Retracing the Footsteps of a Liberation Struggle Icon – “Where Others Wavered, the Autobiography of Sam Nujoma.”

IN May 1984, President Kaunda, whose guest I was at State House in Lusaka, asked me if I would meet three South African generals who could speak for the South African government. When I showed interest, he said: “Well, they are here in State House at this moment, waiting to see you.” So I went to meet them, accompanied by SWAPO’s Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Theo-Ben Gurirab, and Hidipo Hamutenya, Kapuka Nauyala and other SWAPO senior officials. Their spokesman was General Van der Westhuizen, head of their military counter-intelligence (the other two were Van Tonder and Herman). Their purpose was to get us to return to Namibia and prepare to take part, with the puppets, in a new “government of national unity”. I realized that they were simply asking us to surrender, lay down our arms and come back to act as yet another internal party, entirely at their mercy.

We spoke very politely and diplomatically with them but found them untrained in this field and rather crude in handling their case.

Above all, we felt ourselves to be talking from a position of strength. We countered them with the request that their government agree to a cease-fire date and proceed with implementation of Resolution 435.

In July 1984, they tried yet again to forestall our taking power as a national liberation movement, backed by the world community, as had happened with the respective liberation movements in the former Portuguese colonies and in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. But the Boers could not face this in their colony of ‘Suidwes Afrika’. This time we went to meet them in the Cape Verde Islands, where the Foreign Minister of Cape Verde greeted me at the airport. He showed me a telegram he had received from Pretoria that said the Administrator-General would talk with us on condition we agreed to lay down our arms and return to Namibia to take part in their idea of the “democratic process”.

I ignored the telegram and awaited Dr Van Niekerk, who duly arrived with his security men but no puppets. It was extremely hot and humid and, in contrast with the cool safari suits or shirts we were wearing, Van Niekerk arrived in a thick suit with what looked like a bullet-proof waistcoat. He was sweating profusely. When the Cape Verde Foreign Minister, after greeting us and wishing our negotiations well, left the room I immediately took the chair. We did not want a repetition of Lusaka where we had to endure South Africa’s co-chairmanship with our host. I started: “Since you find us here, I welcome your delegation. Let us start by examining how these talks should proceed.”

After some general remarks, he began to read a statement about “only on condition that you lay down your arms and agree that your members will return to Namibia to participate in the democratic process”.

I replied: “SWAPO certainly does not work on the basis of your instructions. If you have come here to negotiate seriously, let us sit down together and make a start.” He became angry and said: “I didn’t come here for that,” and walked out.

The whole meeting had taken only about 10 minutes. It was plain that he was not serious, and his tactic had failed. Chester Crocker was dismayed when I told him later that the Boers had walked out because we would not share power with the DTA under South African control.

Our position never shifted. We would come back only to democratic elections, supervised and controlled by the United Nations, with a peace-keeping force in place, all as clearly spelt out in Resolution 435.

The South Africans could not understand that we had responded to pressure by intensifying the armed liberation struggle and that we were militarily very g at that point. They believed their own propaganda about destroying PLAN and winning the war.

Source : New Era