Lutokwa Charles Sampati – Early Swapo Regional Chairman and Mobiliser for the Liberation Struggle (1943 … )

VARIOUS biographical collections on the life and political history of Charles Sampati affirm him as one of the many sons and daughters of this country who were instrumental in organizing and leading the liberation struggle inside Namibia. Notwithstanding the hardship that came with being involved in such activities, he took it upon himself to educate fellow Namibians about the importance of liberation politics and taking up arms. He was one of Swapo’s leaders that remained inside the country and gave broad support to the struggle until Namibia was free.

Even though he never went into exile, his role was not just confined to within the boundaries of Namibia. Through contacts with the international community he was able to tell the world that Namibians would be better off running their own affairs instead of being under the South African apartheid administration. This happened in October 1972 when Sampati had an audience with Martin Escher, the then Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General to Namibia, Kurt Waldheim.

By then a baptized patriot shaped by the ideals of nationalism, one cannot help but think that it was perhaps a result of the views expressed by the likes of Sampati that the report compiled by Escher on the views of Namibians and the South African administration regarding the need for self-determination for Namibia was more in support of the total liberation of the country.

Escher’s report, quoted in a book authored by Benjamin Rivilin and Leon Gordenker titled “The Challenging Role of the UN Secretary General – Making the Most Impossible Job Possible”, reads that “the overwhelming majority of non-white Namibians wanted a united and independent Namibia and expected the United Nations to assist in bringing it about.”

To reaffirm this, Sampati himself admitted during an interview in 2010 that he was one of the people who gave information to the UN envoy in 1972 regarding the suffering of Namibians under South African colonial rule. “When Martin Escher, the first UN envoy came to Namibia in 1972, I was one of the people who gave information regarding the suffering of our people under the South African administration,” commented Sampati during the interview.

Sampati was born on 1 January 1943 in Kasaya village in the north-eastern part of Namibia. Not much is documented regarding his early childhood upbringing, education and political enlightenment, however he is noted to have joined the liberation struggle during the formative years. As far as 1966, Sampati was already a member of Swapo.

Citing the beginning of his involvement in the struggle, Sampati noted that “in 1966 we were informed by the late Greenwell Matongo, late Richard Kabanjani and George Mwinga Lukonga that the Caprivi African National Union (CANU) had merged with Swapo, therefore we started doing our activities under the banner of Swapo. And in July that year I became a member of Swapo and got my membership card at Katima Mulilo.”

He added that some of the activities he conducted in the name of the liberation struggle included “telling and educating people about Swapo” and assisting Namibians to flee the country and go into exile. Perhaps owing to his commitment to the liberation struggle, Sampati rose within the ranks of Swapo from an ordinary member to becoming the regional chairman of Swapo in his area from 1980 until 1990.

His involvement in the liberation struggle was detected by the South African security agents such that he was arrested under the infamous Terrorism Act in 1968. He was kept in prison until his release in 1970.

In honour of his contribution to the liberation struggle, the Office of the President of the Republic of Namibia conferred him with a Liberation Medal on the 26th of August 2002.

Source : New Era