General Martin Shalli

In the midst of corona virus pandemic with its economic rampage, lockdown, fear, death, internet conspiracy theories and infodemic, Namibia commemorates 42nd anniversary of the Cassinga massacre and the battle of Chetequera. In remembrance of all those who died, shed blood and survived on this day, we pay tribute to all of them. May their souls continue to rest in eternal peace! And may their blood continue to water our freedom! We salute them and in the hope that their revolutionary spirit help to continue to serve as a glue of unity, patriotism, solidarity, peace, and justice. Winning anti corona battle requires a united front and cooperation from everyone. Namibians have always in their history demonstrated a purpose of winning and this time it cannot be different.

This article is a tribute and dedication to the life and death of Comrade and Commander Willehard Vayakohambo Tashiya Nacada Chicololo hereinafter referred to as Nacada. He died in battle at Vietnam base on the 04 May 1978 aged 34 years. Nacada was born in 1944 at a village of Omholo, on the northern outskirts of what is Outapi town today in the Omusati Region. Omholo means luck. He was the second born in the family of eight plus one, four boys and four girls. They are late Jason, late Nacada, Magano, Otto Temba,Festus Shifotoka, late Teresia Nangula and late Immanuel Shekwiindi. The plus one is an adopted sibling Iyetushilako Anna Maria whose mother passed on shortly after giving birth at Onakayale Hospital in 1944. The mother of Anna-Maria was from Angola and after her death no family could be traced till at the time of writing this piece. As a result, Nacada`s mom adopted her and had to breast feed three babies at the same time, her own Nacada, her sister`s son Josephat Shanghala whose mother also passed away while he was about three months old and the adopted baby. This was by all measures not an easy feat given the circumstances of the time. Josephat Shanghala went on to become a Bishop of the Lutheran Church. The Bishop`s father Kautondokwa Shanghala ya Kashindi was a veteran of the Second World War.

Nacada’s parents are Tatekulu Katofa Sheya Tashiya, a veteran of the Second World War, and Meekulu Elizabeth Mpingana who died in 2014 aged 97. Comrade Nangolo Mbumba, Comrade Sophia Shaningwa, who is a native of Ombalantu and distant neighbor, and I had the honour to attend her funeral where we made short statements. Surprisingly none of us knew that she lived until the announcement of her death. Katofa Tashiya died after independence aged 89.

Nacada’s grandparents were Kuku Albertina and Sakeus Iihuhua from Onayena and Oniipa respectively and who once but very briefly settled at Omapale during the reign of Senior Councillor Kambode ka Nepaya. This location is situated at late Hans Namuhuya`s residence at Oniipa. No wonder so many Namuhuya`s family members attended the burial.

Sakeus Iihuhua initially trained as a teacher at Oniipa. Upon graduation he was assigned to Uuyoka, Onayena constituency and this is where he met Albertina who later became his wife. After a short stint at Uuyoka he was recalled and assigned to Omholo in Ombalantu district of Ovamboland as a head teacher and evangelist. He took his wife with and settled there ever since. Towards the end of 1916 he returned to Oniipa to enroll as a theological student and on the 27 September 1925 he together with six others were ordained and thus making history by becoming the first seven Lutheran priests in Ovamboland. He was then assigned to Ombalantu to establish the Onakayale Parish thus becoming the founding priest. He and his wife lived and died at Onakayale where they are buried. Later his young priest brother, Ombandja Iihuhua, was to found the Onesi Parish in the Uunkolokadhi district of Omusati Region.

Like all boys at the time, Nacada was well schooled in home science of tendering to family animals and doing all sorts of household chores such as fixing the huts, milking animals, repairing and renewing fences, and cultivating mahangu fields. All of that is in addition to attending school. He was baptized at Omholo on the same day as his siblings he was jointly breast feeding. His Godparents are Jacob Shipwata and Anna Kahima. He was later confirmed into the Holy Community of God at the same place.

His pre-primary school teachers at Omholo were among others Meme Lea, Paulus Dumeni (the father to Bishop Cleophas Dumeni), Sophia Kasheya, Erastus Haikali and Leonard Situku.

In 1958, he joined the Boys School at Onakayale and completed Standard Six there in 1962 affectively becoming part of the third standard six group in the entire Ovamboland. His teachers were Andreas Shingenge, Gerson Ndjembela and two Finnish teachers Mr Arrivo and his wife Iirya. Between 1963 and 1965, he attended the Ongwediva High School where he met and reunited with fellow students such as Nangolo Mbumba, Nangolo Iithete, Nahas Angula, Matti Amadhila, Naftali Amadhila, Isaac Pondo Shikongo, Sheeli Shangula, Jesaya Nyamu, Thomas Shiimi, Kahima Eembumbulu, Noah Nujoma (young brother of Founding President), Sam Ndeikwila, November Mthoko, Naftali Hamata and many others. The principal of Ongwediva School was a Finnish gentleman by the name of Nico Ihamakki.

In 1962, Lotto Homateni and Lucas Pohamba addressed a group of students at Ongwediva calling on them to raise to the plate and support SWAPO in its struggle to ridden South West Africa of apartheid colonialism and Bantu education. This meeting was followed by another one in 1963 by Ben Amathila who was accompanied by a gentleman from Cameroon who also addressed the students and asked them to unite and rally behind SWAPO in the just struggle of the toiling masses. This was the turning point and the message of hope and freedom spread like wildfire. Ben also issued membership cards to those who were in attendance. This was the time when the wind of change was sweeping the African continent. To see what a SWAPO membership card looked like, I suggest you contact Bishop Shanghala as he still has his.

Nacada and others began to hatch a plot to flee the country but not before writing the final Form iii exams. On the 18 November 1965, Nacada and six others , Isaac Shikongo Pondo la Nangobe, Sam Ndeikwila, Festus November Mthoko, Kahima Eembumbulu, Thomas Steve Shiimi, Naftali Kahima, left to join the struggle abroad. They were seen off by Herman Toivo ya Toivo and Ben Amathila at Ondjondjo, Ondangwa. They travelled on foot all the way to Nkuru-Nkure in Kavango West Region were they travelled by WINALA trucks to Bechuanaland in particular to Francistown, and from there by SWAPO arrangements unto Lusaka, Zambia.

Between 1966 and 1968 Nacada studied at Mkumbi College in Zambia with Nangolo Mbumba, Erobeam Amundaba, Bambo, Nahas Angula, Vitalis Ankama, David Mbango,Linus Mawila Amwele, Peter Tchirumbu, Joas Iipinge, Andrew Intamba and Elise Hauljondjamba among others. After Mkumbi the Party arranged a scholarship for him in Kenya to study animal medicine. Between 1969 and 1971, he enrolled at the Animal Husbandry Training Institute (AHTI) in Nairobi where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in animal medicine something he never got time to practice. Upon completion, he returned to Zambia just to be dispatched to Moscow, USSR for military training in 1972 and returned late the same year. The five students were Nacada, Pondo, Hanghome, Nganyone and Katjipuka and all of them died in combat later.

He then joined others at the front at Kaunga Mashi at the time when the High Command was planning a mission to conduct an intelligence assessment of the situation in areas of Southern Angola and Northern Namibia, eastern Ovamboland in particular. Later in June 1973, this mission was assigned to Patrick Kakwambi, Valentine Katumbe and Nacada Chicololo. Kakwambi had just taken over from Eliander Mwatale who died in action as Chief of Intelligence and Reconnaissance. Valentine is the composer of a popular song: NDAMONA OVAKWAITA TAVALU SHASHI OSHILONGO ESHI OOSHAVO. He was a political commissar and mobilizer who drowned later in the Cuando River. Mission: gather all intelligence information on the enemy and other forces, explore possible infiltration routes, challenges, logistics needs and survivability options, local support, see how best to establish a supply line, mobilization and recruitment and identify suitable places where to place staging bases. They were given 90 days. Understandably, this mission was successfully carried out after traversing what are today Moxico, Cuando Cubango and Cunene Provinces of Angola. On the basis of their report, a decision was made to assign a combat group under Commander Matias Ndakolo Mbulunganga with Phillip Nandenga Zulu as Political Commissar to establish a forward presence in Southern Angola and carry out mass recruitment and small raids on enemy troops. The group left Zambia in December 1973 and was designated as a “no return group” and return they did not largely to the fact that barely four months into this mission the Portuguese Empire crumbled and the rest is history. Nacada was one the platoon commanders in this group. The role individual members of this group had to play is unprecedented and for that we thank them. Full discussion is reserved for another day. Before joining this group, Nacada saw his first baptism of fire when in April 1973, a group led by Peter Tschirumbu and his second in command Elise Hauljondjaba, successfully ambushed enemy patrol in Caprivi annihilating it and seizing war materials which were shown to the world at Addis Ababa. This became to be known in SWAPO circles as “Oolwoodi lo ma mbongolo”.

In October 1975, Nacada was assigned a mission back to Zambia to deliver a detailed report on the situation obtaining in Angola to the Secretary of Defence and to seek support from the national leadership. By that time there were already hundreds of Namibians who had joined SWAPO and scattered in the Angolan southern border areas. He was accompanied by Linus Mawila Amwele, Oscar Shilongo sha Elia Haipinge, Jonas Zambia Shingenge and four others. The group managed to reach Zambia and report the situation. The High Command considered their request by providing a truck fully laden with weapons, ammunition, medicine and other essential supplies. In addition they were also reinforced with 17 combatants among them Dr Eroby, Epfras Denga Ndaitwah, Epfras Hainyeko Hangula, Mbwale Akwaake, Kambode Ankambo, Kasimi, and Solom Kamati Governo. There was no much choice but to bundle 23 people and cargo on one small 911 mercedes benz. By mid-December 1975 the group was ready to move to Cunene Province of Angola five or so weeks after the declaration of independence. The group was escorted across the border by Cde Maxton Josef Mutongolume and Usco Nambinga.

The area through which they were to travel was under the control of UNITA, FNLA and Daniel Chipenda faction which made things extremely complicated. As a result and after a tussle with FNLA their truck with its precious cargo was seized by FNLA and the group disarmed but not taken prisoner. The group was roughed up by FNLA and the Chipenda faction. Fortunately on the Christmas Day a clash started between UNITA and FNLA fighters in the small former Portuguese garrison town of Countinho where the group was held. Unita desperate to drive out other groups from the town sought Nacada’s assistance which came quite handy and on conditions that Unita returns at least their personal weapons which they did. In actual fact it was this group under the able command of Nacada that drove the other groups out and at no loss of life. After the fierce fight was over three days later, Nacada stepped in with his negotiating skills to ensure freedom of movement of his group and exit from the town for onward journey to Cunene Province via Lusso (Luena capital of Moxico), and from there by train to Silva Porto (Bie capital of Bie)in the central plateau of Angola. In Bie was a small secret office run by Elise Hauljodjaba with Sebastian Haitota Ndeitunga as his assistant. At this time Bie was occupied by South African troops, Zairan troops and was the National HQ of Unita which Savimbi had declared the capital of the Black Socialist Republic. Samuel Chiwale who was commander of Unita forces in Moxico and Cuando Cubango, assisted by another Unita commander Kulunga, was helpful in securing free passage, transport and recovery of about only 20% of the precious cargo but not the truck. In February, after nine weeks since crossing the Angola-Zambia border, the group less two cadres who were returned to Zambia arrived at the front and reported to Commander Dimo Haamambo and Commander Mbulunganga. A mission like this requires commitment and utter dedication which in the case of Nacada was not in short supply. The conduct and actions of this group inspired many of us and for that we salute them. Today only Dr Eroby, Denga, Mbwale and Governo are alive from that group of 23.

At the meeting of the Military Council at Efitu in 1977, Nacada was appointed as the Commander of the North Western Region with David Mbango as Regional Political Commissar. By virtue of that appointment they also became automatic members of the Military Council, the highest decision making body of PLAN.

For Namibia to be where it is today, thousands and thousands of precious lives were lost and blood shed on the field of battle. The question is who are those whose blood and souls water our freedom? They are just too many to enumerate by name and character. All we know and can acknowledge is their sacrifices. One of those gallant sons of the soil is Commander Nacada who died on the battlefield while directing his troops on the 04 May 1978 at Vietnam Base or Regional HQ of the North Western Region later Front. As much as this day is more associated with the attack on Cassinga (Code name Moscow), the battle of Chetequera remains inseparable. On this day a major confrontation took place between PLAN combatants and SA racist troops in the NWF area of responsibility. In this historic battle more than 150 combatants sacrificed their lives. On record this remains the greatest single loss in a day and of course the greatest loss and setback in a single one day battle. At the same time this was one of the greatest display of bravery in the face of the adversary. There is no space to get into the details and specifics of the battle. I hope someone else writes about this event soon.

Among the commanders who died are David Mbango, the Regional Political Commissar, Lucas Shitaatala Namungangala, Sacky Iithete Kamatjona, Kahenge Balastus Shifunga, Base Commander Petrus Bunyana Sackaria, Training Officer Sakeus Kakwele Shehama, Mbongo ya Africa, Mukumangeni, Hamukonda, Nestor Haikuti Kakonda, Epafras Elia Katutwevandu, Political officer Mazazi, and Jonas Zambia Shingenge.

Some of the commanders who survived the battle are Filemom Lumumba Malima, Dr Eroby Amundaba, Peter Progress Heita, David Cubana Shiimbi, Erastus Kayambu Amupolo, Sakeus Zuax Heita, John Bolshoi Angula, Epafras Hainyeko Hangula, Shaanika Amukwaya, Andrias Ashikudhike Shitilitha, John Katangala Shapaka, Wellenel Kondjeni Haiyumba Haikokola, Peter Nevonga Shivute, Petrus Hipunyati Kambwela Nghilukilwa, Mateus Kakukutu Amunyela and Israel Nehemia Hamara Shipepe.

There is also this fascinating story of three recently young civilian recruits who were at a right place at a wrong time, Monica Shivolo (Ambassador Monica Nashandi) Hilma Shikongo(Police Commissioner Hilma Takatsu Tweya) and Martha Kamati. They were bayoneted, feigned death and left for dead by the enemy. The first two are still alive and bear the scars of the bayonets to this day.

A mixed group of about 200 mainly civilian recruits were rounded up and taken to Namibia among them Nakale Ninda, an anti-aircraft crew commander whom I had trained, Petrus Nehunga and Jason Nangombe, Nacada’s older brother. Cde Shakupinda, a native of Kavango West and a bazooka operator remain missing in action but presumed to have drowned as his tracks led up to the bank of the Cunene River. His last words were that he does not see himself continuing the struggle without his endeared Commander Nacada. This group of captives were later held at a prison in Mariental, Southern Namibia for over seven years.

Nacada was a gifted person, full of intellect, and a great military strategist. He was possessed with natural wisdom par excellence. He had the ability to lead and inspire people in so many ways. Every time he spoke he did so with clarity and sense of purpose. His organizational skills were unparalleled.

He is survived by two children, Hilya a businesswoman in Windhoek and a mother to two grandchildren of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, and John Carolla who works and resides in Windhoek. Carolla is named after John Carolla Hamukoto, another brilliant Commander who died in battle at Epinga on the 11 Nov 1976, first anniversary of Angola’s independence. I was the last person to see him alive on that fateful day. May the souls of this two great warriors continue to water our freedom. Let the sacrifices of all those who have died during the entire struggle of the Namibian people from time immemorial be a stark reminder of our long journey to freedom.