The life journey of Sebastian Ndeitunga - News - Gondwana Collection

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The life journey of Sebastian Ndeitunga

Avatar of inke inke - 24. July 2019 - Discover Namibia

As a young boy Sebastian Ndeitunga lived in this now dilapidated corrugated iron hut on the farm Nuichas 2 all by himself for more than a year. He was left to his own devices while tending farmer Fanie Coetzee's Karakul sheep.

Dirk Heinrich

The Inspector General of the Namibian Police Force, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga, takes a long look at the collapsed corrugated iron shack and the parched tree next to it. Some 30 metres away is an old water reservoir built from bricks and the outline of a sheep kraal can still be seen. “This is where I lived on my own as a boy for more than a year and looked after 601 Karakul sheep. I never dreamed that one day I would return here in a helicopter and hold the position of Inspector General of the Namibian Police Force”, Ndeitunga says. He tells the current owner of the farm, Dr Dries Coetzee and his wife Magda, about how he drove the sheep across the stony ground to the pasture in the surroundings every day. On Fridays he had to take all 601 sheep to the farmhouse, several kilometres away, to be counted by the owner, Fanie Coetzee, who later became one of the country’s representatives in the South African parliament. After the sheep were counted, the little shepherd received his ration for the week – meat, mielie (maize) meal, coffee and sugar – and herded the animals back to the kraal.

General Ndeitunga arrived at the place of his first employment by helicopter. He stopped there after a visit to Keetmanshoop, where he officially introduced the new Police Commander of the //Karas Region, and was on his way to Gondwana Canyon Lodge to discuss possibilities of cooperation in search and rescue operations in and around the Fish River Canyon.

Sebastian Ndeitunga, born in 1962, spent his childhood in Ohakadu north of Oshakati on the border with Angola. He had lost his mother at a very early age and lived with his maternal uncle. When he was just eleven years old he applied in Ondangwa to become a contract worker. “Us boys were only allowed to work as shepherds in the south of the country, while young men were assigned jobs on cattle farms, in the fish factories or on the mines”, he explains. His application was accepted and soon after that he found himself on a bus to Grootfontein, then on a train to Windhoek and on to Keetmanshoop.

The young boy, who did not speak any Afrikaans or English, arrived in Keetmanshoop on a Saturday. The train to Konkiep, now Goageb, departed on Monday. Sebastian had been raised as a good Christian and when he strolled around the station on Sunday he came upon a church and entered. “Everybody looked at me and I thought they did so because I was late”, Ndeitunga recalls. After the service he was standing outside and the men who passed him said pasop! Eventually some blacks told him that pasop means watch it in Afrikaans and that he was lucky they let him be because the church was for whites only.

On Monday Sebastian was fast asleep when the train pulled into Konkiep. They were almost in Aus when he and some other boys were woken up and scolded by the conductor. Three days later the train stopped in Aus on its return trip, and on Thursday Sebastian was met in Konkiep by Sybrand Coetzee, the brother of farm owner Fanie. Farm Nuichas 2 was unofficially known as Stofbakkies. At a short distance from the farmhouse Sebastian was dropped off “in a bend of the main road” with instructions to follow a footpath towards west to a cattle post where he would find a Damara-speaking shepherd. The Damara explained to young Sebastian that the hut where he was going to stay was a few kilometres further on at the trough and kraal for the sheep which from now on he would be looking after.  

 “Once, when I returned to my hut after a day of tending the sheep, baboons had broken in and stolen all my supplies”, Ndeitunga remembers. “Out of desperation I slaughtered a lamb, which fortunately was never noticed.” He had only a tattered jumpsuit to wear and he was struggling with the hard bristlegrass and the many stones everywhere. There are almost no stones in the central north of Namibia, there is just white sand.

The site of the cattle post where Sebastian Ndeitunga lived in 1973 with the animals he tended as a shepherd. In the foreground on the left it can still be seen where the sheep kraal and the water reservoir were. His corrugated iron hut was in the dry riverbed to the left of the trees.

After a few months at Nuichas he met a shepherd from the neighbouring farm who told him that SWAPO, the liberation movement, would explode a big bomb in the area and many would die. “I wanted to get back to Ovamboland, even though my contract was for 18 months and I had worked for a little more than a year at that stage”, General Ndeitunga says. “I was paid 10 Rand a month and Coetzee promised me 11 Rand if I stayed. So I stayed on, but I was always afraid of that bomb that was supposed to go off and still wanted to leave.” Coetzee persuaded him to tend sheep for his widowed sister Anna Steenkamp, on neighbouring farm Koppies, for 12 Rand a month. When one day a sheep was missing, young Ndeitunga decided to quit. Anna Steenkamp and Coetzee gave him all his wages, but Steenkamp refused to pay for his train ticket because he was in breach of his employment contract.

“I want to emphasise that I was never mistreated during the 17 months which I spent on farm Nuichas 2 and at Koppies”, General Ndeitunga says.

“In Keetmanshoop I bought my ticket to Grootfontein and then went shopping for a lot of things. Afterwards I had no money left because I did not have the nerve to put anything back before going to the till.”

When he arrived in Grootfontein he was unable to pay for the bus to Ondangwa. He took on a job at a Portuguese fish & chips shop for R28 per month. “I soon realised that most of the employees pinched this or that, and one day I swiped a tin of food”, the chief of police recalls. “On that very day another employee was caught stealing and it transpired that most of the staff helped themselves to things. All of us were fired.” Young Sebastian worked at a construction site for a few weeks and then found someone who was going to smuggle him to Ondangwa – for a fee, because he was in Grootfontein illegally and had worked without a permit. And so it happened that in late 1974 Sebastian Ndeitunga, now 12 years old, was shipped back to Ondangwa in a box on a bakkie (pickup) via Oshivelo, the checkpoint into Ovamboland.

Shortly afterwards he was recruited by SWAPO (South West African Peoples Organisation) and taken to Angola, where he joined PLAN (Peoples Liberation Army of Namibia), the armed wing of SWAPO. 

Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga in conversation with the current owner of the farm, Dries Coetzee (left) and his wife Magda (2nd from left), as well as Commissioner Schalk Meuwesen (2nd from left), who was stationed in the south for many years.
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