Oiva Angula’s new book, SWAPO captive: A comrade’s experience of betrayal and torture is an informational piece of a larger mosaic that makes up the history of the Namibian independence struggle.
Published and edited by a South African company, the book has been touted as another ‘smoking gun’ report by a victim of SWAPO torture in the pits of Lubango from 1984-1989.
But, that is not the only story Angula’s book tells.
I found the first part of the book which recounts the vital resistance work of Angula’s father, Werner Henry Mamugwe and the author’s memories of warm comfort given to him by his grandmother (Hilde Kwedhi Angula) who raised him, important to the reader’s understanding of who Oiva Angula is.
His memory of a negative interaction with a certain traditional authority that supported the apartheid system is yet another piece of the struggle mosaic that is not usually discussed.
In reviewing this book, and comparing it to other individual’s stories about the liberation struggle, I found Oiva Angula’s book to be stark and compelling.
It is a short book and can be quickly read – for the most part, it flows as a narrative.
The Preface tells the readers why Angula chose to write this book, how much pain he still suffers and most importantly, he acknowledges the importance of the victorious liberation struggle.
One critique of the book is that the author and editors fall into the trap of narrating an event from the past, using information gathered in the future. For example, the author says that while in the pits, he was angry that churches did not condemn SWAPO for the torture he and others suffered. And yet, logically, in 1984-1989, he could not have known any specifics about the local and international church bodies he accuses while he was in held incommunicado in a pit. Such information would only have been available after his release. The editors should have done better to separate the first-person narrative from his later subjective conclusions based on subsequent research.
In another critique, the editors have inserted incongruent literary license in words such as “When the sun went to sleep over the great Atlantic Ocean…” This flowery language is a distraction as the author was located in a deep pit in Lubango (far from the sea), and couldn’t see any ocean sunsets. Such words are more for a fictional novel, not a serious autobiography such as this one.
Footnoting is needed (kindle version from amazon.com). Angula writes about being called a BOSS agent, the boeing and uses local terms (like eembwiti). Political/cultural references should be included for better understanding. Books (especially eBooks) are read by people from everywhere and younger generations don’t know anything that isn’t on YouTube.
The author also says that he was tortured and jailed without “the standards of due process” (i.e., written indictments, lawyers, courts, independent judges, etc…) and that the accusers did not use “proper investigatory methods” to find the truth. In the context of his own story about the conditions and era of the events, credibility is strained to believe the author truly expected 2018 rules of evidence, trained investigators, lawyers, courts and magistrates in the middle of a war zone in remote parts of Angola in the late 1980s.
Editorial critiques aside, Oiva Angula’s book, SWAPO captive: A comrade’s experience of betrayal and torture, is a piece in the mosaic depicting the long and successful battle against apartheid. At some point such pieces will need to be discussed openly and then inserted in their rightful places.