On the 26th of August there was a big meeting in Katutura township, just outside Windhoek in Namibia. SWAPO the South West African People’s Organisation, were remembering the beginning of their war with South Africa – and all the people who have died in the war.
When Learn and Teach heard about the meeting, we knew we must go. We wanted to learn more about Namibia. And we wanted to know more about SWAPO’s fight.
We drove for many hours to get to Katutura. When we got there, we were very hot and thirsty. Namibia must be the hottest, dryest place in the world. But we were in good time for the meeting. We arrived the night before.
A WARM WELCOME
As we got out of the car, we could smell meat cooking. Marco Hausico met us. He invited us to come to a braai. We followed Marco to a small house in Katutura. There we found more than 400 people. Everyone was singing freedom songs and dancing.
Marco told us why they were having a braai. He said, “People are coming to Katutura from all over Namibia. So we want to welcome people in a good way. People must feel at home.
“We also want to talk to our comrades before the big meeting tomorrow. The braai gives people time to talk to each other. People are having a good time, but if you listen, you will hear that they have not forgotten the struggle. Every one is singing freedom songs.”
The people at the braai looked friendly. So we decided to join them. We drank some beer and sang with the people. When people heard that we were from Johannesburg, they told us about SWAPO’s fight for freedom.
A LONG STRUGGLE
“SWAPO started in 1960,” a man with a big moustache told us. “We asked South Africa to leave Namibia. But South Africa refused to listen. For six years we talked and talked. But in the end we decided that fighting was the only way to make South Africa listen .”
We heard stories from other people too. We heard about their long and bit ter struggle. They told us how twenty thousand young Namibians have died in the war. We felt very sad. But by the time we left the braai, we knew we were among friends. We were with people who were also struggling for freedom.
THE MEETING IN THE SUN
The next day we went to the big meeting. People stood with the sun burning down – the sun is much hotter in Namibia than it is in South Africa. But people stood quietly for three hours, listening to the speeches.
Mr Nathaniel Maxvilili, the acting President of SWAPO, spoke first. He said, “We have said that we want to be free for more than twenty years now. We do not want the South African Defence Force in our country. We do not want to be part of South Africa. It is time that South Africa heard what we are saying.”
SWAPO DID NOT START THE FIGHT
Mr Mokganedi Tlhabanello was the next speaker. “We did not start the fighting,” said Mr Tlhabanello. “We only started to fight when we saw that talking does not help. Now Koevoet and the South African army are killing people in Ovamboland.
“But SWAPO is fighting back. And I am proud that SWAPO is fighting back. We will fight and we will win. One day Namibia will be free. I can promise this to all of you here today.”
All through the meeting the police were right there. They stood right at the front and took notes. But nobody worried about them. One of the speakers even gave the police a message.
“Go and tell Pretoria what we are saying,” he said. “We are not afraid. We know we will win because we are right and South Africa is wrong to be here.”
BRIGHT COLOURS IN THE DUST
When the meeting was finished, the people marched through Katutura, singing freedom songs. They looked like a bright, colourful snake in the dust. Everyone was wearing red and green to show they love SWAPO.
And when people stopped marching, there was another braai. People talked about the meeting. And they talked about the war. They shook their heads sadly when they thought of all the young boys who had died. But then they said, “We will win.” And every one felt strong again and started to sing.
TIME TO GO HOME
When Learn and Teach left, we felt we had learnt many things. We had learnt a little about the struggle in Namibia. And we had learnt about SWAPO. And we had learnt that the people in Katutura make the best braais in the world.