Unsung: Ellen Namhila
By Michael Tambo - August 2011
Contrary to the popular belief that heroes are those buried at the national shrines, there are people who are living and equally qualify to carry the tag because of the roles they played in the same struggle and cause.
Ellen Ndeshi Namhila is one typical example and was among a group of women in Namibia who was driven by the desire to fight for the liberation of the country from apartheid rule at the tender age of 13.
She narrated how one Sunday morning in April 1976, she decided to leave her uncle’s home to go to Angola and join thousand of other people who had gone to fight for the liberation of the country.
According to Namhila, the journey to Angola was long, tiring and full of anxiety and frustrating in some episodes. She said the fighting spirit was driven by hunger and the quest for freedom, for an independent Namibia where people would not be discriminated by their race or colour. She wanted to be part of women who would bring meaningful changes and contribute to the economic prosperity of her motherland.
At the age of 12, Namhila had been shot by police on her hand and on the leg for walking around after 6pm. She had seen her teachers being harassed in front of school children by the South African Police and had witnessed her uncle being beaten half to death. It was memories of these atrocities inflicted on innocent people at her village that haunted her till the day she took the bold step to go and join the freedom fighters in Angola.
Whilst in Angola, Namhila was recruited for training as a nurse, due to the urgent need for nurses as well as Angolans who sought medical treatment. Eight months after her recruitment, she was sent to Lubango for further training and six months later, she was deployed to the war zone. Namhila was fourteen when she was put in charge of a clinic at Efitu camp where she stayed for nearly a year.
As a nurse in charge, her duties included making sure there were enough medical supplies in the camp. “This meant that I had to travel regularly to the headquarters at Ohaipeto or Kassinga to fetch medicines for our camp. Kassinga was attacked on 4 May 1978 while I was there to fetch medicines,” says Namhila.
Ellen was born in November 1963 in the Omukunda (ward) of Etope of Ondonga district and grew up at Eisembidi and Enghadja, near the village of Ondobe in the present-day Ohangwena district. At the age of five, she was sent to liv...
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