Portrait of a brave, wit kaffir

On Wednesday - the day after Anton Lubowski was shot dead in front of his Windhoek house - there was a picture front page of policemen putting his corpse into a bodybag. My brain just seized up, saying over and over: Lubof doesn’t belong in a police bodybag. I don’t know who shot him but I know he was killed because he was a “white-Swapo”. And I know he was a “white-Swapo” because he loved the land of his birth with all his heart and because this was the role he had to play. 

He and I discussed it often in the days before he officially joined Swapo in 1984.
People talked about Anton a lot. Even his friends said there was a good deal of showmanship in his membership of Swapo. Things like: “Imagine Lubof running through the Ovamboland bush with an AK-47. Ha, ha!” If they meant that Anton was no revolutionary, they were quite right. Unless there is such a thing as a humanitarian revolutionary who can party until the early hours of the morning, who is partial to tailor-made trousers, silk shirts and fast cars, who cries openly when he speaks about his children who no longer live with him, who has a sense of humour. 

Five years ago Anton and I were drinking beer in the garden of the old Kaiser Krone hotel when a couple of rough boys at the table shouted out at him: white kaffir. I remember as if it were yesterday the way his face lit up. It’s true he said to me, I am a white kaffir. He was too. In spite of his foreign surname, Anton was a boereseun. His mother was a Van der Merwe, if I remember correctly. His father was of Gennan extraction. Anton went to school at the Paul Roos Gynmnasium in Paarl, and to Stellenbosch University. He was even a good rugby player in his school and university days. 

But as Afrikaans as he was - or perhaps precisely because he was so much an Afrikaner - he was also inherently an African. It never ceased to amaze me how easily and spontaneously he fitted into black society. And how warmly and without tokenism the Swapo community in Katatura welcomed him. Two days after the disastrous Swapo incursion on April 1 he phoned me and asked me what I thought about the whole thing. 

I was pretty sharp in my criticism. He listened for a long time, half-heartedly trotted out a few official Swapo excuses, and finally he said: “Ja, actually it is a huge balls-up. But you can’t desert us now. Our cause is just even though we make mistakes.” Anton possessed an unshakeable faith in Roman Dutch law and nurtured a strong conviction that the courts had to be absolutely inviolable in the new Namibia. 

Why do I tell you all this stuff! Anton Lubowski wasn’t such an important man and he had many faults and weaknesses (I should know, I shared in some of his weaknesses . . . ) Do we have to make him into a hero and an example now that he has been murdered? No. Anton was a gentle and very warm person with a good dollop of charisma and an excess of idealism. Not the kind of person whom one would expect to provoke the kind of political hatred which ends in death. But more than this: he had the courage to act out his opposition in a highly polarised community. 

He accepted that southern Africa is not Europe. He made it easier for other white Namibians to leave their fears and inhibitions behind them and to become part of the new Namibian nation. His death must serve as a warning to all of us in this subcontinent. It is the price we have to pay for decades of the politics of hate, of domination and racial division. As far as I’m concerned Anton Lubowski has earned a place in the southern African heroes’ acre alongside the Steve Bikos, the Victoria Mxenges, the Rick Turners and the David Websters. But it is of small comfort to his children, Almo and Nadia who are going to grow up without a father. 

* A personal tribute by Max du Preez. He is the editor of Die Vrye Weekblad, published in Johannesburg. 

Hired hit-man did it, say police 

Windhoek police are intimating that prominent Swapo leader Anton Lubowski was probably killed by a hired hitman. They have arrested a 50-year-old Irish passport-holder who flew into the country two days before the Tuesday incident in which Lubowski was gunned down by an automatic rifle outside his home. The arrested man is expected to appear in the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court on Monday in connection with the killing, Chief Inspector Kierie du Rand of the SWA Police said yesterday. 

The man was arrested at 7pm on Wednesday night in Windhoek. He was driving a hired red Toyota with a Cape Town registration and was carrying a new Irish passport which indicated that he had flown from Swaziland into Windhoek earlier this month, but left shortly afterwards. He returned to Windhoek from Swaziland on Sunday. Police have not released the name of the man they are holding, but say that he is not co-operating with them. - Weekly Mail Reporter

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