Voito Jasson 'Kondjereni' Manyengo: A Dedicated Political Commissar of Typhoon (1951-1983)
25 Aug 2011 - Story by Shampapi Shiremo
IN around 2003, Hans Martin Milk published on the internet the heroic life of Voito Jasson, a young man who left his motherland Namibia in 1974, via Nkurenkuru his home capital to join the liberation movement SWAPO in exile. This article by Hans Martin Milk, which is freely available on the internet, is here worth repeating with minor additions.

A third child of six children, Voito Jasson Manyengo was born in 1951 in Mpungu Valley, present-day Mpungu Constituency of the Kavango Region. He was the son of Jasson Manyengo and Helvi Elina Hango. Like all the other young men of his age in his village of upbringing, Voito Jasson looked after his parents' livestock. Apart from livestock herding, he also had the time to go to school which he diligently pursued until he successfully completed Form 3 (Standard 8). Voito Jasson did his lower and higher primary education at Mpungu and Nkurenkuru primary schools respectively.

Voito Jasson was one of the very few Kavango inhabitants to successfully complete Standard 8 or Form 3 (presently known as Grade 10) in 1972 at Rundu Secondary School. This government school was established in 1967 to fit in with the Odendaal Commission schemes that recommended that each ethnic group had to have its own secondary school. Before that there was not a single secondary school in the entire Kavango Region. The Bantu Education was deliberately designed to keep the black population as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the settler white minority population. The black pupils' ambitions were not allowed to reach above the ethnic set-up. For many gifted Namibians this frustrating experience in the Bantu school system made them politically aware and active. The same happened in Kavango.

In spite of the restrictive Bantu Education system, Voito Jasson 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 pursue this field of study within Namibia at that time. Since his parents could not afford to finance his studies, he applied for a bursary for further studies in South Africa. His hopes were high, and he was terribly disappointed when the rejection came.

Without a clue what to do next, he moved from Rundu to Nkurenkuru and stayed with his sister Eira and her husband, Reinhold Nsinano. 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 where the ELCIN clinic stands today.

These were the years when SWAPO actively recruited members and supporters amongst the rank and file of the students. In 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 these incoming PLAN fighters, and Voito was introduced to them.

During the Christmas of 1974, Voito paid a surprise visit to his ageing mother in Mpungu Valley. Without telling her what his plans were, he bade her farewell. Nobody knew that he would never see his mother again, but the strong and overwhelming presence of the South African army, could not have allowed Voito's plans to pass without imprisonment or death. Already on his way back to Nkurenkuru from Mpungu he experienced the strong force of the South African army; the car in which he was travelling broke down and the army passed by to search the luggage and all the passengers. What they were not able to control was Voito's mind and future plans.

The next morning, on December 26, 1974, Voito crossed the Kavango River to Fort Cuangar. He left Namibia like many of the young people of his age at the time, with the sole purpose to join SWAPO in exile. He went with the sole purpose to make a contribution to the liberation struggle.

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

Probably Voito's long journey into exile first led him to Zambia, were the SWAPO headquarters was at this time, before it was later shifted to Luanda. Voito Jasson was sent for military training in the former USSR on two occasions. The last time he went to the former USSR (Russia) he was in the group of current Defence Minister, Charles 'Ho Chi Mihn' Namoloh for a Commander's course in Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

The first time that the local population again heard about Voito, was in 1983 when he returned as a freedom fighter. By then his nom de guerre was "Kondjereni" (you have to fight for your right). At the time of his death, he was a Political Commissar, of the Typhoon Unit operating in the Kavango Region under the Command of Colonel Haku­shinda Kalomoh. Before his death, he also held several commanding positions in PLAN.

Upon receiving this information, the South African army started to search for him and pamphlets were distributed. An amount of R2 000 was offered to anybody who could secure his capture. The army sought the support of the local people, but to no avail. However, on June 1,1983, (nine years after he had left the country) he fell in action near the South African Army â€" Base of Nepara, about 30 km west of Nkurenkuru. At this stage he was 32 years old. With him, two other PLAN fighters sacrificed their lives. Until today, as in the case with many other freedom fighters no one knows where Voito Jasson 'Kondjereni' Manyengo is buried or what they did with his body.