Remembering What Happened At Cassinga

“Cassinga day is a very emotional day for me, it is a difficult time and when I attend Cassinga commemorations I cry because it is not easy for me,” Ester Kalipi Endjala, a Cassinga survivor, says while crying.

As she wipes tears from her eyes, Endjala admits she does not like to attend Cassinga Day commemorations because it leaves her very upset. “On that day I pray for God to bless the survivors and give them strength,” says Endjala while sitting on a green plastic chair in her Greenwell Matongo home in Katutura.

For 59-year-old Endjala, a mother of six children, Cassinga Day is a time to honour and observe in silence the outrageous deeds that occurred on May 4, 1978 when about 600 Namibians lost their lives at a Swapo camp in the abandoned mining town of Cassinga in southern Angola.

Endjala and her husband, Thobias Kangulohi Endjala, welcomed New Era in their home yesterday, which was also May Day. There they shared their story on Cassinga.

Her soft-spoken husband, sitting just across from his wife, is a man of few words but made sure he rendered the necessary support, reminding her of some significant events she left out as she opened up to New Era.

“I went into exile because I wanted to fight against colonialism and to see my country free,” said Endjala who was 22 years old when she left Namibia for Angola in May, 1977. Thobias Endjala too dedicated a number of his years to fighting for the liberation of Namibia in exile.

“On that day many Namibians lost their lives because they chose to fight for liberation. Blood was shed for us to be free,” she says.

Reflecting on the sad event Endjala, who was pregnant at the time, noted that the attack on the camp was so severe that she swallowed gas as a result of bombs and gun shots.

“I experienced severe chest pains as a result of the gas. I now cannot carry heavy goods because my shoulders swell if I do.

“In exile I could not carry heavy guns and I am not friends with the cold weather. I cannot stay at a cold place because my chest pains,” she says.

May 4, 1978 was a dark day for Namibia and its people, she reminisces. “It was very early in the morning when I woke up and my heart was very burdened and dark. I was told in a dream that I should not go for the parade (open space where they were giving daily instructions),” she explains.

When the attacks started, she says, she was at a river not very far from the camp.

Though she considers herself blessed to be alive, Endjala who is evidently heartbroken when talking about Cassinga says: “Remembering Cassinga Day is difficult for me because that occasion robbed me of my friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Months after the Cassinga attack she miscarried the pregnancy and she attributes it to the traumatic experience in which Namibians, including her best friend whom she considered a sister, died.

“It was not easy and thinking about my friend (Theresia Simon) grieved me so much I was ill most of the time,” she says.

The Cassinga attack did not deter Endjala’s spirits to continue fighting for the liberation of her country. “It motivated us to vigorously fight further for freedom.”

She adds: “There is a need to educate young people about the significance of Cassinga Day. Some of the people who died in that attack are their relatives.”

She stresses that lives were lost for Namibia to enjoy the peace and stability it currently enjoys.

Academic and political commentator, Dr Hoze Riruako, said Cassinga Day is important on the Namibian calendar and it should be commemorated.

“Cassinga is one of the times in the history of the liberation struggle when many lives were lost. It is an epic time in our history and it must be remembered,” he says.

He said many Namibians were motivated to join the liberation struggle after the Cassinga massacre. “It is a bad part of our history but many Namibians joined the liberation struggle so that something like that is not repeated,” said Riruako.

“The youth should be acquainted with the country’s history. You cannot talk of the future without the past. It took the lives of others who paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” said Riruako.

Cassinga, he added, should be a lesson for the country that what happened there should never be repeated, also cautioning that divide and rule politics should not be allowed in the country again, as it was in the past under colonial rule.

“It takes a united people to prevent what happened in Cassinga,” said Riruako.

Sunday is Cassinga Day and the official commemoration is scheduled for Luumlderitz.

Source : New Era