Severinus Siteketa

 

Severinus Siteketa

 

Background

 

Severinus Siteketa is one of the recipients of a heroes' medal which were handed out during the inauguration of Heroes' Acre in Windhoek on 26th of August 2002. Together with Jaakko Kangayi (1945 – 2000) and Jona Hamukwaya (1949 – 1982), Siteketa is among the three persons from the Kavango to whom this honour is shown. As the only living person among the three he was honoured for his resistance against the effects of the Apartheid state and "… to ensure that justice is done to all our deserving national heroes and heroines …"[1]

 

 

Family

 

Severinus Siteketa was born on the 23rd of July 1943 in the Kavango village Mukekete, 2km west of Tondoro.

 

(map)

Since his father was an important co-worker of the Roman Catholic Mission Station in Tondoro, Severinus was baptized in the Church in Tondoro (??), two weeks after his birth, on the 6th August 1943 (??) by Father Jakob Noll.

 

 

Siteketas Father

 

Egidius Sinonge (born 13.03.1917 in Kakoro, died 16.09.1988 in (??))

(Parents of Egidius Sinonge: Father: Hausiku, Mother: Nepemba)

 

Egidius Sinonge was taught and baptised (when ??) by the Catholic fathers in Tondoro (in ??). Since he was married to a woman from the Hompa-family, the catholic Fathers tolerated his traditional marriage and did not insist that his wife should also be baptized. Contrary to their normal practice they allowed him to continue his traditional marriage.

After his own basic education at the Mission, Egidius started to teach at Tondoro in the beginning of the forties. In 1948 he was made a teacher in the Roman Catholic Primary School in Nkurenkuru. Together with Thomas Ndonga and Konrad Sihova he formed the staff of that School for 15 years, until 1963.

The Catholic School at Nkurenkuru was founded in 1929 by Father Lorenz Schlag after he received the permission by Hompa Kanuni to build a church/school-building in the north-eastern part of the village. The first teachers at Nkurenkuru were Titus and Franz Mupungu. Since about 1925 Nkurenkuru was a bone of contention between the Protestants (Finnish Mission Society) and the Catholics (Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate) because of it being in the neighbourhood of the “mbara”, the palace of the Kwangali Hompa. By the middle of 1928 the Protestant Mission had secured for itself the permission by Hompa Kanuni to build a church and Missionstation right within Nkurenkuru, while the Catholics had to be content with a spot for their missionstation about 20 km south-east of Nkurenkuru. When the small clay church (used as a school during the week) was constructed and staffed with a black teacher, it became a branch of the main station in Tondoro. In the surrounding of Nkurenkuru, which was dominated by the European protestant missionary and his staff, the small catholic congregation formed a minority and the teachers (who were at the same time helping with the services on Sundays) had no easy stand.[2]

 

 

Siteketas Mother

 

Veronika Kandombo kaSidonga

 

Veronika Kandambo kaSidonga (* ??)

Through his mother, Siteketa is directly linked to one of the Kwangali Hompa branches (“esimo lyekurona”), who settled in Mukekete in (??). His grandmother Nasira zaNdjuruua was a sister of Hompa Kanuni. Like Kanuni, Nasira was baptized on her deathbed somewhere in the 1970´tees by father Romanus Kampungu and was given the Christian name Clementine.

In spite of the fact that all her children were baptized shortly after birth (Johanna Nepemba, Severinus Siteketa and Adam Kabono), Veronika Kandambo kaSidonga stuck to her traditional belief till the birth of her fourth child (Theresia Muharwa), with whom she was baptized in 1948.

Lineage of the Kwangali Hompas, here the “esimo lyekurona” from the Mukekete-branch

 

Schooling and the beginning as a Schoolteacher

 

Siteketa went to the Primary School where his father was teaching at Nkurenkuru. Here he did his first two School-years Sub A and Sub B. Since the catholic Primary School at Nkurenkuru was supervised by Father Jakob Noll (20.04.1908 - 13.04.1972) from Tondoro, Siteketa already came in contact with this O. M. I. Father at an early stage of his life. Siteketa completed his Std. 1 and Std. 2 at the Mission-School in Tondoro where the contact with Noll deepened. Father Noll, who had already baptized Siteketa in July 1943, would play a decisive role in the life of Siteketa and a close relationship would bind the two till the death of Noll in 1972. It was Noll who made Siteketa to go to St. Joseph School at Döbra in December 1956 to continue his schooling and complete a Teachers Diploma Course. Students from Kavango (with Siteketa was Edmund Nairenge, Nicolaus Nujoma, Franz Katura and Erwin Musunga) had to repeat their Std. 1, before they could continue up to Std. 6, after which Siteketa did his Teachers Diploma Course which he finished in December 1964. It is recorded that students from Kavango had a tough time in Döbra: their basic education was much weaker then the others and they were only to visit Kavango once every year.

In the following year Siteketa finally returned to Kavango and started to teach in Tondoro, where Sister Reginalda was the vice-principal. As a young teacher he had no own house and stayed on the Mission-Compound.

On 31.08.1964 Siteketa was send to Ekuli (ca. 10km southwest of Tondoro) by the Catholic Mission to start a Primary School there. The Primary School Ekuli offered the first two years, Sub A and Sub B. Together with his duties as a teacher, Siteketa was made a catechist to serve catholic members in his surrounding. As a salary he received R 35,- per month, not enough to live on, was it not for his incomes from his shops in Mukekete and Tondoro which replenished his meagre income. In 1971 Ekuli Primary School was taken over by the South West African Administration, in whose service he stayed until changes in his career in 1974.

 

Severinus Siteketa in front of the catholic church, Ncancana

 

 

Marriages and family

 

Severinus Siteketa was married to Cecilia Naita on 23.08.1968 in Tondoro bei Father Noll. Cecilia was from Nkonke and belonged to the Wakwanzadi (falkon) clan. Together they moved to his uncles (Maurus Katewa) homestead before he was transferred to Ekuli shortly after their marriage. With his first wife he had four children, of whom only one was still alive in 2003 (Maria Theresia Nahambo). Siteketa`s first wife died in (??).

 

After the death of his first wife Severinus Siteketa married again in 1971 (??). His second wife was Emilie Nanguronhi (born 20.11.1953) who belongs to the Nankudu-line of the Kwangali hompas.

They have 8 children:

  • Heinrich “George” Haimbili (born 10.11.1971)
  • John Sidonga (born 23.10.1974, died (??))
  • Adam Kabono “KrotzII” (born 1976 (??))
  • Annastasia Mbunze (born 11.09.1978)
  • Veronica Kandambo (25.12.1980)
  • Ireneus Haingura (born 04.03.1986)
  • Daniel „Sam“ Nauyoma (born 10.06.1988)
  • Renathe Sidona (born 18.12.1995)

 

Severinus Siteketa`s third wife was Theresia Mpande. Theresia Mpande belongs to the Mangondo-line of the Kwangali hompas.

They have 6 children:

  • Marthin Mukuve (born 1972 (??))
  • Egidius Sinonge “Papaye” (born 1976)
  • Frans Jafet Kauma (born 1979)
  • Maria Mathe (born (??), died (??))
  • Petrus Sifura (born 01.09.1985)
  • Paulus Hawina (born 21.03.1988)
  • In (??) he was divorced from Theresia Mpande.

 

Severinus Siteketa is married to his fourth wife Christine Mudi.

Thea have 3 children:

  • Ritha Mpande (born 14.11.1979)
  • Annakleta Mathe (born 17.01.1983)
  • Amos Sirongo Kanime (born 20.06.1996)

 

Siteketa has always taken special care that all his children got the best possible education possible. Many of them finished their studies in Döbra like himself, and all of them managed to start a promising career.

As a foster father he has supported the education of Tobias Ncame, a son of one of his Bushman workers on the Ncancana farm.

 

Siteketa with some of his children and foster son Tobias Ncame (left) during holy communion in Mariabronn

 

The fact that Siteketa practiced polygamy since 1972 (??) brought him in conflict with the guidelines of his church and he was excommunicated in (??). He himself however kept attached to his religion, an attachment which he demonstrated by the building of a church on his farm in Ncancana.

 

 

Entrepeneur

 

Builder and Businessman

Since early in his professional career, Siteketa showed a keen interest in business. Through his close contact with the catholic fathers and brothers at the missionstation, who were self-reliant in those years, he learned a number of skills that enabled him to create an additional source of income.

It is said of Jakob Noll that he produced the half a million bricks that he needed for the construction of the big mission cathedral in Tondoro over a period of 14 years in his spare-time.[3] The same can be said of the bricks which Severinus Siteketa produced for the number of shops and other buildings that he build. Siteketa had learned the special skill of producing and burning the clay-bricks from Noll and Laub at Tondoro. Collecting the correct material from the right loam pit, mixing it with the adequate amount of sand and water, forming the bricks, constructing the appropriate form in which a huge number of bricks could be burned over many days, gather the wood of the (??) tree for the fire, all this needed the practical hand of an experienced builder. After starting to produce his first bricks and acquiring the necessary trading licence, he build his first shop in Mukekete (a few kilometres away from Tondoro) in the year (??). Other buildings and shops followed in Ncancana, Ntara, Kasivi and Nankudu (1983). All these were build with the proven method of the clay-bricks and the tiring work became a little bit easier when he inherited the old ox-waggon of the Missionstation for the transport of the wood.

 

Severinus Siteketa burning thousands of clay-bricks

 

Clay-bricks ready to be used

 

 

The Farmer

 

His success as a businessman encouraged Siteketa to venture also as a farmer. In 19(??) he got the permission by the Hompa to start farming at Ncancana in the Namungundu Omuramba. The remoteness of the place, the presence of wild animals and the thick, untouched Savannah-bush made the beginning very difficult. However, his strong initiative together with the workforce of the local Bushmen and the fertility of the Omuramba-soil also made this endeavour a success. His abundant harvests of Mahangu made him a rich man over the years. He used both traditional ploughing-methods with the ox-plough as well as modern methods with tractors. Siteketa invested large sums in his farm, bought Jersey- and Braham-cattle from the commercial farms in the Otjiwarongo district and proofed that the crossing of these breeds with the traditional Sanga-cattle (??) of the Kavango are well adopted to the local climate and produce more meat than the local cattle.

 

Siteketa on his farm at Ncancana at one of his self-constructed installations

 

 

The language expert

 

Belonging to the “esimo lyekurona” – the old line of the Kwangali Hompa lineage – Siteketa was always interested in the tradition and language of his ethnic. This was not unnoticed to the Authorities and in 1974 he was requested to move to Rundu and work as a translator. Not only was his deep knowledge of Rukwangali of use but Siteketa speaks also Afrikaans, English, Herero and Oshikwambi.

In the beginning of the 70`tees far-reaching political changes were implicated in the Kavango region. After the “Development of Self-government for Native Nations in South-West Africa”, which was proclaimed by a South African law in 1968[4], the South African Government installed a “Kavango Legislative Council” with Proclamation No. R. 196 in 1970[5]. This was changed in 1973 with the “Declaration of Self-Governing area and constitution of legislative council” of Proclamation No. R. 115[6]. Now Rukwangali was recognised as an official language of Kavango and all the votes and proceedings of the “Legislative Council” were recorded in Rukwangali, Afrikaans and English. No wonder that people like Siteketa with his language knowledge was needed in this new structure. This was also the reason why he was made a member of the language-committee (with J. K. Kloppers as chairperson) for Rukwangali in 1974.

The “Inboorlingtaalburo” (Native-Language-Office) was established in 1966 within the Department of Education in Windhoek.[7] The aim of this office was to develop Namibian languages and to prepare the introduction as language of instruction at the schools. The concept of the language-committees were to guarantee a support by local language experts for the office in Windhoek.

The work as a translator within the “Legislative Council” was ended when Siteketa was transferred to the newly established Radio Kavango in February 1975. Together with Joseph Mokoja, (??) Shamrambo, Eduard Sikerete, Kauko Nairenge and Olavi Munango, Siteketa formed the team of Kavango producers and speakers of this institution in Rundu. Within the frame-work of “Self-Governing” Radio Kavango was the instrument that was used by the South African Authorities to propagate the concept of homelands and to support the local Kavango people who were part of it. A short summary of related dates will show the volatile nature of the year in which Siteketa was employed at Radio Kavango:

  • In 1966 SWAPO had started its armed struggle
  • In 1971 the International Court of Justice declared South Africa occupation of Namibia illegal
  • In 1971/72 big strikes amongst contract workers (also Kavangos) brought the economy to a halt
  • On 29th and 30st of August 1973 the first Bantustan elections were held in Kavango and werer boycotted by SWAPO

During these years of political confrontation the anti-SWAPO stance of Radio Kavango was broadcasted all over Kavango and all those working within this system were regarded and branded by SWAPO as “stooges”. Years later, their lives are also endangered, even though Kavango was regarded as a non-combating region. In November 1984 Olavi Munango was killed in an armed attack by a PLAN-fighter in Mpungu.

 

What made Severinus Siteketa change sides. (??)

 

On 31.08.1979 Siteketa resigns at Radio Kavango and moves to his farm at Ncancana.

 

 

The community leader

 

The fact that Siteketa belongs to the “esimo lyekurona” makes him also one of the traditional leaders in the Western Kavango. This was manifested when he was made one of the masimbi in 1965 at an age of only 22 years. In was Hompa Kanuni who made him a masimbi for the Kahenge-area during her second period of reign (1958 – 1972).

With the education of the young Kavango people at heart, Siteketa showed his keen interest in educational matters by working as a chairperson for the Schoolboard of Mariabronn and Kandjimi Murangi SS and being a member of the Schoolboard of Döbra.

His leadership as a catechist within the catholic church rests since his conflict with his church in 1972. (??)

Since the reign of Hompa Mpasi Sitentu in 1978, Siteketa has not hold any function in the traditional power structure. (??) He has not taken up any position because he does not want to stand against the present Hompa. He privately criticises the Hompa because he feels that he is advised by the wrong people, “friends” who are hiding behind the Hompa. Siteketa mentions as a critical point that the Hompa speaks openly against the invasion of Kwanyamas in the far western part of Kavango, but Hompa is not really prepared to do something about it, because of his “friends”. The influx of Kwanyamas is also influencing the role of the Hompa house. When Siteketa was asked about the future of the Hompa-house he says, that the future is not clear at all, because the old people around Hompa want to, and manage to prevent all kind of changes. Siteketa complains that the present Hompa and his advisers practice “no democracy” at all.

 

 

The system strikes back

 

The remoteness of Siteketa`s farm at Ncancana and its location at the fringe of the vast, unpopulated area between Kavango and Ovamboland made it most suitable for PLAN fighters to use it as a place to replenish their rations of food and water. The South African military found it difficult to continuously control big area of Savannah-bush and their next base was at Mburu (??), 35 km away from the farm. Siteketa will have used his knowledge of the Kavango region and its people to the advantage of his contact with SWAPO at that level.

 

The South Africans wanted to minimize the SWAPO influence within the Kavango population as far as possible since the model of Self-Governing in Kavango – in comparison to Ovamboland – was considered to be very successful. SWAPO-sympathisers and supporters, and all those whom the South Africans felt belonging to that group, soon felt the wrath of the Authorities.

Siteketa experienced part of it when in (??) his car exploded a landmine on a bush-road at Kamumpupu near his farm. Three persons died, amongst them a 3-month old baby. The driver Stephanus survived the attack. Those responsible for the mine shortly afterwards turned up at the scene – they were members of the Special Forces, amongst them Jona Ruben, Nairenge, and Elias Hamutenya – only to find out that Siteketa was not in the car during the explosion.

 

In the beginning of the 80`tees the arrests of people from the Kavango by the security forces became public. Through the local churches, the Council of Churches in Namibia, the Namibian Christian Democratic Party and Amnesty International the information about these arrests could not be kept secret in the remoteness of the Kavango but were disseminated nationally and internationally. In December 1983, for example, a group of more than 20 detainees were released, amongst them Rev. Heikki Ausiku, Gideon Nestor. They reported about beating and torture during detention. Others remained in detention without their family knowing where they were kept.[8]

In November 1982 the young teacher Jona Hamukwaya was beaten to death by Koevoet near his School in Namuntuntu. Siteketa, together with Heikki Ausiku, visited the scene shortly afterwards and guaranteed that the information of this gruesome event reached the outside world. Now Siteketa was in the centre of political activity, revealing futher detentions, pursuing court cases against the security forces and supporting families whose relatives had been effected by the activities of the occupying forces.

Not long and he himself was a victim of this system. In June 1984 he was arrested at his shop in Mukekete and taken to Murorani at the control post along the tarred road. Here the special forces made use of the police station with its neglected 4 cells. Here he was kept in solitary confinement, tortured with electric shocks, denied any food or received bad food. This treatment nearly killed him. After 6 months of this treatment he was released and returned together with Mpasi Hausiku and his brother.

His second arrest was in the following year and was done under the notorious AG 27. Under this proclamation by the Administrator-General “ … all commissioned and non-commissioned members of the South African security force, the military and the police are empowered to detain any person uncharged and incommunicado for up to 30 days for interrogation” and the detainees “… have no right to know the reason for their arrest”.[9] In spite of these regulations which contravened all civilised rules of law, Siteketa found the conditions of this second arrest more tolerable than of the first one. He was taken away while he was doing his shopping at the ENOK shop in Rundu and taken to Osire, some 600 km away from the Kavango. Here he was kept for 4 month before the security forces took him to Bethanie, even further in the South of Namibia. But he was not alone. Amongst the ca. 40 detainees were other Kavangos like Jaakko Kangayi, Kanko NaNairenge and Gideon Mpanse. He was kept in cells with 12 – 15 other, all political detainees from all over Namibia. Shortly before Christmas 1985 he was released.

Back in Kavango, his time as a free man would not last very long. Already two weeks after his release, in Januar 1986 he was taken by Koevoet to the notorious torture camp “Bitter Soet” near Nepemba. This camp was hidden in the thick forest about 2 km east of the tarred road to Grootfontein, 30 km south of Rundu. Even amongst the military it was disguised as a police training camp, sometimes refered to as “Malan`s Camp”.[10] In reality it was used as a detention camp by Koevoet and equipped with torture facilities and far away from inhabited areas to safeguard an undisturbed surrounding for the Koevoet henchmen. Kept in extreme harsh conditions, he suffered in the small cell of made completely out of corrugated iron under the incredibly heat of the days and under the exposure of the nights. Torture and mistreatment was part of the daily routine of the Koevoet soldiers who kept themselves so unidentifiable that Siteketa even had to turn towards the corrugated iron sheet when they opened the cell door to push in food. After another 6 month he was set free.

After this systematic mistreatment the 43-year old Siteketa look like an old, broken man, unrecognizable even to his family.

Siteketa after returning from 6 month in Koevoet detention

(Original Foto taken by Father Krummscheid)

 

Siteketa`s good connection with the catholic mission safe guarded him a good medical care in one of the best hospitals in Namibia. In the Catholic Hospital in Windhoek he was treated for more than 2 Months by Dr. Karina. Although he only weighed 32 kg, his health was slowly restored.

 

Siteketa after his release from hospital.

 

Siteketa (right) after his release from hospital, together with his wife Emilie Nanguronhi and the driver of Rudolf Ngondo, Paulus Sikindo Mangundu.

 

Little did a court case against the South African Authorities change something about the real sufferings Siteketa had experienced in the one and a half years of detention. Finally, in September 1986, the Authorities agreed on an out-of-court settlement (like in all other similar cases,[11]) and Siteketa`s lawyer Hartmut Ruppel attained a payment of R 36 000,- for “… damages arising from the time in detention” for his client.

 

 

Independence

 

The Independence of Namibia and thereby the full integration of Kavango into the Namibian nation brought fame and new challenges for Siteketa. He was made chairperson of the SWAPO-branch of western Kavango and in this function helped organize the first, free and fair, national elections in Kavango. In spite of other predictions, SWAPO proved its dominance also in this region.

One of his new tasks was to help repatriating and integrating the ca. 500 Kavango returnees who came back from exile to their home region in western Kavango. As the chairperson of Counterpart Committee he had to solve many practical problems and help to overcome distrust and prejudices on both sides.

 

A crowd of 2000 - 3000 people are addressed by Sitekea (standing on the pick-up) during the welcoming celebration for returnees in Kafuma, near the SWAPO-office in Nkurenkuru. In front of the car: Jaakko Kangayi, Heiki Ausiku, Hompa Mpasi Sitentu, Alex Muranda.

 

On many an occasion he is asked to give a speech.

 

Siteketa on the 10th anniversary of Namibian Indepence at Kahenge Tribal Office. Next to him Reinold Muremi and Karl Kasiki.

 

 

Another War

 

In the years 1999 - 2001 the life of people in the Kavango was disrupted again as violence from the Angolan civil war spread into Namibia. At the end of 1999 the Namibian Government allowed the Angolan Army to use the infrastructure on the Namibian side of the Okavango river to launch their attacks on UNITA strongholds in south-western Angola. Undisciplined soldiers of the Angolan Army and marauding UNITA troops endangered the life of the Kavangos. Civilians, under them schoolteachers and shop-owners were bearing the brunt of the banditry. In many cases the communication problems with the Namibian Special Field Force – who had been called in by the Namibian Government to protect the Kavango population – are not really helping, but made the suffering for the Kavango people even harder.

The raids on shops along the river effected the business of Siteketa very seriously. Since 1995 the activities of UNITA had already undermined the further development. During 1998 - 2001 his shop in Kasivi was robbed five times. During the last attack his shop-keeper was nearly killed.

But more than the material loss through raids and attacks is the loss of human life. On Sunday, 28th May 2000, the uncle of Siteketas shop-keeper is killed during an explosion of a landmine in a church-service. Amongst the many people of the Kavango who were killed during those years is also a relative of Siteketa. In the night of the 28th August 2000 the husband of his oldest sister, Gabriel Nzowo, was killed by unknown robbers in his room in Mukekete. Out of fear for further attacks Siteketa moves homestead of his relatives away from the river to the south of the road. But the treacherous attacks continue. On (??) 2000 the grandson of Siteketas sister, also with the name Gabriel Nzovo, lost his right leg when he exploded a landmine in front of the house when he returned from School in the afternoon.

 

After All

 

An old Kavango proverb says: “A tree dies, a tree sprouts again!” At the age of 60 and after such a tough life, Severinus Siteketa has not lost hope. As one of the sons of Kavango he knows that God has not forgotten the region and that a righteous life will, one day, be the hard-won reward for their struggle.

 

 

 

Mpande Lydia                                                             Andreas Siteketa

Daughter of Hompa Kandjimi Murangi

Mutter: Maria Magdalena Mbava

 

©hmmilk



[1] The Namibian. “Thousands witness Heroes Acre inauguration.” Tuesday, August 27, 2002.

[2] What happened with the father after 1963??

[3] Kavango. Alice Mertens. Purnell. Cape Town, 1974. p. 31.

[4] Official Gazette. Extraordinary of South West Africa. No. 2910. 19.07.1968.

[5] Government Gazette. Republic of South Africa. No. 2770. 14.08.1970.

[6] Government Gazette. Republic of South Africa. No. 3880. 04.05.1973.

[7] baNtu. May 1966. p. 150.

[8] Amnesty International. Info report 1984 for the period January – December 1983.

[9] Amnesty International Index. AFR 42/

[10] Fred Bridgland. The war for Africa: twelve months that transformed a continent. P. 119.

[11] Amnesty International Newsletter. March 1985. Volume XV No. 3.

 © 2003 Hans Martin Milk,