By Eliaser Ndeyanale
THE life journey of 80-year-old freedom fighter and former political prisoner, Peter Shimweefeleni Kauluma, is truly extraordinary.
Last week, Kauluma who is the Ondonga Traditional Authority senior headman for Ongula ya Netanga, sat down with Confidente to give an insight into his experiences.
He spoke of his early days at school, his life in South Africa in the 1950s, and how he was arrested by the South African apartheid government in 1966 in Cape Town, for his involvement in Swapo politics.
Kauluma left his home in northern Namibia when he was in his early 20s, to look for greener pastures in South Africa.
As a teenager, together with his late younger brother, Bishop Hamupanda Kauluma, he grew up in the Royal House of the then Ondonga King, Shihepo shaNamene.
It used to be a tradition and pride to send your sons or daughters to the king, to learn the protocols and customs of the kingdom.
In Oshiwambo it reads okulilonga imikalo do pokati kaanu.
Kauluma spent approximately four years there. He subsequently started going to school at Odibo, in northern Namibia, together with the two brothers of the current Ondonga King, Immanuel Kauluma Elifas, Shuumbwa and Shindodola.
In 1953, he left for South Africa with three friends.
They took to Mafikeng and during the Christmas period of 1953, Kauluma was working in Johannesburg at a place called Landehuure.
He later went to work in Kimberly at a place where Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, Solomon Mifima and others were working.
His employers in Kimberley gave him a month pass to travel anywhere in South Africa, and he decided to go to Cape Town where he met Ya Toivo, Jacob Kuhangwa, Mifima and Peter Mweshihange.
When his month of leave ended, Ya Toivo destroyed his pass and discouraged him from going back to Kimberley, telling him he should rather look for work in Cape Town.
After working at several places, Kauluma landed a job at the French Embassy, where he worked for close to 10 years.
He also assisted his late best friend, and later Namibia’s first Minister of Defence, Peter Mweshihange, with finding a job at the embassy.
While in Cape Town, Kauluma’s political career was born.
He was one of the founder members of Ovamboland People’s Organisation (OPO), a defunct nationalist organisation that advocated for an independent Ovamboland, which Ya Toivo and fellow Namibian workers like Emile Apollous, Kuhangwaand Mifima founded in 1959.
Later, his Swapo membership card was signed by Ya Toivo in Cape Town.
An eloquent Kauluma, who speaks fine English, told Confidente that while working with the then French ambassador, he used to live six months in Cape Town and six months in Pretoria, which provided him with an opportunity to attend evening English classes at the University of South Africa.
“The French ambassador left Cape Town and in November 1966, I was arrested while at work, because of my strong connections with Swapo. I was released in 1968, and I was deported to Windhoek,” Kauluma said.
“They later escorted me to Ondangwa. I appeared in the magistrate’s court where I was told by the magistrate that I was one of the most wanted Swapo activists.
“Fortunately, they did not put me in jail. However, they told me that the authorities would keep monitoring me.”
Kauluma, who is also the Ondonga Traditional Council’s chairperson, is the great-grandson of the respected late Ondonga King, Nangolo dha Amutenya, spent two years behind bars at Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, situated on the foothills of the Constantiaberg in Cape Town, where former ANC struggle icons, such as Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela were also incarcerated.
Before he was appointed as a senior headman in 1982, Kauluma worked as a junior official at French Embassy in Cape Town from 1955 to 1965, alongside Mweshihange, whom he still fondly remembers as a close friend.
Kauluma has known the current King Elifas, the current Ondonga monarch, for half a century.
They first met when Kauluma lived in the Royal House of King Shihepo shaNamene and the current king even bears the name of Kauluma’s father, whose homestead the monarch used to visit in his younger days.
“After returning from Cape Town, we (King Elifas and I) met during my wedding day in March 1971. The king waited for me until midnight, to bring the bride to Uncle Nakwayu’s homestead,” Kauluma said.
In 1982, after the death of Namukwaya Nangolo, who was the senior headman of Ongula ya Netanga, Kauluma was appointed by King Elifas in his place.
“After I turned down the king’s offer four times, he sent an envoy to convince me to be the senior headman. As I was working as a clerk in Ondangwa. I was also a part-time trader. I owned a boutique shop, together with my friend and well-known successful businessman, the late Eliakim Namundjebo. We used to travel to Cape Town to buy stock for our respective shops,” Kauluma said.
He said he has worked together with King Elifas for 35 years, describing him as an “exemplary leader”. Kauluma is full of praise for the king, despite his recent suspension, along with seven other councillors from the traditional authority.
“If one day I have to leave the Ondonga Traditional Authority, I will be leaving as a happy, free and pure man.
“For the 35 years I have worked with the king, I have never, ever experienced any standoff or a bad day with him. I have never seen him angry. It’s an inspiration to all of us, who work under him,” Kauluma added.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015