Maria Amakali Katanga – the Messenger and Medical Mother for the Combatants of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (1950 – 2011).

THE existing biographical collections on the life of Maria Katanga affirm she was one of the brave mothers who despite all odds dedicated their lives to the liberation of their motherland. Katanga is known to have played a formidable role in the provision of medicine to PLAN cadres, while she also campaigned for the liberation struggle and provided direct financial and other material support to PLAN combatants.

Katanga was born on the 9th of July 1950 at Okalili village in the northern part of Namibia. Not much is yet documented, at least in the existing biographical collections, regarding her childhood upbringing and education. However, she was the daughter of Ananias Amakali and Caroline Samuel. Katanga seems have been one of the fortunate Namibians to have had the opportunity to attend formal education during the colonial era. This is reaffirmed in one of her biographical files that says upon taking up her career as a student nurse at the Onandjokwe Hospital she began to play a big role in providing medical support to the combatants.

The Office of the President of the Republic of Namibia also makes a similar but much broader reference in Katanga’s brief biographical note, which was prepared for confirmation of her national honour in 2002. Commenting on the role she played in the liberation struggle for Namibia, the Office of the President of the Republic of Namibia wrote: “After acquiring medicine [referring to Katanga] and collecting money, she walked long distances to deliver them to freedom fighters. The racist troops tried to arrest her, but they failed in their endeavours. She was later arrested and put on a helicopter. The racist troops questioned her about the whereabouts of the of PLAN combatants, but she refused to cooperate.”

In spite of her first capture, this did not deter her from engaging in activities supporting the liberation struggle. She continued to work as a messenger for PLAN combatants and at one point she assisted in hiding cadres who were wounded after they were attacked by enemy forces. However, this once again did not go undetected by the colonial authorities. “She was captured and taken to Oshakati prison. In May 1980, she was picked up from her house by white men and taken to Oshakati where they interrogated her. “After she refused to co-operate, she was badly tortured. The racist troops tried to bribe her but she refused to reveal any information about PLAN combatants,” wrote the Office of the President. Perhaps owing to Katanga’s persistent refusal to divulge any information about the combatants “she was blindfolded and transferred to Okakarara district. There she was placed in a cell with a hole in the middle. During her detention, she was routinely beaten and tortured with electrical equipment,” wrote the Office of the President. As a result of the harassment in prison she at some point experienced difficulties with walking and talking. She died on the 16th of January 2011.

Source : New Era