Elikana Shoombe: Remembering a fearless PLAN fighter

Festus Nakatana

On 4 May 2024, while Namibians paused to commemorate the selfless acts of sacrifice in remembrance of Cassinga Day, a soldier of the liberation struggle, a combatant and gallant fighter Elikana Iishuna Shoombe took his last breath in a northern hospital.

Affectionately known by his combat name Windhoek, Shoombe was not an ordinary PLAN combatant. Born in 1962 at Onatshiku on the outskirts of Oshakati in the Oshana Region, Shoombe attended school in the surrounding areas before joining Swapo in exile with some of his siblings in 1980. He ended up in Tobias Hainyeko Training Centre in 1981 where he received military reconnaissance training.

Like many other PLAN combatants, Shoombe was resolute in his convictions and unwavering in the pursuit of what he believed was right, and particularly buoyed by the desire to free his motherland from the brutal apartheid regime. Shoombe’s impact was instantly felt in exile, leading to his deployment to the Northern Front under the guidance of Commander Matias Atshikudhike, revered PLAN Commander and now retired Colonel B. Shikesho was later tasked to command the unit.

The marching orders to the late Shoombe and his fellow combatants included tasks to recognise the enemy bases inside Namibia, mobilise Namibians, recruit contacts inside the country as well as evaluate, analyse, and disseminate critical information to the unit commander, among others. His seniors within PLAN regarded him as one of the best commando operators. A thorn in the flesh of the enemy. However, in 1985 Shoombe’s luck ran out after the apartheid regime detected his underground activities. While trying to cross back into Angola near Odibo, the apartheid soldiers ambushed him.

He was instantly wounded and captured. The South African soldiers first took him to their detention centre at Oniimwandi outside Oshakati for interrogation. It was at this point when all hell broke loose for Shoombe. The apartheid forces tortured him. He was humiliated and subjected to inhumane treatment. He was later transferred to the Osire detention centre in the Otjozondjupa region where he was held in detention with the likes of Norbert Ankome, Desiderius Ankome, Ferdinand Shifidi, Erastus ‘Napoleon’ Uutoni, Oscar Haludilu, Oscar Shikoyeni, Rehabeam Ndeuka Nakatana, Marius Valombola, Modestus Nambwandja and many others. At Osire, he was again tortured and continued to be subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

The physical torture led to him suffering kidney failure for the rest of his life. However, the apartheid forces were not done with him. In 1986, Shoombe was transferred to a Windhoek prison to undergo trial with many others accused of acts of terrorism and the promotion of communism. The six other accused included the Ankome siblings (Desiderius and Norbert), Frans Angula, Bernardinus Petrus Shikongo, Napoleon Uutoni and Vilho Kashilulu. Shoombe and his comrades were later found guilty and sentenced to death under the terrorist acts. The harsh sentencing led to the intervention of the Red Cross Society which later forced the authorities to overrule the initial death sentences.

Ultimately, Shoombe and his colleagues were released from custody following the implementation of the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 435, which called for the withdrawal of South African forces from Namibia and the transfer of power to the people of Namibia. We will forever remember Elikana Iishuna Shoombe aka Windhoek as a fearless freedom fighter and mobiliser of note. Let us therefore honour his courage and heroic deeds by upholding the principles and ethical values of self-sacrifice and the unwavering spirit to push the boundaries of what is possible. May his indomitable spirit continue to inspire future generations. Go well our hero. Go well, Windhoek.

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