In 1971, at the age of 22, inspired by Anglican Bishop Colin Winter, I followed my friends Dave de Beer and lay priest Steve Hayes who had established "The Community of St Simon the Zealot" to support +Colin's brave work in the Anglican Diocese of Damaraland, in what was then called South West Africa (SWA).
Here's a photo of Bishop Colin, taken by Steve Hayes at that time.
I could write a whole book about those experiences, and almost started in 2005 with GHOSTLY BUBBLE: My Odibo students, which you can find by clicking on the Ghostly Bubble link at the top of this page, but for now this is a work in progress, having started as just some bare bones thrown together as I tried to focus on complementing Steve Hayes' (2011) blog post http://su.pr/2LJMoF on the subject of us being deported from South West Africa in March 1972, and the Owambo strike that led up to our deportation, full-scale war by the South African Armed Forces up in Ovamboland including bombing a refugee camp (Cassinga) far in Angola, more pressure from The United Nations, and, eventually, 19+ years of struggle later, the declaration of Namibia as a country independent of South Africa (SA).
At that time South Africa was governing SWA, implementing the Apartheid regime there, including having established Owambo (the northern region, called "Ovamboland" by the English) as a bantustan. i.e. as a labour pool which the Owambo people were prevented from leaving unless they were employed as Contract Labourers. There was a high, guarded fence between Ovamboland and the rest of SWA, and nobody could get through the gate, "Oshivelo" without a permit.
On June 21st '71, at which time I was driving to SWA on a very roundabout route that included visiting Steve Biko in Durban and Rev David Russell in Port Elizabeth and Rev Clive McBride in Capetown, the United Nations World Court finally handed down the judgement that SA was illegally occupying SWA. Steve Hayes's diary entry about the reactions in Windhoek -- the country's capital -- gives a very live account of what the World Court decision meant to the people: http://su.pr/2112jH
This decision triggered a wave of political activism that happened to be erupting as I arrived on July 8th 1971 at St Mary's Mission Highshool, Odibo, about half a mile from the Angolan border in Ovamboland. Bishop Winter had sent me there, to fill the space left by other Anglican church workers whose permits the S.A. govt continuously refused to renew. (whites had to have permits to be in the bantustan the govt was creating in the image of Apartheid South Africa) I was the highschool principal, simply because I was its only teacher.
It was the only school in SWA that taught black people in English, which they valued highly for at least two reasons I was aware of:
1. because it enabled them to understand BBC World Service radio newscasts, especially those about what was going on in the rest of Africa and what the United Nations was saying about S.A.'s occupation of their beloved land, and
2. so that they might eventually be able to pursue a higher education, for instance in other countries if they could get there.
My entry permit from S.A.'s Ministry of Bantu Administration included conditions that "Lodging by whites or coloured with natives is not permitted"; "under not circumstances may a permit holder interfere with the domestic affairs of the native"( read: no talking politics with any Owambo people); "No agitation may be started and the administration of the Government or any of its officials may not be criticised" and "The wearing of ultra-mini skirts or shorts by women in the Native Areas is prohibited".
Here are the first and last pages of my permit:
During the 3 months I was at Odibo before I too got kicked out by the S.A government, 'my' students made it clear that they hated Apartheid, wanted independence from South Africa, supported the recent United Nations World Court decision that S.A. was illegally occupying their country, and that they especially hated the Contract System.
South Africa taxed the Owambo people, so they had to get employed 'Down South' to get cash to afford the taxes. To get this work, they applied at Contract offices that sent them to whomever wanted labourers. The people had no choice about whom they would work for. If they left their jobs before their one-year contract was over, even if it was because they weren't being paid or were being treated harshly, that was a criminal offence for which they were thrown in jail.
Basicly because my students were very articulate, and organized others in Ovamboland, and because I didn't shut them up but rather found subtle ways of helping them research such things as the U.N.. Declaration of Human Rights when they asked where they could find it, and facilitated their Voice, I was expelled on October 15th 1971.
My scrapbook has my written copy of how these students used the Declaration of Human Rights, in the petition they and about 700 students from a government school (Ongwediva) delivered to the office of Jannie de Wet, Bantu Administrator of the territory, when our Odibo students organized a massive demonstration in Ondangua. I could tell in the preceding days that something was brewing, but deliberately didn't ask what they were up to. Suddenly one morning there was hardly anyone in school, and the Special Branch ("SB") showed up demanding to know who was missing. At the end of the day I went to meet them when I heard their chanting as they approached the mission compound. I was relieved to find they were all alive, dusty and bedraggled and satisfied. John Hangula reported that they had been shot at with teargas rubber bullets.
(In December when I went home to Johannesburg over Christmas, when the South Africa Students' Organization's leader Steve Biko and Mongane Wally Serote came to visit me to find out what the students were thinking and doing, Steve's analysis was that the S.A. govt expelled the likes of me in order to send a message to the world that the indigenous people were happy and incapable of criticising the regime, that dissent was only because of "outside agitators").
Here's the farewell from my students on October 15th '71, as I was about to be driven South to Windhoek in Rick and Jean Houghton's landrover:
Top left pic: sadly singing songs I had taught them: Nkosi Sikelele Africa, Turn Turn Turn (I can still hear their pronuncialion: "Tuhn tuhn tuhn".....) Some of the people in this pic that I sent to The Windhoek Advertiser but which got printed backwards are, from right to left: Hilka Joseph, Lucas Kaiyiu perhaps, Joel Alugongo in the tie -- Joel whose eyes were always so sad, Loth Chappel Haukongo's brow, Gideon Iileka, possibly Furancina Nandi's hair, "John (Cabral) Hangula" peeping through , Petrus Naukushu (we called him "Tate" - father - in deference to his age), the impassive fellow whose name I forget but whose apparent lack of emotion was unnerving, and Roger Key who had recently joined me to teach, and who later became a priest and continued to serve in SWA until well after Independence before moving to England.
Bottom left pic:
On the very left, deacon Tate Abraham Hangula. Then Penny Hashongo who I came within a hearsbreadth of meeting again in the late '70's in Nanaimo BC when she was due to come and give a talk as part of a SWAPO contingent, but who died of malaria just before getting there (as many refugees did, in refugee camps in Angola -- I don't know how many others of my students met the same fate), Veronica Nainguedja in striped dress, perhaps Venicia Nghumbwa , behind her Martha Hamola in white hat , and closest to the camera is Veronica Hiyalwa who had the greatest laugh always, and again, behind Veronica, the fellow who might have been Lucas.
Bottom right: Goodbye to Ovamboland, walking through the border-gate 'Oshivelo' with little Edwin Houghton.
Below is another one:
Front row, left to right: Penny Hashongo, Julia Paulus, Veronica Nainguedja, perhaps Venicia Nghumbwa . 2nd and 3rd rows: Monnica Namueja, Olivia Haipenge (3rd row), Vistorina, perhaps Timothy Nghidimbwasha (behind, in 3rd row), ?? unidentified girl, Martha Hamola, ?? unidentified smiling girl behind her, Lucas Kauiu (3rd row), and me on the right. Petrus Naukushu at the back right.
ok then, to jump to the end of this 'chapter' .... after my expulsion from Up North, in December when I was still in Windhoek, working as a 'Cub reporter' for the Windhoek Advertisier newspaper where Steve was a reporter and photographer (as a Lay Priest he supported himself by employment, instead of being paid by the Church), the Owambo workers rather spontaneously went on strike. Ironicly, the strike was spread to other towns and areas by the State-controlled radio broadcasting a statement by a government official (Mr White, or maybe by govt Minister de Wet) that the workers were happy, the proof being that they were there, working. So they said "ok, we'll show him then... let's stop working."
Bishop Colin, Steve and Dave broadcast their issues, found legal help for those who were arrested, etc. I didn't do much other than operate the gestetner machine and other such bacground work.
Here are some photo's Steve took, which I fished out of the Windhoek Advertiser's dustbin not long before both of us were fired from The Advertiser due to pressure from the pro-S.A. Afrikaans and especially the German newspaper Die Allegemaine Zeitung:
The first one is of a typical daily 'cattle shuttle' transportation of Windhoek workers to their workplaces, the 2nd is a strike organizing meeting.
Now here, for Steve its author, and to post an historical document that he doesn't know I have in my hot little hands/ scrapbook, here's his 6-page Diocese of Damaraland report on the strike and the conditions leading to it, and the Church's role:
Not long after that, while I was in Jhb over Christmas "falling in love with" Patrick Colton and having my last ever contact with Steve Biko, the newspapers reported that Steve Hayes, Dave de Beer and Bishop Colin had been served papers deporting them from SWA under The Removal of Undesirables Act, which the S.A. parliament had specially convened to amend so that it would apply to us rather than to German spies during the 2nd World War.
I rushed back asap to help them pack up, and immediately after the Bishop's farewewell sermon I too was served with a deportation order. Our departure was delayed while we launched a Court appeal. The judge listened patiently for a whole day while we showed how we had done nothing illegal, and then at the end pronounced that he was sorry to say that while he agreed we had done nothing wrong, the Act stated that if The Minister declares that anyone is Undesirable, they are, and so we must be out of SWA by midnight or else be arrested and go to jail for a year.
So, after posing for this farewell photo, which is missing Bishop Colin and Dave who had already left,
Steve and I jumped into his little datsun truck ("bakkie") and raced for the border, followed by the police whose headlights persisted through our cloud of dust, and we made it by 10 to 12 p.m.
"Welcome to South West AFrica" indeed! Seems I was feeling rather chuffed that we had beaten the deadline, and besides, the next morning my future husband, Pat Colton, was coming to get me from a border town that wasn't too far from where he was working as a geophysical explorer in S.A.'s NW Cape Province.
By the way, I still have that Basotho-blanket poncho though haven't worn it since a camping trip years and years ago, and .... sigh .... still have cigarette in hand.
And, last time I checked, one of my past students (Thomas Kamati, who has since reverted to his indigenous name, Ndali, and has added 'Che' to his name) was working as a Namibian ambassador.