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Namibia's Heroes & Heroines Profiles Of Their Lives


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Namibia's Heroes & Heroines Profiles Of Their Lives

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Kahimemua Nguvauvu CHIEF KAHIMEMUA NGUVAUVU - 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 enemy, Kahimemua.

Footnote: The above photograph was taken while Chief Nguvauvu was being held as a prisoner by the German Authorities awaiting execution.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi KAPTEIN 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 South Africa.

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 one of 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 1894.

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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Nehale Mpingana CHIEF NEHALE MPINGANA - 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 people, 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" when 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 acquisition then.

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 Namutoni 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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Mandume Ya Ndemufayo CHIEF MANDUME 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

border between 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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Samuel Maharero CHIEF SAMUEL 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 1907.

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 the Nama 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 and authorities.

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 11th August 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 operation.

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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Ipumba Ya Tshilongo CHIEF IPUMBA 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 said.

The uneasy relationship between Chief Ipumbu on the one hand, and the authorities and missionaries on the other,

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 armored 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 Angola, his 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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Chief Komombumbi Kutako CHIEF HOSEA 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 to 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 administration.

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 independence.

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.

Archive photo of Namibia Hero Kaptein Jacob Marenga KAPTEIN JAKOB 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 Mountains/

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 Cape Colony.

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.

Archive photo of Namibia Heroine Mama Kakurukaze Mungunda 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.

Among those 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.

The Eternal Flame Heroes'Acre Windhoek Namibia


Articles of Associated Interest:


Heroes' Acre Introduction

Internat. Human Rights Day

National Flag & Symbols

Namibia's Constitution

Heroes' Acre Inauguration

Namibia's Heroes' & Heroines

Profile of Sam Nujoma


This page was produced with the cooperation of:

Text reproduced with the permission of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting

The Namibia National Heritage Council

Photographs: National Archives, Keith Irwin

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