Heikky Shililifa – Ex-Robben Island Prisoner and Local Supporter of the Combatant (1942 … )

THE analysis of the various biographical collections on the life and political history of Heikky Shililifa indicates he is one of the people who played a formidable role in the struggle for liberation.

He provided material support to PLAN combatants and aided Namibians fleeing the country to join the liberation struggle in exile.

Shililifa was born on the 8th of May 1942 at Ohamautsi village in the Omusati Region. He is the son of Abrahim Shililifa and Rauha Angula.

Notwithstanding the absence of much information regarding his childhood upbringing and education in the existing biographical collections, Shililifa is noted to have joined the liberation struggle at its formative stage.

As far as 1962, Shililifa was already a member of Swapo and had been mobilizing his fellow Namibians to join the struggle.

Citing the genesis of his involvement in the liberation struggle in an interview conducted by the National Museum of Namibia in August 2002, Shililifa noted that it all started with student activities at the former Ongwediva Seminary where students organized lectures and debates on issues related to their political situation and the history of Namibia.

“In 1962 I decided to join Swapo. First we used to hold student discussions at Ongwediva, where we examined the history of Namibia’s past and the abuse of human rights in our country. This made me realize that oppression will never end if we are not committed to the struggle. I decided to join Swapo so that we could work by whichever means in order to regain our human rights,” reminisced Shililifa.

When Swapo deployed its combatants of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) to the front in order to militarily engage the colonial forces, Shililifa was one of the local people who volunteered to assist the combatants.

Perhaps owing to his commitment to the liberation of his motherland he made use of his private vehicle to transport combatants to enable them to reach certain areas that they may have had difficulties in reaching on their own. As a trusted cadre, he was also assigned the responsibility to assist PLAN combatants with information regarding the whereabouts of the SADF soldiers along the border.

However this would not go unnoticed by the colonial authorities. They became aware that Shililifa was one of the locals helping people to flee into Angola and hence he became a target of the colonial forces.

On the 28th of April 1978 whilst secretly transporting students into exile he landed in an ambush laid by the South African soldiers and was arrested with the students.

He was taken to Oshakati prison and later to Otjwarongo. Though well represented by Aocate Bryan O’Linn, the South African authorities had paper evidence that they allegedly found in Cassinga refugee camp regarding his involvement in the activities of the liberation struggle and they also made use of civilians captured at Cassinga to testify against Shililifa.

As such he was found guilty of supporting terrorism and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on Robben Island. Having completed his prison term he was released on the 29th of June 1983.

Upon his release from prison he continued with his political activities that prompted the South African colonial authorities to arrest and detain him again on several occasions.

Citing his perpetual detention, an article titled ‘Repression Continues in the North’ in the Inside Namibia Publication said: “Mr Heikki Shililifa, a former inmate in South Africa’s notorious Robben Island political prison, had been arrested by the South African authorities in northern Namibia.” It added, “Mr Shililifa, a teacher, was arrested at Omulukila Primary School on January 20. Only weeks earlier, on December 3, Mr Shililifa was arrested in his classroom by Koevoet, South Africa’s feared counter-insurgency police, who kicked him and hit him with rifle butts in front of his children. He was released without charge.”

Source : New Era