New Era (Windhoek)

15 February 2013

Namibia: The Butcher of Cassinga in Camouflage

opinion

THIRTY five years ago the Namibian nation cried vengeance when hundreds of unarmed men, women and children were butchered at Cassinga on May 04, 1978 some 300 or so kilometres inside neighbouring Angola by bloodthirsty, trigger-happy South African Defence Force (SADF) paratroopers under the command of a certain butcher called Jan Breytenbach, who has resurfaced selling the world his camouflaged story.

The assault on the Cassinga transit camp was supported by a very strong air strike bomber contingent of killers, as well as air transport to drop the paratroopers into "one of the biggest airborne operations since World War Two," boasts Breytenbach in a recent book titled "Eagle Strike!"

During the 23-year armed national liberation struggle waged by SWAPO's military wing, PLAN, the world witnessed several attempts by the South African colonial army aimed at breaking the movement's 'backbone' - through attacks on soft targets. The Cassinga health and education centre has been classified as such. Hundreds of men, women and children were brutally massacred - killed by bombs, shot and bayonetted to death. Amongst those victims were pregnant women, babies and elderly persons.

Soon after the bloody attack, apartheid Pretoria unleashed a systematic disinformation campaign aimed at hoodwinking world public opinion that the settlement was a heavily fortified SWAPO base containing its military headquarters, replete with logistical support, reserves and training facilities. That's nothing but a camouflaged lie!

The cowardly attack on innocent unarmed men, women and children demonstrated that the enemy had failed to win the hearts and minds of the then oppressed people of our country. Pretoria instead resorted to the colonial scorched-earth policy that "those who refuse to submit... must be subdued with limitless brutality."

Please take note of the fact that before the hundreds of victims were buried in two mass graves at Cassinga, Luanda-based foreign correspondents and resident diplomats had the opportunity to witness the truth for themselves and photographed the bodies. They all unanimously concluded that the settlement was in fact not a military headquarters of PLAN, but a transit centre for civilians.

The publication of books like the "Eagle Strike!" by a psychologically deranged and emotionally castrated butcher such as Jan Breytenbach, coming after more than thirty years following the bloody massacre satisfies only those who long "for the happy old ... colonial days," when they thought colonialism was a legal process to rule the 'natives' and keep them as perpetual slaves!

How many died at Cassinga? How many survived the massacre? More than six hundred people were killed - some put the figure as high as eight hundred. Hundreds more were wounded and do readers remember that in January 1978 Pretoria took part in the so-called 'proximity talks' with the western contact group and SWAPO, and on April 25, 1978 formally gave its acceptance to a peaceful settlement in Namibia?

Ask yourself why then the Cassinga Massacre on May 04, 1978?

Mvula ya Nangolo is an author, journalist and celebrated poet who serves as the special advisor to Joel Kaapanda, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).

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