.”
Namises, now 58, alleges that the first Swapo camp she arrived at was the North-Eastern front where the Chief of Staff reportedly raped her for the first time, in a series of rapes that would follow. “Even though I pleaded with him that I was menstruating, he still did it. Sometimes I was raped twice in a day. When I asked why they were raping me, I was told it was politburo orders.”
She says she was stripped naked in front of men and fingers inserted into her vagina to find ‘blades’ planted in suspected spies sent by the ‘boers’ to kill PLAN fighters.
Namises says she underwent screening at Lubango, Haiduwa and the Tobias Hainyeko Centre, and the same process was repeated all over again. “In Lubango I saw 11 men speaking OtjiHerero. I heard them screaming and crying and I never saw them again. They would jail anyone who is clever, or speaks fluent English or Afrikaans.”
She says the screening barracks in dug-outs smelled of death and blood clots were everywhere. “They would ask the same nonsensical questions: ‘were you sent by the boers? What’s your mission? Who is your contact?’ I even told them that people like John Pandeni, stayed in my house in Katutura, when they were released from Robben Island.”
In Haiduwa, she was also allegedly raped by Commander Zocks during the screening process. “We were told that Haiduwa was a camp to prepare newcomers for military training, but I found later that it was actually a place where suspected ‘spies’ were sent to. Another camp, Kamati Base was situated near Haiduwa, where I saw many former victims and survivors of the dungeons.”
Sanni Katjitae, our platoon commander in 1985 when we were sent for training to Tobias Hainyeko Centre, was later stripped of his position and made a cattle-herder. “When we went secretly to get milk from Katjitae to eat with pap, we found him badly beaten and he had been put in the dungeons.”
Near Hainyeko, 3 km away was other dungeon known as “Don’t Worry”, whose slogan was “How can the lion save the cattle?” Here prisoners had one thing in common, they were malnourished and thin.
Namises says she remembers the Chief of Swapo’s police in Lubango, Michael Liswaniso, who was also arrested and killed. “His girlfriend said he was beaten to death,” Namises narrates with tears rolling down her cheeks. “Many were arrested, including (late) Richard Kabajani. That’s where he lost his eye in the dungeons after being tortured,” Namises revealed.
She claims to have seen many prisoners, who are prominent members of society in Namibia today. She alleges that in the dungeons people were beaten daily with fists and sticks and tortured with heinous methods. “Many people (names withheld) were arrested and killed in front of my eyes. Ali !Goraseb was killed by a firing-squad, but after 1989 they told his mum he was playing soccer and died in a South African aerial bombardment. It’s a lie.”
Claudia graduated from Tobias Hainyeko Centre military training in 1986 and was sent to Moscow Battalion at the front. That is when she was accused of being a spy and jailed twice before being released again.
When the United Nations Resolution 435 was in motion, “Moses Garoeb came to Lubango from Lusaka, and I told him about teacher Eric Lombard’s arrest and the raping of women. Moses told me that that was the culture and that I must accept it if I want live. He saved my life, but I did not like what he said.”
From the about 5 000 prisoners she believed were in the dungeons, only about 160 returned to Namibia. “When people were returning back home, the dungeons were bombed, some were filled with sand by bulldozers with disabled prisoners in them.”
“I escaped in 1989 with my baby from Lubango and went to UNTAG, because they (Swapo Intelligence) did not want us to fill out the forms to return to Namibia. Teacher Lazarus Guibeb, a former Robben island prisoner, stole repatriation forms and helped me to escape. He told us to ‘run, because you will be killed. The intelligence were panicking.’”
“All I know is that most people incarcerated had one thing in common; they were all people who hailed from south of the red line, they were known as ‘eembwiti’.”
Informanté contacted the offices of the Minister of Safety and Security, Nangolo Mbumba and the Director-General of the Namibia Central Intelligence Agency, Lukas Hangula, to ask whether they know about the alleged hit-list, but none responded to messages left with their secretaries at the time of going to press. No one at Swapo headquarters was willing to comment.
“I don’t want to die before I tell the Namibian nation what happened to me in exile,” said a weeping Claudia Namises.