The remarkable Tobias Hainyeko

By Maxton Shitilifa

TOBIAS Hainyeko was born in 1932 in Northern Namibia. He grew up just like any other Ovambo young man looking after family livestock before he moved to Walvis Bay where he was employed in a fish factory.

In the late 1950s, Hainyeko arrived in Cape Town, South Africa just after the formation of Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC). He immediately integrated with the group and became one of its prominent members. Tobias Hainyeko spent many years working in Cape Town, sharing political experiences with the likes of late Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, Andreas Shipanga and Jacob Kuhangwa etc.

In 1959, just before the Old location massacre, he returned to Namibia, but left the country again in 1960 following Sam Nujoma to Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania.

After meeting Nujoma in Tanzania, he learned that Swapo was preparing for armed liberation struggle and became one of the first Swapo members to volunteer for military training.

Tobias Hainyeko led a group of six Swapo members namely John Otto Nankudhu, Lazarus Shanghala, Peter Haitembu, Titus Mwailepeni Shitilifa and Leonard Philemon Shuuya “Castro” to undergo military training in Cairo, Egypt in 1961, then later in Algeria and the Soviet Union. He returned to Tanzania and helped in setting up a military training center in Kongwa, Tanzania for new recruits.

Tobias Hainyeko brought all trained comrades together and moved to establish the first guerrilla force for an armed insurgency.

In 1962, he was appointed the first Army commander of the South West African Liberation Army (SWALA), the predecessor of the people’s liberation army of Namibia (PLAN).

On the 4th of March 1965 he dispatched a group of first combatants from their military camp in Kongwa, Tanzania. He also escorted the group together with Peter Nanyemba via Nakonde, Zambia to the Namibian border at Sesheke to commence the armed liberation struggle inside Namibia.

Through careful planning under his leadership, SWALA established a guerrilla-training base at Omugulugwombashe in northern Namibia. After the guerrilla settled in their new base they started to mobilize and train new recruits and managed to train many combatants before the base was attacked on the 26 of August 1966, marking the beginning of the war of the liberation of the Namibian people.

The most remarkable thing about Tobias Hainyeko’s leadership is that he was in touch with his guerrilla fighters inside Namibia.

After the clash between the South African Defence force and Swapo fighters on 26 august 1966, SWALA leadership under the commander of Hainyeko started to dispatch guerrilla fighters from one group to another inside the country that started to create panic within the South African government.

On 18 May 1967, while on combat mission to improve communication between his operational headquarters in Tanzania and his guerrilla units inside Namibia, he shot and seriously wounded two South African policemen patrolling the Kwando River.

On the same day Hainyeko went to meet a colleague from Namibia at Sesheke village and he was killed in action as he was trying to cross the Zambezi River into Namibia.

Tobias Hainyeko was a true pioneer of the armed liberation struggle of the Namibian people.