INDEPENDENCE: IMPRISONED FOR DEFYING APARTHEID: KAMEETA
By Anna Salkeus
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
WINDHOEK, 15 MAR (NAMPA) – Disagreement with the status quo or mention of Nelson Mandela's name were among the many other dubious reasons to land one not only in jail, but in solitary confinement during the apartheid era.
There were never not enough reasons for imprisonment, said Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Reverend Zephania Kameeta as he recalled the apartheid era and the suffering that many Namibians underwent.
Mandela was the late South African anti-apartheid leader who was a political prisoner for 27 years largely on Robben Island.
Kameeta was imprisoned three times for defying apartheid.
As a student, who did not belong to any political party, he demonstrated quite often against the South African apartheid regime and the injustices committed on farms in Namibia.
This landed a young Kameeta into solitary confinement for six weeks; others sat there for years.
A person in solitary confinement was kept in a dark place without family or any other visitors.
“I stopped counting the days. I did not know which day it was because it was dark,' he told Nampa recently.
“You are in that small room. There is a toilet, food – mostly porridge from maize meal – was brought in and you had to wash the plate in the toilet pot. After eating, you had to give back a clean plate.”
At other times, those in solitary confinement were woken up at 02h00 to be interrogated about what they would be doing on that specific day.
Kameeta said although he was not physically tortured while in solitary confinement, he was spiritually and emotionally tortured.
“Many of my comrades were beaten up and given electric shocks, and many of them died in police cells.”
Churches spoke out on the injustices and most church leaders were imprisoned, Kameeta said.
Telephones were tapped and letters to prisoners were read by the apartheid intelligence government.
Some of his comrades who suffered the same fate included Axel Johannes and Daniel Tjongarero.
Highlighting the much opposed contract labour system which formed a major part of apartheid, Kameeta said it was a slavery system where people, mostly from the northern, north-eastern and north-western areas, were brought to work on farms.
This system was exploitative and oppressive, paying slave wages not close to the amount of work performed.
“They did not really have a choice and there was no negotiation of how much they would get paid. Some of them disappeared on those farms and didn’t go back home. The system was cruel.”
Kameeta added that the system was brutal and some migrant workers were treated as “half humans”.
“It was the task of the church to visit those working on the farms to encourage and assist them but it was not easy.”
He said many pastors and evangelists who were working and serving those farming areas, were forbidden to visit the farms.
An open letter was jointly written in 1971 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (Elcin) and Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo-Kavango Church, declaring their opposition to the continued South African occupation of Namibia.
Both churches supported the recommendation by the International Court of Justice for South Africa to relinquish its mandate on Namibia and allow the country to transition towards independence.
With the issuing of the open letter churches were visible, and as a result, some church leaders were expelled from the country.
Kameeta said before Namibia’s independence in 1990 there were schools for white children and schools for black children, and one could see the difference in the quality of these schools just by looking at the buildings.
Today, however, schools are not based on colour or race, which is a great satisfaction for him.
“We did not only fight for land, but for Namibia as a whole. Today, I regard Namibia as my ancestral land and when we are placing and settling people, we should think of those who were living at that particular spot so that we do not ignore them but take care of them too,” he said.
Kameeta, a champion of the Basic Income Grant was the first deputy Speaker of the National Assembly at Independence and later served as Elcin Bishop before he retired and was appointed in his current role.
Born on 07 August 1945 in Otjimbingwe, Erongo Region, Kameeta founded the Namibia National Convention in 1975, a group established to promote black consciousness.
He was arrested by the South African regime authorities for protesting against the Turnhalle Constitutional conference.
Kameeta studied at the Paulinum Seminary at Otjimbingwe from 1968 to 1971.
He was ordained as a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1972, and taught at the Paulinum Seminary from 1973 and served as its principal from 1976 to 1977.
Kameeta then served as parish minister in Lüderitz from 1978 to 1981. He was elected vice-president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1982 and deputy bishop in 1985. Between 2002 and 2013, Kameeta was bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN).
From 2003 to 2010, he served as the Lutheran World Federation's Vice-President for the Africa region.