Nacada: the combatant commander – part 2

By General Martin Shalli

RESEARCHING a story comes with its own challenges depending on the sources and the people you engage with, and in the case of this story there were errors too which I would like to correct.

Nacada was one of eight siblings, five boys and three girls. Josephat Shanghala, Anna-Maria Lyekushile Nakafiona and Nacada were born the same year 1944, grew up in one homestead and for breastfeeding shared their respective mothers.

Anna-Maria’s mother was not from Angola but was a distant cousin from Onashitendo village in the Elondo area of Uukwaludhi, Omusati Region. Her family can be traced there, including the late husband of Ambassador Grace Uushona. Bishop Shanghala’s mother died in 1989. Nacada was at Ongwediva between 1961 and 1965 when he left for Zambia. That out of the way, enjoy the reading.

In 1962, Lotto Homateni and Lucas Pohamba addressed a group of students at Ongwediva calling on them to raise to the plate and support SWAPO in its struggle to ridden South West Africa of apartheid colonialism and Bantu education.

This meeting was followed by another one in 1963 by Ben Amathila who was accompanied by Mr Frank Abrahams a SWAPO activist and Walvis Bay businessman fathered by a Cameroonian who also addressed the students and asked them to unite and rally behind SWAPO in the just struggle of the toiling masses.

This was the turning point and the message of hope and freedom spread like wildfire. Ben also issued membership cards to those who were in attendance. This was the time when the wind of change was sweeping the African continent. To see what a SWAPO membership card looked like, I suggest you contact Bishop Shanghala as he still has his issued on that very day.

Nacada and others began to hatch a plot to flee the country but not before writing the final Form iii exams. On 18 November 1965, Nacada and six others , Isaac Shikongo Pondo la Nangobe, Sam Ndeikwila, Festus November Mthoko, Kahima Eembumbulu, Thomas Steve Shiimi, Naftali Kahima, left to join the struggle abroad.

They were seen off by Herman Toivo ya Toivo and Ben Amathila at Ondjondjo, Ondangwa. They travelled on foot all the way to Nkuru-Nkure in Kavango West Region were they travelled by WINALA trucks to Bechuanaland, in particular to Francistown, and from there as per SWAPO arrangements unto Lusaka, Zambia.

Between 1966 and 1968 Nacada studied at Mkumbi College in Zambia with Nangolo Mbumba, Erobeam Amundaba, Alpo Bambo, Nahas Angula, Vitalis Ankama, David Mbango,Linus Mawila Amwele, Peter Tchirumbu, Joas Iipinge, Andrew Intamba and Elise Hauljondjamba among others.

After Mkumbi, the party arranged a scholarship for him in Kenya to study animal medicine. Ironically Ben Amathila was responsible for all the arrangements from Dar es Salaam just a few years after issuing Nacada with a membership card at Ongwediva. Between 1969 and 1971 he enrolled at the Animal Husbandry Training Institute (AHTI) in Nairobi where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Medicine, something he never got time to practice.

Upon completion, he returned to Zambia just to be dispatched to Moscow, U.S.S.R. for specialisation military training in 1972. This course is called Military Combat Work, which covers subjects such as intelligence, sabotage, organisation of underground networks, surveillance, eavesdropping, photography, communication, small weapons, and security. The five students were Nacada, Pondo, Hanghome, Nganyone and Katjipuka. All of them died in combat later.

He then joined others at the front at Kaunga Mashi at the time when the High Command was planning a mission to conduct an intelligence assessment of the situation in areas of Southern Angola and Northern Namibia, Eastern Ovamboland in particular. Later in June 1973, this mission was assigned to Patrick Kakwambi, Valentine Katumbe (Katumbe is a native of Eenhana area of the Ohangwena Region) and Nacada Chicololo. Kakwambi had just taken over from Eliander Mwatale, who had died in action as Chief of Intelligence and Reconnaissance.

Valentine and Errikson Kapanya Hauwanga are the composers of a popular song: NDAMONA OVAKWAITA TAVALU SHASHI OSHILONGO ESHI OOSHAVO. He was a political commissar and mobiliser who drowned later in the Cuando River. Mission: gather all intelligence information on the enemy and other forces, explore possible infiltration routes, challenges, logistics needs and survivability options, local support, see how best to establish a supply line, mobilization and recruitment and identify suitable places where to place staging bases.

They were given 90 days. Understandably, this mission was successfully carried out after traversing what are today Moxico, Cuando Cubango and Cunene Provinces of Angola. On the basis of their report and recommendations, a decision was then made to assign a combat group under Commander Matias Ndakolo Mbulunganga with Phillip Nandenga Zulu as political commissar to establish a forward presence in Southern Angola and carry out mass recruitment and small raids on enemy troops.

I have all the names of the group but have not yet received permission to publish them – sorry ngoo. The group left Zambia in December 1973 and was designated as a “no return group”, and return they did not, largely due to the fact that barely four months into this mission the Portuguese empire crumbled and the rest is history.

Nacada was one the platoon commanders in this group. The role individual members of this group had to play is unprecedented and for that we thank them. Full details are reserved for another day.  Before joining this group, Nacada saw his first baptism of fire when in April 1973, a group led by Peter Tschirumbu and his second in command, Elise Hauljondjaba, successfully ambushed an enemy patrol in Caprivi, annihilating it and seizing war materials, which were shown to the world at the headquarters of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa. This became known in SWAPO circles as “Oolwoodi lo ma mbongolo”. Sorry I cannot translate this into English but put simply “great battle”.

In October 1975, Nacada was assigned a mission back to Zambia to deliver a detailed report on the situation obtaining in Angola to the Secretary of Defence and to seek support from the national leadership. By that time there were already hundreds of Namibians who had joined SWAPO and scattered in the Angolan Southern border areas.

He was accompanied by Linus Mawila Amwele, Oscar Shilongo sha Elia Haipinge, Jonas Zambia Shingenge and three others. The group managed to reach Zambia and report the situation. The High Command considered their request by providing a truck fully laden with weapons, ammunition, medicine and other essential supplies. In addition, they were also reinforced with 17 combatants, among them Dr Eroby, Epfras Denga Ndaitwah, Epfras Hainyeko Hangula, Mbwale Akwaake, Kambode Ankambo, Kasimi, and Solom Kamati Governo. There was no much choice but to bundle 23 people and cargo into one small 911 Mercedes Benz.

By mid-December 1975 the group was ready to move to Cunene Province of Angola, five or so weeks after the declaration of independence. The group was escorted across the border by Cde Maxton Josef Mutongolume and Usco Nambinga.

The area through which they were to travel was under the control of UNITA, FNLA and Daniel Chipenda faction, which made things extremely complicated. As a result and after a tussle with FNLA their truck with its precious cargo was seized by FNLA and the group disarmed but not taken prisoner. The group was roughed up by FNLA and the Chipenda faction.

Fortunately on Christmas Day a clash started between Unita and FNLA fighters in the small former Portuguese garrison town of Countinho where the group was held. Unita, desperate to drive out other groups from the town, sought Nacada’s assistance which came in quite handy and on condition that Unita returns at least their personal weapons, which they did.

In actual fact, it was this group under the able command of Nacada that drove the other groups out and at no loss of life. After the fierce fight was over three days later, Nacada stepped in with his negotiating skills to ensure freedom of movement of his group and exit from the town for onward journey to Cunene Province via Lusso (Luena capital of Moxico), and from there by train to Silva Porto (Bie capital of Bie) in the central plateau of Angola.

In Bie was a secret office run by Elise Hauljodjaba with Sebastian Haitota Ndeitunga as his assistant – interestingly all later became policemen. At this time Bie was occupied by South African troops, Zairean troops and was the national HQ of Unita, which Savimbi had declared the capital of the Black Socialist Republic.

Samuel Chiwale who was the commander of Unita forces in Moxico and Cuando Cubango, assisted by another Unita commander Kulunga, was helpful in securing free passage, transport and recovery of 20percent of the precious cargo but not the truck. In February, nine weeks after crossing the Angola-Zambia border, the group (less two cadres who were returned to Zambia) arrived at the front and reported to Commander Dimo Haamambo and Commander Mbulunganga. A mission like this requires commitment and utter dedication, which in the case of Nacada was not in short supply. The conduct and actions of the group inspired many of us and for that we salute them. Today only Dr Eroby, Denga, Mbwale and Governo remain from that group of 23.

At the meeting of the Military Council at Efitu in 1977, Nacada was appointed as the Commander of the North Western Region (later Front) with David Mbango as Regional Political Commissar. By virtue of that appointment they also became automatic members of the Military Council, the highest decision making body of PLAN.

For Namibia to be where it is today, thousands and thousands of precious lives were lost and blood shed on the field of battle. The question is who are those whose blood water our freedom? They are just too many to enumerate by name and character. All we know and can acknowledge is their sacrifices. One of those gallant sons of the soil is Commander Nacada who died on the battlefield while directing his troops on 4 May 1978 at Vietnam Base or Regional HQ of the North Western Region later Front.

As much as this day is more associated with the attack on Cassinga (Code name Moscow), the battle of Chetequera remains inseparable. On this day a major confrontation took place between PLAN combatants and SA racist troops in the NWF area of responsibility. In this historic battle more than 150 combatants sacrificed their lives. On record this remains the greatest single loss in a day and of course the greatest loss and setback in a single one day battle. At the same time this was one of the greatest displays of bravery in the face of the adversary. There is no space to get into the details and specifics of the battle. I hope someone else writes about this event soon.   

Among the commanders who died were David Mbango, the regional political commissar, Lucas Shitaatala Namungangala, Sacky Iithete Kamatjona, Kahenge Balastus Shifunga, Base Commander Petrus  Bunyana Sackaria, training officer Sakeus Kakwele Shehama, Mbongo ya Africa, Martin Mukumangeni, Shikongo Goliath, Hamukonda, Nestor Haikuti Kakonda, Epafras Elia Katutwevandu, political  officer Mazazi, Jonas Zambia Shingenge, and Eino Shikomba.   

Some of the commanders who survived the battle are Filemom Lumumba Malima, Dr Eroby Amundaba, Peter Progress Heita, David Cubana Shiimbi, Erastus Kayambu Amupolo, Sakeus Zuax Heita, John Bolshoi Angula, Epafras Hainyeko Hangula, Shaanika Amukwaya, Andrias Ashikudhike Shitilitha, John Katangala Shapaka, Wellenel Kondjeni Haiyumba Haikokola, Peter Nevonga Shivute, Petrus Hipunyati Kambwela Nghilukilwa, Mateus Kakukutu Amunyela, Israel Nehemia Hamara Shipepe, and Sictus Ashipala Negonga.

There is also this fascinating story of three recent young civilian recruits who were at the right place at a wrong time, Monica Shivolo  (Ambassador Monica Nashandi), Hilma Shikongo (Police Commissioner Hilma Takatsu Tweya) and Martha Kamati. They were bayoneted, feigned death and left for dead by the enemy. The first two are still alive and bear the scars of the bayonets to this day.

A mixed group of about 200 mainly civilian recruits were rounded up and taken to Namibia, among them Nakale Ninda, an anti-aircraft crew commander whom I had trained, Petrus Nehunga and Jason Nangombe, Nacada’s older brother. Cde Shakupinda, a native of Kavango West and a bazooka operator remain missing in action, but presumed to have drowned as his tracks when followed led up to the bank of the Cunene River. His last words were that he does not see himself continuing the struggle without his endeared Commander Nacada. This group of captives were later held at a prison in Mariental, Southern Namibia for over seven years.

Nacada was a gifted person, full of intellect, and a great military strategist. He was possessed with natural wisdom par excellence. He had the ability to lead and inspire people in so many ways. Every time he spoke he did so with clarity and sense of purpose. His organisational skills were unparalleled.

He is survived by three children: Hilya, a businesswoman in Windhoek and a mother to two grandchildren of President Hifikepunye Pohamba; Elizabeth, who is a public relations practioner in Windhoek and John Carolla, who also works and resides in Windhoek. Carolla is named after John Carolla Hamukoto, another brilliant commander who died in battle at Epinga on 11 November 1976, the first anniversary of Angola’s independence.

I was the last person to see him alive on that fateful day. May the souls of these two great warriors continue to water our freedom. Let the sacrifices of all those who have died during the entire struggle of the Namibian people from time immemorial be a stark reminder of our long journey to freedom.

The aim was independence. Long live the Republic of Namibia!