Ramaphosa ignores Venaani request for Kapuuo files

By Eliaser Ndeyanale


SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa appear to have ignored a request by Popular Democracy Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani to declassify government records dealing with the death of first DTA president Clemence Kapuuo.

In March last year Venaani wrote to Ramaphosa asking for documents to help in establishing the circumstances surrounding the assassination of the revered Kapuuo.

Venaani at the time said that declassifying the files was for the sole purpose of remembering Kapuuo’s role in the history of Namibia and for it to be told with accuracy and the dignity befitting a man of his stature.

According to PDM sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko had acknowledged receipt of Venaani’s letter but up to now, 12 months after the letter was sent, Ramaphosa has not officially responded to it, creating the impression that he has given Venaani the cold shoulder.

“No response,” the source said when asked about any progress in the matter.

PDM treasurer-general Nico Smit said that he did not know whether the letter was ever responded to. “I heard about it but I was not part of it,” he told Confidente.

Party secretary-general Manuel Ngaringombe was also clueless about whether there had been any response when asked about it this week. “I don’t think there was a response from South Africa. Maybe you can ask Venaani,” he said.

Attempts to get hold of Venaani proved futile since last week as his mobile phone was out of reach. Smit said Venaani is at his farm in the Omaheke region. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Diko did not respond to text messages sent to her mobile phone.

Venaani is the second opposition leader to appeal to South African authorities to release records pertaining to the circumstances surrounding the death of Kapuuo.

In 1999, late Ovaherero chief Kwaima Riruako urged the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa and the Namibian government to investigate Kapuuo’s death as they had done with slain Swapo activist Anton Lubowski, who was shot and killed on 13 September 1989, but no response seemed forthcoming regarding the unresolved case of the assassination of Kapuuo.

A contemporaneous Wall Street Journal report had it that Kapuuo was killed on 27 March 1978 as he walked into Katutura. Police at the time said Kapuuo – who then paramount chief of the Ovaherero – had been ambushed that afternoon by two men as he approached a grocery shop that he owned in Katutura. He was rushed to the hospital but died shortly.

Police also reported that Kapuuo was hit in the upper part of his body by three bullets. They said the killers, firing through a gate in a wall surrounding the rear of the grocery store, had also hit two of the chief’s bodyguards, but the two were not seriously injured.

As a widespread search began for the killers, the police announced that the bullets had been fired from one (possibly two) Soviet-made automatic pistols, but the police statement avoided calling the death a political assassination.

As president of the DTA at the time, chief Kapuuo was by some versions set to become the first president of Namibia under a South African plan to grant independence to Namibia in 1979. South Africa administered South West Africa (Namibia) under a disputed mandate from the League of Nations until 1989.

Kapuuo was the third tribal political leader to die violently in South West Africa between 1975 and 1978. In 1976, Owambo administration minister of health Toivo Shiyagaya was shot at a political rally at Okahao, while Owambo chief minister Fillemon Elifas Shuumbwa was also shot in August 1975. The police attributed both deaths to “Swapo bandits”.

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