Cassinga Is Day Of Sorrow

03 May 2018 19:20pm
By Panduleni Amwaalwa
WINDHOEK, 03 MAY (NAMPA) – The graphic memory of a lifeless body being dumped in the middle of nowhere like a dead dog still haunts Martha Shilongo, 40 years after the incident.
Shilongo was only 15 years old at the time.
“Sometimes I find myself under the blankets in my room just crying…Because I am mourning and remembering those who I left in the wilderness,” she said during an interview with Nampa Wednesday.
Shilongo was referring to the attack on the “Vietnam” refugee camp in southern Angola on 04 May 1978 by South African Defence Force soldiers.
The South African troops had gone to the camp to kill those who survived the bombing attack at the Cassinga camp earlier that day.
She said witnessing how the body was dumped from a running truck made all of them who were captured at Vietnam tremble with fear. The young man died on the truck while they were being transported back to Namibia.
Hundreds of other Namibians died during those attacks and several others were injured.
“The trauma that we had to endure was unbearable, as some of us were electrocuted, shot at, which left most of us disabled,” she said while fighting back tears.
Another horrific memory is of a companion being assaulted while carrying a lifeless body on his shoulders.
Shilongo said she survived by God’s grace.
She explained that when the soldiers started the attack, she inhaled a strong gas that caused her to faint, which led soldiers to think that she was dead.
After gaining consciousness, she managed to crawl to a nearby room where she found four other people hiding but after a while, they were discovered by a soldier and captured.
They were transported to Outapi, where they arrived dusty and dehydrated as they were given no food or water.
Some had no clothes on.
Upon arriving in Outapi, they were locked up, but not all of them could fit in the jail cell and some were transferred to the Oniimwandi base in Oshakati, where they were interrogated day and night.
“There was a harsh white man with an unpleasant look that used to carry out the interrogations,” she recalls.
But today she speaks with peace in her heart, saying: “Although commemorating this day fills us with much sorrow, it also fills our hearts with comfort that the government assists us to go pay our respect to those who lost their lives on that day”.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Shilongo said she respects the 04th of May as the day of sorrow and remembering their loved ones who passed on that day.
Cassinga Day is commemorated annually on 04 May