12 September 2010

The assassination of Anton Lubowski

Hamba Kahle Comrade Lubowski, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_1275

Lubowski was assassinated by members of South Africa's Civil Cooperation Bureau on 12 September 1989. He had been very active throughout the 1980s, traveling throughout South Africa and then-South West Africa (Namibia) with the aim of raising awareness of the illegality of South African occupation in Namibia.

Anton Lubowski was a Namibian human rights advocate and executive member of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO). His political activism was notable in that he was the first white Namibian to admit membership to SWAPO. For this, he was stripped of his South African Defence Force (SADF) rank as second lieutenant in April 1985.

The tragedy of Lubowski's loss is underscored by the depth of his compassion. As a member of the Windhoek Bar, more than half of his cases were of a political nature. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), his mother spoke of the tragedy of losing her son:

"He became more and more outspoken...all these things of course made him a marked man. In 1984 he joined SWAPO openly and that was the start of his road to tragedy filled with unbelievable pain and suffering, not only for him but also for his wife and his children and his loved ones... his life was constantly in danger..."

See Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) testimonies from members of Anton Lubowski's family (CT/00001).

Lubowski was killed in Windhoek less than a year before Namibian independence was declared. An international outcry followed the assassination, fuelled both by the mysterious nature and overt injustice of his death on the eve of negotiations. On 14 September 1989, the Natal Mercury reported

‘...quite apart from its nature, (his assassination) in the week that Mr Sam Nujoma is due back from exile is presumably not intentional... we trust that it will not be made an excuse for any derailment of the independence process in Namibia.'

Nujoma was the leader of SWAPO, and his return to Namibia was a turning point for Namibian independence, which was declared on 21 March 1990. Lubowski's assassination has remained a mystery, in spite of his family's attempts to pressure the South African government to release information about his death.

Freedom of Information Programme

FOIP is currently involved in accessing files related to the death of Anton Lubowski from the Department of Justice (DoJ) in the hopes of providing further clarity about the cause and reasons for his assassination.

If you would like to know more about FOIP's attempt to access files related to the death of Anton Lubowski contact us.


Anton Lubowski, South Africa SWAPO Election Directorate, South African Students Press Union (SASPU), SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_1484