REMEMBERING 1988: In loving tribute to Joseph “Axab” Hendricks

REMEMBERING 1988:  In loving tribute to Joseph “Axab” Hendricks

The year 1988 was the year that changed not only the course of history of this country, but also the lives of its young citizens forever. It was the year Joseph Axab Hendricks and Steve Rukoro introduced me to the politics of the Katutura complex, where I came to realise that students were planning a Dawid versus Goliath showdown. Shifidi had a pimple-ridden Uhuru Dempers and the late Skinny Owen, we at Hendrick Witbooi branch had Axab Hendricks, and Jacob Marenga had the cadres of the ANC who were always willing to lead the chorus. Axab was a tall boy with a posture of a diplomat, always with one or the other banned document of Swapo or the Combatant newspaper. He would always carry his rucksack over his one shoulder, and forever engage in politics soberly.

We planned it before the first school holiday, but only implemented it during the month of June. No one, parents or the teachers, knew about it. We decided, while the fear of the South Africans was captured at Cuito Cuanavale, that we shall march for our brothers and sisters at Ponhofi Secondary School. I have never been there, but they convinced me that an injury to one is an injury to all. Early that June morning, learners from Döbra Secondary School came marching to Shipena. It was as if the sluices of Quito Cuanavale malfunctioned, as we marched and picked up learners from the smaller schools. By the time Louis Pienaar and Hans Dreyer realised what was happening, we finished at Shifidi and the surrounding primary schools. At the circle before Katutura hospital, the enemy decided we would be allowed to go to the Academy. Instead of retreating, we turned to Khomasdal.

I saw the tiny street of my township turned into darkness as everybody took to the street to demand the removal of the military bases next to schools in the north and the full implementation of Resolution 435.

I narrate this as some think that because we are quiet we did not fight. We are quiet because what we did at the dawn of colonialism was for the love of this country, our motherland. Some marched into independence, some just made it and others not. Comrade Axab left for exile when the situation became unbearable. He had a premonition of what was in exile as he stopped me from following him. He however had no choice. The last time I saw Axab was the evening he came to bid the branch farewell after being released on bail. Axab disappeared into the darkness of the night to the Swapo he loved. Like Teboho Tsietsi Mashinini the rays of the first sun came without him. The embodiment of the student struggle, though not president, disappeared into perpetual silence. Axab had a favourite slogan, ‘from Havana to Moscow, from Moscow to Luanda, from Luanda to Windhoek’. Axab was a boy whose spirit could not be dampened by the might of South Africa or his lonely nights at people’s places. When Axab left Hendrick Witbooi branch he was never to be the same man again.

Back to 1988: I had never seen students of my motherland united for one cause. They were visible, so were the Gwen Lister and John Liebenberg in their Beetle and Reggie Diergaardt, who saved us from annihilation at the Ella River. On that day in June, we brought Windhoek to a standstill, without parents and/or teachers. We had no cars, had known no tribe, but one thing, freedom in our lifetime for all the inhabitants.

Yes, we had a mission and did not betray it. We all played a part at the critical juncture, but our silence should not be misconstrued. The only lesson I took from that year, is that if we unite for a principle we tend to succeed as humans. The only disappointment is that this part of history has not been narrated, and conspicuously absent at the war memorial. The story about our struggle cannot be complete without the contribution of the students of yesteryear.

2 Responses to "REMEMBERING 1988: In loving tribute to Joseph “Axab” Hendricks"

  1. Lashimbungu   August 1, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    thanks for great historic memories of someone and of the spirit of struggle and solidarity that still has a big place in many hearts.

  2. Evelyn Shilamba   August 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I met the brave Axab who stood up for me and protected me from some wolves in sheep skins. I undertook that unfamiliar journey all by myself without telling anyone not even my famous mobilizer uncle, Gabriel Shikongo Nuunjango with whom I lived. May his soul rest in enternal life. Although, I attended Axab’s welcoming party after his release from jail, it was unknown to me that we were bound for the same journey, because those were things you just didn’t discuss. I was very weak and vulnerable as I had just recovered from internal bleeding as a result of a stampede during the Resolution 435 Marching. I was oblivious of what to expect, I could not comprehend the attitude and behaviour of some of “these people” the soldiers, then the reality hit me, we are in the jungle – war zone. I felt protecting with Axab by my side for he stood for peace, justice and fairness. He spoke with authority that even a soldier a gun will obey. We reached our destination, found familiar faces, but then we were divided. I took it as part of the processes, that was the last time I saw him. I made it and he did n’t live to see the fruit of independence. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if he wasn’t in my group. To this day, the pain in my heart cannot subside everytime I think about him. He was God send. I salute you, Joseph Axab Hendricks! Long live Comrade!


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