Our Right and Responsibility: A Letter from My Heart

Our Right and Responsibility: A Letter from My Heart


“Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when lived for others.” These are the words of Helen Adams Keller, a woman who lost her hearing and vision at the age of 19 months but grew to be highly intelligent. She wrote, spoke and labored for the betterment of others. She is described by many as a symbol for triumph over adversity. “I am a messenger of the Caprivi that’s all… People of the Caprivi I owe my life to them, whatever I die for them, I live for them…”  These are words of our own president Mishake Muyongo.


It was around 10h00 in the morning when Bollen Mwilima was arrested on the third day of August 1999; I was from town when I saw a white Chevrolet and other GRN vehicles leaving our house with other GRN cars which went with him. I thought he would soon come back home. Later in the afternoon (around lunch time), GRN vehicles parked in front of our yard and armed special field force (SSF) members jumped out of the vehicles and some ran behind the house (targeting windows), some pointed their guns on doors while hiding in big flowers in the yard. All the four corners of the house and the yard were covered by armed SSF members. The team leader called Haipa, went and stood on the sitting room door with a ready-set pistol in his hand pointing at my brother (first cousin), Mathews Sasele. He had a visitor who came probably to borrow some money. “Mathews you are under arrest!” said Haipa. They took him. I again thought he will also be back soon. It is twelve years ago and they are still on trial and in detention!


After a day, we heard that there are many people arrested and that they were severely beaten up. This was a time when the term “torture” was not in our immediate vocabulary to describe such ‘official’ brutal assaults. We heard that some fainted, some suffered broken jaws, and most of them suffered injuries of various sorts. I remember seeing Geoffery Mwilima on television with bandages. I remember my aunt (Mathews’ wife) collected some clothes from prison a few days after and she said they were blood stained. It was painful to imagine how men of their statures are beaten to an extent of injuries, fractures, fainting, crying, etc. It is still painful.


Within or just after a week or so we heard that they have been transferred to Grootfontein! I remember a niece breaking down into tears on hearing this sad news. I felt really bad for her. I then started to speculate that they will take long. Family life began to change is nature, shape and destiny. A lot of changes happened in a life of everyone who lived in Mathews Sasele’s house. My life changed negatively. Letters became a source of strength, courage and hope. Visits made things even better for those privileged. Since then things are the same, letters and visits, illnesses and deaths, witnesses and witnesses, trial and postponements. Lives and destinies remain changed negatively. Some dropped out of basic education while some dropped out from universities. Some have resorted to behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse to temporarily forget the miseries they are going through.


I must admit here that my tears are never too far. They easily come out whenever Mathews’ youngest child, Mingeli, comes to visit me at my home. But I always wipe them out so that he does not see them. He was born seven months after his father was arrested. I do not know if he will ever understand what a father is. I know what his school or class mates should have labeled him especially living in a society where some people consider the high treason suspects “rebels.” I am sure that at some point in his life, Mingeli must have been called a son of a rebel. I know how much his mother is struggling to feed and dress him and his siblings. I wonder if Namibian justice caters for innocent Mingeli’s psychological welfare!


I know the role my first cousin Mathews, and nephew Bollen played in our extended family. I know what Shaile Village was like when these Guys, including Bernard Mucheka were home. I know how their absence has affected our family and the village at large. I know what their biological children and siblings are going through. I know what has happened to their personal properties. I know what happened to N 801 KM, N 809 KM, and N 807 KM. I was one of Mathews’ dependents. I know how the whole issue turned my life around. Initially when Bollen and Mathews were apprehended, I anticipated they would be back soon. Later when they were transferred to Grootfontein I speculated that they will take long. Today as they remain in prison after twelve years I do not know what to say because it has been too long already.


After a month or so, from 2nd August we were informed that another of my brothers (first cousins), John Samati was arrested in Zambia. I felt bad again thinking of his children. I tended to trust justice. But in this brother’s case I realized that justice can be pulled from one side to the other by those in political power. It was in 2004 when his group was acquitted on grounds that the court has no jurisdiction over them because they were abducted un-procedurally. Within a few minutes, they were arrested again. I learnt in this case that justice can be used to humiliate and suppress the poor and the weak. I began to lose trust and faith in the Namibian justice. Measure my faith or trust in the Namibian justice system on Caprivi high treason and you will get zero.


We all know the speed and manner by which the 2nd August 1999; state of emergency was carried out. Just from its declaration by the then president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma and it could be felt even by the soil. Today the relevant authorities fail to declare a speedy and fair trial over those who were detained, tortured, and killed under the said declaration. The trial goes on and on to eternity, at a snail pace. Possibly the trial is over but the judgments withheld! Some of us are physically free from prison, but we are psychologically detained too. It is not really fair to keep human beings for twelve years as suspects, such that only death takes them away from the prison and the trial.


I am writing this letter not to complain but to appeal to every concerned individual or family to live your live for those in prison. I want everyone to contribute towards finding a lasting solution for we know that even if the courts sentence them it will not solve the biggest issue. Judges, prosecutors, lawyers and their witnesses (the state in general) have done its part. It is our time to use our right and responsibility in this matter. It is time to wear their (political prisoners) shoes so that you understand why a walk to freedom is longer. It is time to borrow their hearts and feel how heavy they are and how much they love you. I want you borrow their minds so that you can reason with them. I want you to spiritually and mentally go into prison and see them outside while you are inside prison. Then think and suggest what you would expect from them as you are in prison while they are outside. I want us to be them for a day or so. I want us to take their identity. Let us understand them and do the right thing for them. Let us account for our responsibility as civilians, the society. Let us break the walls of individualism and cowardice silence.


If we take their situation as ours, we will surely know what to do. Yes, they are fed by government; they are having warm and cold showers. Yes they worship the lord, and we pray for them. But one thing I am sure of, that I personally would expect from people who are physically free is a voice, people who would accurately tell my story as if it is theirs. I would need people who would accurately interpret my situation as if it is theirs and tell it to the world. I would need somebody who would understand what it means to be in prison for twelve years as a suspect, as if he or she was in prison. Yes I would need a lawyer, but that is not enough, I would want money but that is not enough, and may need clothing but that is not enough.


The constitution of Namibia in Article 14 (3) states that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state. Society is all people who live in the same country and share the same laws and customs. Convince me otherwise but I am sure that you and I have a right and responsibility in this context. We are the society. We have a homework perhaps not done which is to protect our family. The state has done its part and you know it has failed. Our parents and cousins are dying. No one knows what they are fed in there. We know who is feeding them, not what he is feeding them. The sooner they come out, the better their health and life. We can’t just sit here and there eating, drinking and waiting for bad news from Windhoek Central Prison!


Faith and patience in the judiciary system of Namibia on high treason case is already lost. I always wonder what has happened to our consciousness! Could it be that our body has taken charge of our mind and soul instead of the opposite, such that eating, drinking and driving is enough to satisfy our souls? Could it be that we are not aware of the provisions by the domestic and international laws in cases as this one? I must remind you that you are entitled to freedom of speech and expression. We must speak for our fathers, for our brothers, and for our husbands, etc. This is an opportunity to show empathy, love and responsibility. It is time to show the world that blood is thicker than water. It is a time to show the world that an injury to one is an injury to all. It is time to be convinced that a system (Namibian judiciary) can be used (and is used) to oppress, suppress and humiliate our people. It is time to shape it or ship it out.


Let me also remind you that in previous years some people protested against Mr. Geoffery Mwilima and Bernard Mucheka’s bail application, even calling them “rebels.” They knew the constitution very well. They knew how the courts operate. They know that the judiciary is independent and may not be influenced by any group of people or individual. We also know that. We have reasons to doubt the judiciary of Namibia on the Caprivi High treason trial. Among others, Namibia has no good reason for failing to shape up its judiciary system in more than ten years in order to successfully complete the treason trial within a reasonable time, it is for such reasons that we must stand up. The trial and detention has gone far beyond a reasonable time while our people were denied bail despite illnesses and poor health care.


Brethrens, we would not be free from sin had Jesus not spoken for us to his father and then die for us. Let us speak and stand up for the rights of our family members who are languishing in prison. We must call for an unconditional release of all high treason suspects. Enough is enough. Our greatest responsibility, as an innate right is to live for others. Helen Keller was deaf and blind from the age of 19 months but lived her life for others. What about you? What is your excuse? A dense and loud voice is all they need now than later.


By Manja Manja

In Caprivi Strip

2 Responses to 'Our Right and Responsibility: A Letter from My Heart'

  1. eustace says:

    Mr. Manja, thanks a lot for your timely letter outlining your heart felt convictions and your advocacy for the welfare of those in chains under the Namibian regime. Your analysis and observations about the prevailing condition of hopelessness and fear that continue to overwhelm Caprivians, and consequently paralyzing their intellect and humanity to realize their rights and responsibility toward those in prison is rightly justified. I agree with your assessment that “we should live our lives for others” especially the weak and the voiceless. Just as your referenced advocate for justice and defender of human rights “Helen Keller”, it is my conviction that this is our moment as Caprivians to stand up and fight for our brothers’ freedom from prison and ultimately our collective prosperity and independence as a people. Indeed enough is enough and is about time we shade off the fear that overwhelms our conscience and intellect, because the time is now or never. I stand with you and join hands to call for the release of all Caprivian Political Prisoners from the Namibian Prisons, and the ultimate freedom of Caprivi Strip through an officially organized United Nation Referendum. They (Caprivian Political Prisoners) have given their unselfish contribution, what about us?

  2. claassenjohnk says:

    Thank you,Mr Manja, Your letter touches me if not all Caprivians. Now,it is our duty to remind our people of their responsibilities,in the middle our sufferings,of their responsibility which they bear today. If we do not bring a halt to our fears,silence and differences,we endanger the lives of our people in prison and the freedom/Independence in the Caprivi.Our struggle has reached a decisive moment our march to freedom is Irreversable. Now it is time we pledge ourselves to peace-unity join hands all of you and work towards the betterment of our own people in prison and country(Caprivi). Our struggle is a truly national one.It is a struggle of the Caprivian people,inspired by their own suffering and their own experience.Our people in prison in Namibia to day are our ROCK-HARD FOUNDATION of our STRUGGLE. The repression regime has inflicted more pain on you/me(Caprivians)than any other human being on earth.

    They is no judiciary system in Namibia, Namibia behaves like she is still in a liberation struggle where she displayed her best ill-treatments/inhuman and degrading treatments towards Caprivians in Zambia and Angola. Namibia Constitution, Iam hearing it for the very first time that Namibia has a constitution, any given country which has a constitution, has the obligation to respects it, if not respected then, it’s valueless. Namibia made a copy-cut(constitutions) of other Democratic states,just to please the westeners,not knowing what it meant. How can one be a suspect for twelve years and at the same time torture,killing and suppressing them? It is absolutely absurd and nonsense on part of Namibia regime. “Rebel” Namibia must go back to school and get to know the meaning of “REBEL”. STOP HUMILIATING OUR PEOPLE AND OUR CHILDREN. Why does the term referendum seem to be an insult/ hot potato to the Namibian brute force to accept or allow the people of the Caprivi?


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