Namibia's Heroes & Heroines Profiles Of Their
Namibia's Heroes & Heroines Profiles Of Their
- died a political death at
the hands of the German imperial colonial forces for refusing to
collaborate with the enemies. He was born in 1822 at Musorokuumba
near Okahandja. He was the great grandfather of the current chief
of Ovambanderu. Munjuku Nguvauvu ll.
In 1895 German imperial
troops under Major Leutwein decided to get rid of him. When
the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu heard this, they mobilized in
Otjihaenena to give him backing. On the day of the Otjihaenena
mobilization, Kahimemua as the supreme spiritual / cultural leader
of not only Ovambanderu, but also the Ovaherero and Nama, bowed at the
holy fire. There he pledged to his ancestors, "While I am alive I
will never give land to strangers. Major Leutwein must forget." In 1896 the Germans under Lampe went to
live by force in Epako (Gobabis), at this time the
traditional abode of Ovambanderu. Grazing areas became problematic.
The Germans Imposed restrictions on the Ovambanderu cattle. Those
that stayed were killed. This oppressive behavior lead led to
tension and eventually to war. Lampe was killed during these battles and this
gave the Germans an excuse to get their arch
Footnote: The above
photograph was taken while Chief Nguvauvu was being held as a
prisoner by the German Authorities awaiting execution.
HENDRIK WITBOOI -
chief of the Witbooi clan,
was the third son of Moses Witbooi. He had a considerable
following even while his father was alive and from 1884 while
Moses was officially still the chief of the Witboois, he in
practice ruled most of the Witboois.
He became the leading Nama
chief after the death of Jan Jonker Afrikaner. Witbooi was the
grandson of Kido Witbooi. He was born in the Pello District of
He received formal
instruction from the Rheinish missionary, J. Olpp, which enabled
him to read and write Dutch very well. As a devout reader of the
Bible, he became strongly influenced by the Old Testament and was
a visionary who saw himself destined to unite all the Namas under
the slogan "South West Africa for the
Red People". Witbooi succeeded his father
Moses in 1887, but gained paramountcy when Afrikaner was killed by
Witbooi's followers in a battle. From the 1880s Witbooi emerged as
the leading Nama chief. Being then in the prime of his life, he
shunned German protection. He was well aware that such protection
would, as he himself expressed it, place one, "above" and the other "below" and
he refused to
be the one below
The first warning of the
beginning of a clash between Witbooi and the Germans was Goering's
letter of 20 May 1890 in which he urged Witbooi to desist from
attacking the Ovaherero, who then were under German protection,
also urging Witbooi to return to Gibeon.
Through his war with the Ovaherero, Witbooi made the entire country ungovernable and this,
coupled with the German inability to defeat them, reflected badly
on the Germanadministration. Curt von Francois who succeeded Goering as Governor, therefore decided to subdue Witbooi. From 12
April 1893, Witbooi and the Germans were at war. But van Francois
failed to subdue Witbooi.
The German Governor, Theodore
Leutwein, who succeeded von Francois, carried on the war. On 27
August 1894 he launched an attack on the Witboois in the Naukluft
Mountains where they had entrenched themselves. The Witboois
defended themselves so bravely that Leutwein was forced to appeal
for a further reinforcement of 100 troops and four officers.
However, by 9 September they were forced to give up. This led to
the signing of a protection treaty with Witbooi on 15 September
In the following years,
1894-1904, Witbooi and his people lived peacefully in the Gibeon
district. He himself settled at Rietmond, about ten kilometers
from Mariental. However, at the beginning of 1904, Witbooi, then
an old man, dramatically took up arms once again, this time
against all whites. Stuurman Skipper, a Baster, who maintained
that God had sent him to drive the whites from Africa, is said to
have inspired him.
Witbooi also felt that since
the treaty was signed with Leutwein who was no more, he had no
obligation to his successor,
Lothar von Trotha. After fighting the
Germans for about a year, he was wounded in combat in Vaalgras. He
was placed on a horse by one of his subjects, but died in flight,
presumably from loss of blood, within an hour after he was wounded
on 29 October 1905. His followers buried him in haste and then
continued their flight.
Witbooi thus lies buried in
an unknown grave, somewhere in the vicinity of Vaalgras, which has
since been renamed Witbooiseinde.
successfully fought two wars to protect the Ondonga
people's heritage and wealth in the Namutoni area, today best
known for its tourist attractions. In June 1886 he fought
Afrikaner trekkers and in 1904 and invading German imperial force.
History has it that when Chief Mpingana's elder brother, Kambinde
Nehale, became King, The younger Nehale lya Mpingana realized that
his brother would not be able to protect their land and
as he was generally perceived to be a "passive and good-natured soul
with an aversion for confrontation.
So when Nehale took over as
chief, he built a defensive capacity that he later used to repel
the invasion by the Afrikaners and the German colonial forces.
He is among others credited
for the demise of the "Republic of Upingtonia"
on 30 June 1886 he killed William Worthington Jordan, leaving
the Boer Trekkers without a leader. They quickly dispersed. Some
left for Humapta in Angola and others returned to the Transvaal. Jordan was a
South African trader who gathered 25 families of Boers. They trekked from the
Transvaalto Namutoni where they declared the establishment of the "Republic of
Upingtonia" over a track of land
957 square miles (about
50,000 square kilometers) stretching
from Otavi to Otjivandatjongue (Grootfontein), which Jordan had
allegedly acquired by an agreement-in the fraudulent means of land
An anti-colonialist, Chief Nehale is better
known for his affront on
Fort Namutoni with 500 men against the
German Imperial Force on 28 January 1904.
Armed with firearms, spears,
bows and arrows, and encouraged by diviners and a touch of magic,
Chief Nehale's men attacked the Fort. They emerged victorious from
the battle and their spoils of war included horses, cattle and
logistic supplies. Humiliated the Germans retreated. The
Fort, where Chief Nehale's waterhole is situated, was established
as a Rinderpest post in 1896 by the German colonial authorities to
control the movement of cattle from the north to the central and
southern regions of Namibia.
YA NDEMUFAYO - "If the English want me, I am here. They can come
and fetch me. I will not fire the first shot, but I am not a
steenbok of the veld. I am a man, not a woman. I will fight until
my last bullet is expended." These were the words of Chief Mandume,
one of Namibia's foremost anti-colonialists.
He uttered these words in
defiance of the insistence by the South African forces that he
surrender. This was after he had ambushed and defeated the
Portuguese forces in October 1916.
A force was sent, and guided
by intelligence information, avoided Chief Mandume's main force
waiting in ambush. Instead on 6 February 1917 they attacked his
new residence at Oihole with only his bodyguard of 200 to 300 men.
Despite being outnumbered by four to one, he fought and died
during a brief but intense battle. The official colonial South
African account claims that Chief Mandume was killed by
machine-gun fire. However, there is a strong oral tradition that
he committed suicide rather than be captured.
Chief Mandume ya Ndemufayo of the Kwanyama was
a youthful and headstrong ruler. He refused to acknowledge the
German South West Africa, as Namibia was known then, and Angola,
then colonized by the Portuguese. His disregard for this political
boundary led to the first serious clash between the South African
Government forces and the people of the north.
Chief Mandume repeatedly
violated the "neutral zone", a 10km-wide border strip disputed by
Germany and Portugal.
On one occasion he surrounded
the house of the South African representative, Major Fourie in the
neutral zone with 200 armed me. Major Fourie is quoted as saying;
"I told him he had no
business here, although I did not put it as strong as I should
have liked, as circumstances seemed not to warrant my saying
anything which might lead him to violence."
During a sortie into Angola
one of Chief Mandume's men offered to lead a Portuguese patrol to
Chief Mandume's camp. The Portuguese thought the man had turned
traitor, but he led them into an ambush where their commanding
officer was killed. This event led to an exchange of letters
between the South African authorities and the Portuguese. The
South Africans decided to subdue Chief Mandume by force.
MAHARERO - began his career as chief of the Ovaherero -
a man given to drink and the pursuit of pleasure, and one willing
to sell off ancestral land. However, when the Ovaherero saw German
expansion as a threat, Chief Maharero rose to lead his people in a
heroic struggle against German settlers. He ruled over the Ovaherero during the Ovaherero / German conflict from 1904 to
Maharero, whose Otjiherero
name was Ueerani, was the youngest son of Chief Maharero, the son
of Chief Tjamuaha. He was born in 1854 and was educated at
Augustineum, a mission school at
Okahandja. He became chief after
the death of his father in 1890 to the discontent of other
aspirants. This gave rise to internecine wrangling
within the Ovaherero, which compelled Maharero to seek protection from the
Germans. While seeking German
protection against his rivals, he also saw such protection as a
threat to the original inhabitants of the country. For this reason
he entered into a pact of peace with Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi of
in 1892. Ovaherero resentment over the German presence deepened as
German settlers occupied land that had previously belonged to them, sometimes
sold by the Chief. By 1903 about a quarter of what
had been Ovaherero land was in the hands of the Germans. The
settlers often treated the Ovaherero harshly. The Ovaherero cam to
regards the Germans as people that not only deprived them of their
land, but also of their dignity.
Maharero heed the call of his
people and resolved to resist the German colonialists, if
necessary in a fight to the death. "I would rather that they
annihilate us and take over our lands than go on as we are," he
wrote to Hermanus van Wyk, Captain of the Basters. Secretly he
started to make plans for an uprising against the German settlers
On 12 January 1904, Maharero
ordered that all white men, except Englishmen, Boers and
missionaries, be killed. Within days of the order 120 Germans were
killed. Ovaherero forces surrounded the German settlements at
Okahandja and Omaruru, Maharero based himself in the Ounjati Hills
Between Windhoek and Okahandja and in the months of February,
March and April, the Ovaherero proved to be the stronger force.
The Berlin government blamed
Leutwein for Germany's misfortunes and decided to send General von
Trotha, who had a reputation for ferocity in colonial wars. His
arrival signaled a turning point in the war. The Ovaherero began
to incur steady and damaging losses in clashes with German troops.
Early in August 1904, the Ovaherero had gathered, driven by the
German onslaught, at the southern foot of the Waterberg. Von
Trotha saw an opportunity to carry out his intent, "It was and is
my policy to use force with terrorism and even brutality. I shall
annihilate the revolting tribes with streams of blood." He
surrounded the Waterberg and with about 5,000 soldiers equipped
with three machine guns and 32 cannons.
On the morning of
1904, a coordinated attack was launched by the German troops. What
followed was an annihilation, as Von Trothea had wanted. Survivors
escaped through the eastern opening of the mountain leading into
the Kalahari Desert were an unknown number succumbed to thirst and
hunger. Thos who turned back, met von Trotha's mopping-up
Of those who fled into the
Kalahari Desert, about 15,000 emerged in Bechuanaland, today
Botswana. About 12,000, mostly women and children were placed in
concentration camps. Maharero was on of those who survived the
journey across the desert. In 1906 he went to the northern
Transvaal, South Africa, where he lived until 1922. That year he
moved back to Bechuanaland to live as a subject of the Ngwato
Chief, Kgama ll. He died a year later in 1923.
Later that year his body was
returned to Namibia and buried at Okahandja alongside his father Maharero and grandfather, Tjamuaha.
YA TSHILONGO - was a stern ruler who refused to cooperate with the South African
authorities in the North.
"Ipumbu is friendly and
cooperative," Lt. C.H. Hahn, the Native Commissioner, wrote in
1927 from his office in Ondangwa. This statement seemed to be
premature. Soon Hahn was to encounter the real Chief Ipumbu with
his unpredictable spirit of independence and fierce resistance. Wary of missionaries, Ipumbu
did not allow them to gain any influence over him or his people,
the Ovakwambi. In 1922 when the South African authorities imposed
a fine of 40 cattle and one horse on him for raiding and burning
the kraal of a certain Hinjambi, Chief Ipumbu simply refused to
pay. Aside from this there had
been disputes resulting from the free use of firearms by Ipumbu
and his people. Three years after his first statement on Chief
Ipumbu, Hahn's views had changed dramatically.
"He is quite the worst chief
in Ovamboland, very difficult to deal with by the authorities," he
The uneasy relationship
between Chief Ipumbu on the one hand, and the authorities and missionaries on
came to a head when
Hahn intervened upon hearing that the Chief had threatened the staff of a
Finnish Mission near
For this Hahn fines him 200 head of
cattle. Chief Ipumbu refused to pay denying that he had fired any
shots at the mission.He was then
instructed to report to the Commissioner at Untswe to surrender
himself, failure to which military action would e taken against
him. Chief Ipumbu ignored the summons. The South West Africa
Administration appealed to the Union Government for assistance.
Lt. Col. Sir Peter van Ryneveld, Chief of the South African Air
Force, was sent with five "Wapiti" aircraft to Ondangwa, the
Commissioner's Headquarter. After some days of parleying, and
several flights over Chief Ipumbu's kraal, it was obvious that
the presence of the aircraft made no impression on him. Van Ryneveld asked Pretoria to send two
cars to the rescue. The armored cars arrived by rail in Windhoek.
They were under the command of Lt. Kriegker of the Small Arms
Branch, South African Military College at Robert Heights near
Pretoria. The Chief was given a final chance to surrender
peacefully. The aircraft dropped warning letters of destruction
over Chief Ipumbu's Kraal. Realizing
the seriousness of the authorities' intent, Chief Ipumbu fled to
Angola, saying Shongola (Lt. Hahn) soldiers wanted him. The
aircraft then bombarded a deserted kraal. When Chief Ipumbu returned from
people shunned him because they were afraid of the repercussions
of associating with him. He decided to surrender. As punishment
he was banished to Kavango. He returned to the North in 1937, but
was banned from the Kwambi district and given a kraal among the
Kwanyama. He died in 1959.
KOMOMBUMBI KUTAKO -
also fondly known as Katjikururume, was born at Okahurimehi on the
Okahandja District of Namibia in 1870. When the Germans took
control of Namibia in 1884, they began to impose harsh rule. As
the situation worsened, the Ovaherero and Namas, along with
others, particularly in the south and central parts of the
country, rose up against the Germans in 1904 in an attempt to
regain their freedom and independence.
Hosea Kutako, then just a
34-year-old soldier, fought in the uprising as one of the
leading commanders, but was taken prisoner after being wounded. He
was released at the end of the uprising in which around 65,000 out
of 80,000 Ovaherero were killed and most of their cattle
confiscated or destroyed. Eventually, the resistance
against German colonialism extended to other parts of the country. The Germans suspected that the
large number of Ovaherero, including their chief, who had escaped
Botswana after the battle of Hamakari in August 1904, were
preparing to return with the help of their sympathizers
within the country. So they once again imprisoned Hosea Kutako although he
managed to escape and take refuge in the mountains. The same period as the South
African troops acting on behalf pf Britain were taking over Namibia
after defeating the Germans during the
First World War, Hosea Kutako was appointed leader of the
Ovaherero, as chief of the Ovaherero was still in Botswana. Two
years later, with the agreement of the Ovaherero Chief in exile,
Kutako became the Paramount Chief of the Ovaherero in Namibia.
Meanwhile, Namibia had become a Mandated Territory of the League
of Nations under the administration of the Union of South Africa.
It became clear that the South African government would not return
the land that the people had lost under the German colonial
Chief Kutako was told that the Ovaherero would be resettled
further u=in the semi-desert areas, so that whites could settle in
their territory. Chief Kutako rejected the resettlement proposals
on the grounds that the new areas were much too small and
isolated. He also rejected South Africa proposals that Namibia
should be incorporated into the Union of South Africa and
appealed to the untied Nations (UN) to establish a Trusteeship
administration over the country as a step towards its eventual
The South Africa government
refused to issue passports to Chief Kutako or any of the other
Namibian leaders to visit the UN. In 1947, Chief Kutako
commissioned a sympathetic English clergyman, Reverend Michael
Scott, to put Namibia's case before the UN. In the following years
Chief Kutako continued to place petitions before the Un, and in
his way he played a major role in bringing the plight of Namibia
to international prominence. He also continued to oppose South
Africa's efforts to move his people to the Omaheke region. He died
on 18 July 1970.
MARENGA - Known as the black Napoleon,
charismatic Marenga a Nama Captain of the Bondleswarts, fought one
of the longest guerilla wars against the Germans. Unlike his
contemporary military leaders, Samuel Maharero and Hendrik Witbooi,
Marenga was not a traditional leader. He was educated by German
missionaries and learnt to speak six languages fluently. After an
18-month study in Germany, Marenga returned home and worked as a
clerk on the mines in South Africa.
During the Bondelswarts
Rebellion (1903 to 1904) Marenga and the Morris brothers (Abraham
and Christian, also from the Bondleswarts) operated from the Karas
Mountains where they set up a base that was inaccessible to their
enemy. It is here that Marenga revised and established his entire
military strategy. As the Germans enjoyed superiority in numbers
and armaments, he did not confront them directly.
Instead he resorted to the classical guerilla tactics.
Over a four-year period he fought nearly 50 battles, in
spite of being wounded several times. Only on 21
November 1903, was Marenga defeated in battle at Sandfontein. He and his followers
retreated into the rugged Orange River Mountains. The unexpected Ovaherero uprising of 1904 compelled Governor Theodore Leutwein to
conclude the peace of Kalkfontein on 27 January 1904.
This was agreed upon provided
Marenga and Abraham Morris appeared before a council of chiefs to
account, in the case of Marenga, for the alleged murder of a
wounded Witbooi soldier. Marenga was outlawed and he and Morris
retreated to the Cape Colony where he mobilized forces. By 1906
his force had become such a menace to the German troops that the
emperor was forced to telegraph the following order, "Put a price
of 20,000 Marks on Marenga's head.
On 3 December 1906 the
Germans under Con Eckert and Von Hornhardt overpowered Marenga's
soldiers in the battle of Kunkum. He retreated to the great Karas
On 21 March 1907 Marenga and
Christian attacked the German military post at Jerusalem. After
the encounter the two leaders decided to split forces. Christian
turned west while Marenga moved north. On 26 March Marenga
attacked a German supply convoy near Ukamas. On 14 April 1907 he
was involved in a skirmish at Narudas. He was again forced to
escape to the Cape Colony in the face of superior German forces
after another skirmish at Klipdam, the border between SWA and the
On 20 September 1907 after
being overpowered by Captain Bech's troops in the battle of van
Rooyscly in the Cape Colony, and with a loss of 23 of his
soldiers, a British policeman is said to have shot and wounded
Marenga near the border between the Cape and South West Africa.
The policeman was awarded the emperor's medal for the shooting.
The British then transferred
an injured Marenga to the railhead at Prieska and from there to
Cape Town to the Tokai prison. It is not known till today, exactly
how the great Jakob Marenga died and where his body was buried.
MAMA KAKURUKAZE MUNGUNDA
The years 1958 and 1959
brought the struggle against the removal of the Africans from the
Old Location to the new ethnically segregated township of
Katutura, to a head.
In this resistance women
played a leading role. By September 1959 the whole African
community living in the Old Location, around today's Windhoek
Hochland Park Cemetery, was involved in organizing protests. On 4
December 1959, a municipal official and his police in a bids to
enlist people for removal to Katutura met strong resistance. Four
women were arrested in the ensuing struggle and charged with
"disturbing the peace".
This incident led to a big
demonstration march to the offices of the administrator. To quell
this growing spirit of resistance, the colonial South African
regime in turn increased its oppressive tactics. But they could
not extinguish the flames of resistance and the
10 December 1959
massacre was the outcome.
who sacrificed their lives was Mama Kakurukaze Mungunda, who
took five liters of petrol, poured it over the
car of the
Superintendent of the Windhoek Old Location, and set it alight.
She was shot instantly.
Oral tradition explains that very little is know
about Mama Kakurukaze Mungundu until the day of the shooting
because she was not very active in community activities, being in
the prime of her life. But she was from the Mungundu dynasty and a
close relative of Chief Hosea Kutako - thus not far from the hub
of resistance activities. Mama Kakurukaze Mungundu was also a
relative of A.S. Mungundu, one of four African members on the
committee of the Bantu Welfare Club. She was a domestic worker.
This page was produced with the cooperation of:
with the permission of the Ministry of Information and
The Namibia National Heritage Council
Photographs: National Archives, Keith Irwin
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