Heroes' Day (Namibia)

Heroes' Day is a national public holiday in Namibia. It is recognized by the United Nations as Namibia Day. Celebrated annually on 26 August,[1] the day commemorates the Namibian War of Independence which began on 26 August 1966 at Omugulugwombashe.[2]

Heroes' Day
Official nameNamibia Day
Observed byNamibia
Date26 August


In 1966 the United Nations General Assembly revoked South Africa's mandate to govern South West African territory and placed it under direct UN administration. South Africa refused to recognize this resolution.[3] South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) at that time prepared for armed resistance and founded its armed wing, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) in 1962. Many of its erstwhile commanders were in exile but PLAN began to infiltrate the north of Namibia to establish training camps. Omugulugwombashe was one such training camp, established in June 1966 by PLAN commander John Ya Otto Nankudhu. The group under Nankudhu had just started to build defensive structures[4] and planned to train about 90 soldiers there.[5]

On 26 August 1966, eight helicopters of the South African Defence Force attacked the guerrilla fighters at Omugulugwombashe. At the time of attack there were only 17 soldiers in the camp.[6] It was the first armed battle of the War.[7]

In commemoration of the day, 26 August is a public holiday in Namibia. It is recognized by the United Nations as Namibia Day[8] but Namibians refer to it as Heroes' Day.


National celebrations take place annually at different places, usually in the north of Namibia near important battle zones. Hundreds of people annually gather to watch leaders officially commemorate veterans of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN).[9] Likewise, honours, such as military medals, are handed out on the day.[10][11] Heroes' Acre, a war memorial outside of Windhoek, was opened on Heroes' Day in 2002.[12] It is also the same day that the United Nations Institute for Namibia, a tertiary educational body in Zambia under the auspices of the United Nations and forerunner to the University of Namibia, was inaugurated in 1976.[13]

Herero DayEdit

Monument to Herero Chiefs in Okahandja: Gravestone of Tjamuaha, Maharero, and Samuel Maharero

The Battle of Waterberg on 11 August 1904 was the final battle of the Herero Wars. Following the defeat of the Herero force, the surviving Hereros fled under the leadership of Samuel Maharero,[14] who died in exile in the Transvaal.[15] After his death on 14 March 1923,[4] the South African administration of South West Africa granted permission for his reburial at Okahandja, unaware of the role it would play as a commemoration of anti-colonialisation and a symbol of nationalism.

The reburial ceremony on 26 August 1923 was attended by 3,000 Hereros and by 100 Whites, including high-ranking government officials. Since then, Herero Day is held annually as a gesture of resistance, unity and loyalty, as well as defiance against colonisation, particularly that by the Germans.[4]


  1. ^ "Heroes' Day". Time and Date. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  2. ^ "Celebrating the Heroes of Namibia". Namibia Tourism. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  3. ^ "Namibian War of Independence 1966–1988". Armed Conflict Events Database. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  4. ^ a b c 1923 in Namibia KlausDierks.com
  5. ^ "John Ya Otto Nankudhu passes on". New Era. NAMPA. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012.
  6. ^ Sasman, Catherine (27 August 2010). "Julius Shaambeni Shilongo Mnyika: the guerilla fighter (1938 to 2003)". New Era. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  7. ^ Petronella Sibeene (17 April 2009). "Swapo Party Turns 49". New Era. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011.
  8. ^ United Nations Conferences and Observances Archived 14 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ A military-clad Nujoma hands out 68 medals in The Namibian, 22 September 2003
  10. ^ President warns of 'havoc' as heroes laid to rest at Eenhana in The Namibian, 28 August 2007
  11. ^ Khomas calls off Heroes' Day event in The Namibian, 27 August 2003
  12. ^ Heroes' Acre 'free' for now in The Namibian, 29 October 2002
  13. ^ A Future 'University of Namibia'?: The Role of the United Nations Institute for Namibia, by Christian M. Rogerson, 1980, Cambridge University Press
  14. ^ Irwing, Keith (ed.). "The Battle of Waterberg, part 1". namibia-1-on-1.com. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  15. ^ Irwing, Keith (ed.). "The Battle of Waterberg, part 2". namibia-1-on-1.com. Retrieved 25 June 2013.