Bridge for those in exile

Holder of a diplomatic passport, King Elifas used this to the benefit of the struggle for freedom.

29 March 2019 | Cultural

Veteran politician Kanana Nghishoono has described King Immanuel Kauluma Elifas as a freedom fighter, who assisted Swapo leaders in exile to reach out to those inside the country.

Nghishoono said Elifas, the king of the Ondonga who died earlier this week, used his free-ticket visa to the United Kingdom to meet Swapo leaders in exile.

He said Elifas used to come back with documents for Swapo mobilisers inside the country, without this being picked up because of his diplomatic passport.

Elifas was a recognised veteran of the liberation struggle. Elifas ascended to the Ondonga throne in August 1975 following the death of his brother Fillemon Shuumbwa, affectionately known as Fillemon Shuumbwa yaElifas lyaShindondola

Nghishoono said that unlike his brother, who was in an alliance with the South African apartheid government, when King Elifas took over he made sure that all his chiefs were Swapo supporters.

“When politics started in the northern parts of the country, many of the traditional authorities aligned themselves with the then government.

“When King Elifas took the throne he encouraged all his chiefs to support Swapo. He had a good understanding of Swapo because he was a good friend of the later Peter Shimweefeleni Kauluma, who was the founder of the Ovambo People's Congress, which later become Swapo,” said Nghishoono.

“King Elifas appointed Kauluma as the senior headman for Ongulayanetanga and the chairperson of the Ondonga Traditional Authority. He was an intellectual and they used to travel together abroad and he would translate for the king and teach him politics.”

Nghishoono said it all started with church leaders, who used to go to European countries with open-ticket visas, and would end up meeting Swapo leaders in exile in African countries.

He said Kauluma and King Elifas had diplomatic passports and were allowed to travel with open visas that had no specific return dates.

“They would just leave the country saying they are going to the UK. Once they arrived in UK, they would make a U-turn to Lusaka in Zambia or Tanzania. There they would get Swapo passports to go to Luanda in Angola.

“They were then given boxes of correspondence for Swapo mobilisers inside the country. Their luggage could not be searched because they were diplomats. That is how we managed to communicate with our people inside the country,” said Nghishoono.

He said he remembers in 1987 Elifas and Kauluma visited the Swapo camp in Luanda, as well as those in Lubango, Kwanza-Sul and N'dalatando, just to observe how people were doing in exile and to give them messages from home.

Urban and rural development minister Peya Mushelenga, who visited Onamungundo on Wednesday, said that Elifas was a great leader with a unique character, who was admired by other traditional leaders in Namibia, and it was because of this that he was appointed the chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders.

“Omukwaniilwa Elifas was a unifying leader and a caring man who could talk and listen to people from all walks of life, irrespective of their social standing in communities. That is what it takes to be a leader.

“It was for that reason that other traditional leaders recognised his abilities and he became the Council of Traditional Leaders in Namibia's chairperson, a task and duty he executed with excellence,” Mushelenga said.

ILENI NANDJATO

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