Academic journal article African Studies Review

Kaxumba kaNdola: Man and Myth. the Biography of a Barefoot Soldier/Armed Liberation Struggle: Some Accounts of PLAN's Combat Operations

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Kaxumba kaNdola: Man and Myth. the Biography of a Barefoot Soldier/Armed Liberation Struggle: Some Accounts of PLAN's Combat Operations

Article excerpt

Ellen N. Namhila. Kaxumba kaNdola: Man and Myth. The Biography of a Barefoot Soldier. Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien, 2005. Lives, Legacies, Legends Series no. 2. xi + 157 pp. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. CHF 50.00. Paper.

Oswin O. Namakalu. Armed Liberation Struggle: Some Accounts of PLAN's Combat Operations. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 2004. xii + 187 pp. Illustrations. Tables. Notes. Bibliography. N$125.00. Paper.

Ellen Namhila, the director of Library and Archival Services in the Namibian Ministry of Education, apparently began Kaxumba kaNdola: Man and Myth at least as far back as August 2000, when she presented a paper, "Kaxumba kaNdola: The Man and the Legend," at a conference entitled "Public History: Forgotten History," held in Windhoek. Kaxumba kaNdola is the Oshiwambo name by which Noah Eliaser Tuhadelini (1918-1997) was known to his neighbors and acquaintances in Namibia. In Oshiwambo (mother tongue of 48.5 percent of the Namibian population, according to the 2001 census), "Kaxumba" signifies "a musical instrument, a harmonica or piano" (5); thus this part of the name acknowledges his singing ability. The second part of the name, "kaNdola," presumably refers to the village of Endola in northern Namibia, where he spent his early years, later made his home, and was buried.

Those unfamiliar with Namibian nationalism and the subsequent war of independence (1966-89) may well wonder who Kaxumba KaNdola is and why he merits a biography. To begin with, Noah Eliaser Tuhadelini is the name that appears in the famous 1967-68 case of State v. Eliaser Tuhadelini and Others in Pretoria, in which South Africa first applied the retroactive Terrorism Act of 1967 to thirty-seven Namibian defendants. It was at this trial that another defendant, Andimba Toivo yaToivo (who wrote the foreword to this biography), delivered the famous speech from the dock that ranks with Nelson Mandela's statement in the Rivonia Trial as a classic in the lexicon of southern African nationalism. Although much was made of that trial in the South African press and also in the international print media and in the United Nations, little of the verbatim trial record (in Afrikaans) was entered into the public domain. Only recently have the National Archives of Namibia acquired photocopies of the trial records, to which the author refers. Moreover, the important role played by the International Defense and Aid Fund for Southern Africa in providing legal fees for the defendants' legal team was kept well hidden until the publication of Denis Herbstein's White lies: Canon Collins and the secret War against Apartheid (Cape Town, 2004) (see review this issue).

second, Kaxumba kaNdola can be regarded as an archetypical Namibian nationalist: a rather traditional yeoman farmer in the northern region of Namibia often known as Ovamboland, then a meagerly educated contract worker in both Namibia and South Africa, and finally a prisoner in Robben Island as a result of the Pretoria trial. In each of these roles he experienced some of the worst privations and humiliations of apartheid. In spite of-or because of- these privations, he became a true believer in the nationalist cause as embodied in the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), as well as an enthusiastic party mobilizer. A sage yet humble man, he came to serve as a role model for many; some called him a "barefoot soldier" (36, 92).

This biography draws on taped interviews with fourteen informants, including family members and fellow Namibian prisoners on Robben Island. To some extent Namhila's pioneering study resembles the volume edited by Barbara Becker (Speaking Out: Namibians Share Their Perspectives on Independence, Out of Africa Publishers, 2005) in that it includes verbatim transcripts of the interviews (translated when necessary), with the author mediating between speaker and listener/reader. …

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