Kavango during the Namibian war of liberation (1966 - 1989)

Voito Jasson ("Manyengo Voitto") (freedomfighter)


Little has been published up to now on the Namibian war of liberation during the years 1966 - 1989. When the literature of SADF and SWATF is left aside, only a hand full of written documents give evidence of the figthing of the Namibian peoples on the side of PLAN and the Angolan Army. In these publications nearly nothing can be found on the role of people from the Kavango in the liberation war. Allthough hundreds of young folks left the Kavango to Angola in the 70`tees, little is known about their fate and personal experience. The following text has been written with the aim to try to help fill that gap. The information was compiled with the help of Eila Nsinano. 

One of the aims of Bantu Education was to keep Blacks of Namibia on the lowest education level as possible. Their ambitions were not allowed to reach above the ethnic set-up. For many gifted Namibians their frustrating experience in the Bantu School System made them politically aware and active. In the 1970'tees many of the leaders of the political Movement were recruited out of those young Namibians who reached a certain level of education in Bantu Education, but who were then refused any further education.

The same happened in Kavango.

1951 Voito was born in Mpungu. He was the third child of six children. His father is Jasson Manyengo, his mother Helvi Elina Hango.

1972 he passed his Matrik at Rundu Secondary School. In spite of the restrictive Bantu Education System he had acquired enough knowledge to know what he wanted to study. Since he was interested in technical matters, he was eager to do further training to become a motor-technician. There were no possibilities to study in this field of study within Namibia at that time. This is why he applied for a place for further studies in South Africa and, since his parents could not finance his studies, he also put in an application for a bursary. His hopes were high, and he was terribly disappointed when the rejection came.

Without knowing what to do further, he moved to Nkurenkuru and staid in the house of his sister Eila Nsinano and her husband. In Nkurenkuru he got to know Teuvo S. Suikkanen, the finnish missionary and manager of the ELCIN-garage, who was a competent technician and teacher. Suikkanen employed Voito in the ELCIN-garage which was by that time on the same site like the clinic.

This were the years when SWAPO actively recruited members and supporters amongst the students. In the western Kavango small groups of pupils met with PLAN-fighters, who found it easy to enter Namibia from the Angolan side. The Nsinano couple had contact with this incoming PLAN-fighters, and also Voito was introduced to them.

By this time UNITA (still cooperating with SWAPO at that time) had an office in Cuangar, with a certain "Colonel John" in charge. He was the contact-person for SWAPO-members and SWAPO-sympathisers in the western Kavango and through him they could keep in contact with SWAPO and PLAN in Angola.

Christmas 1974 Voito drove to his old mother in Mpungu. Without telling her what his plans were, he said farewell to her. Nobody knew that he would never see his mother again, but the strong and overwhelming presence of the south african Army, will not have allowed Voito to have had any unrealistic view of his plans. Already on his way back to Nkurenkuru from Mpungu he experienced again the strong force of the south african army: the car in which he was travelling broke down and the army passed by to control the luggage and all the passengers. What they were not able to control was Voitos mind and future plans.

The next morning, it was the 26th December 1974, Voito left over the river to Cuangar. He finally left Namibia like many of the young people of his age, to join SWAPO in exile. His hopes were to receive a good education, but he knew that the price for that was the loss of his home country and his participation in the armed struggle.

Except of his brother-in-law Reinhold, nobody knew at this stage about this important step of Voito. By this time he was already taken care by the local UNITA commander, who made sure that he was forwarded into the correct channels. When Reinhold and Eila later in the morning saw a plane leaving from the airstrip in Cuangar, Reinhold told his wife about Voitos departure into exile, "Your brother is in that plane."

It is known from Namibian history that in the second half of 1974 and in  1975 about 5000 mostly young Namibians left their country to join SWAPO. The collapse of the Portuguese colonial regime in Angola made it possible that so many Namibians could use Angola as a way out of Namibia.

Probably Voitos long journey into exile first lead him to Zambia, were the SWAPO headquarters was at this time, before it was later shifted to Luanda. Most likely Voito had his military training in one of the SWAPO camps or in one of the African countries armies that supported SWAPO and in the Soviet Union.

The first time that the local population again heard about Voito, was in 1983 when he returned as a freedomfighter. His battle name is in the meantime "kondjereni" (you have to fight for your right). People heard that he was in charge of 300 soldiers under him.

In the mean time the south african army searched for him with pamphlets which were distributed. R 2000,- was offered to anybody who could help to arrest him. The army hoped for the support of the local people. But they could not get hold of him.

On the 1. June 1983 (9 years after he had left the country) he was shot in a fight with an army unit near the South African Army-Camp of Nepara, about 30km west of Nkurenkuru. At this stage he was 32 years old. With him were two other PLAN fighters.

This was not an official war. And were there is no official war, it is not known what happened to the dead of the war. We do not know what happened to the corpse of Voito.

1998 Voito was remembered by SWAPO when they published his name in the list of all who died in the liberation struggle. Except for Voito there are 3 others from Nkurenkuru in that list.

Voito left behind three children who are now in the care of his sister Eila Nsinano. They all are in schools. Their names are as follow:

Hafeni Pandureni in Grade 12, Rundu SSS (2001), Josephine Rukusu Grade 10 Romanus Kampungu SS - Non-Formal (2001), Ndahepa Grade 11, Ondangwa East (2001).


PLAN - Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia (SWAPO´s military wing)

UNITA - National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola

SADF - South African Defence Force

SWATF - South West African Territorial Force

SWAPO - South West African Peoples Organisation

ELCIN - Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia


Further Reading, check also on Kavango.Info Further Reading

- The silent War. South African Recce Operations 1969 - 1994. Peter Stiff. Galago. Reprinted in November 1999. Alberton, 1999. 609 p.

- Koevoet! The inside story by American Journalist Jim Hooper. Southern Book Publishers. Johannesburg, 1989. 236 p.

- Contraband. South Africa and the International Trade in Ivory and Rhino Horn. De Wet Potgieter. Queillerie Publishers. Cape Town, 1995. 195 p.

- Never follow the wolf. The Autobiography of a Namibian Freedom Fighter. Helao Shityuwete. Kliptown Books. London, 1990. 245 p.

- Their Blood waters our Freedom. Glory to the Heroes and Heroines of the Namibian Liberation Struggle. Published by SWAPO-Party. Windhoek, 1996. 320 p.

- Wherer others wavered. The Autobiography of Sam Nujoma. Panaf Books. London, 2001. 476 p.

- The Devils are among us. The War for Namibia. Denis Herbstein & John Evenson. Zed Books 1989.