ANOTHER WAR STORY
Somewhere hidden in the mysteries of the late seventies (someone will tell me it was the late sixties) while working for the Department of water affairs I was called up by the dam construction team in Ombalantu, Ovamboland, as know then, to assist with the wiring of a large store and workshop. DWA had a refugee working for them on a casual basis. But the guy was unqualified to do electrical wiring. I was given a mini-bus and spare fuel and told to report to the foreman the coming Monday. I left Swakopmund on the Sunday morning and after tar roads, gravel roads, and sand roads eventually reached Ombalantu that evening. I was lodged in a house used by other workers. The house was empty due to those workers going home on weekends.
The empty room was mine and I could see the construction work outside and some distance away.
After supper which consisted of polony sandwiches hard from the heat. .I checked out the lay of the land and noticed a huge Baobab tree about 5 metres from the back door. Its girth was at least 8 metres. Beyond the tree stood about 5 small RDP type houses which were built to accommodate some of the workers.
While working for water affairs it was common practice to carry fire-arms with one. In this case I went about armed with my R1 military rifle.
After sunset I went to bed only to be woken up by a war on my stoop.SADF personnel were tracking insurgents in the area. They stopped over and we bartered tea or coffee for R1 magazines and live rounds. I was questioned as to what I was doing in a war zone. Being told that does not make your life a bit easier but more uneasily. The weekend passed uneventful and when the workers returned on the Monday I discovered that no tools or material was supplied to do the job. Promises were made that it would be on site in a fortnight. Much of my time was spent hanging around in a war zone.
After working hours the Portuguese contingent would do some target practice in their back yards, not a bad idea. The Portuguese were refugees who fled over the border and obtained unskilled work on the DWA.
Not a bad idea I thought and found an old circuit breaker to use as a target. The breaker was tied to the baobab tree, a bit to the one side to line it up with the kitchen. On the second shot the breaker disintegrated and a second later shouts of rage from the Portuguese. A few came around to my side to see what was going on.. The R1’s bullet travels with a high velocity and the Baobab is a pulpy type of tree.. The bullet passed through the tree and hit the outside wall of one of the RDP houses. When that happens it sounds worse than the dagga brigade on NEWS 24: 12 people on the same spot instantly.
Eventually the job was completed and I remained in the DWA camp for the rest of the week. On that particular weekend a full-blown war played itself out in the camp as insurgents used it as a shortcut. The patrol paid a visit to see if all was ok. I returned to Swakopmund the following Monday.