Bank Teller Turns Instant Mom In 1988 After Bomb

22 Feb 2017 12:30pm
By Isabel Bento
OSHAKATI, 22 FEB (NAMPA) - For many Namibians, especially those from the northern parts of the country, February 1988 conjures different memories.
For then 25-year-old Emilia Sheetekela, it was the day she became an instant mother of two.
Sheetekela, who is today 54, is one of the survivors of the Oshakati Barclays Bank bomb blast that happened 29 years ago on a busy day in the bank.
She recently sat down with Nampa to narrate what transpired on that fateful day.
“We were very hard at work because the bank was full at the time. While at it, I was expecting my sister to come and pick up the keys from me, as she had to go and wait for me at my house,” Sheetekela related.
What followed a few minutes later changed her life completely. She says she heard what sounded like a container of a gas being opened and released, and not a bomb going off, adding that the bank smelt of steel.
“When we heard the sound, some of my colleagues and I decided to run to the safe room, but just as we were approaching the room, it collapsed right in front of us.”
A “very terrified” Sheetekela and one of her colleagues, however, managed to escape with slight injuries through the back of the building, from where they were later transported to the hospital after things calmed down.
The bomb blast was said to have been associated to the then South African Apartheid government, just a year before the implementation of the United Nations Resolution 435.
About 27 people including bank staff, nurses and teachers died in the blast, while 70 were injured.
It was while at the hospital that she received the news that her older sister, Beata, had passed away.
“People did not want to mention that she was at the bank at the time of the incident. They tried to hide it from me. However, I knew she was there as I was expecting her.
“I immediately thought of my nieces and nephew as I knew she was with them. I later found out the two older ones were in the car outside and unharmed.”
But her three-month-old niece, Silia Amaambo, who was with her mother inside the bank, died the following day at the hospital.
Regardless of the pain and anguish of losing her sister and niece, Sheetekela is grateful she is still alive.
“Despite having lost a friend and mentor, I am grateful to have survived because I got to adopt her children as my own and [have] watched them grow into wonderful adults.”
She believes she was spared for a great purpose, that is to look after her niece and nephew whom she has adopted. She is adamant to live up to the pledge she made many years ago and strongly believes she still has the ability to do so.
“I am now a grandmother and I could not be any happier,” she giggled as she hurriedly walked away to show her 96-year-old mother pictures of the vice-president and herself at the day’s 29th observance on Sunday.
Sheetekela, who is from Ongenga in the Ohangwena Region, has made peace with the event and is now a proud parent of five children, including two of her late sister’s children, whom she said are both married now with children of their own.
Sheetekela is the current sales manager at the Oshakati Standard Bank Branch.