Anton Lubowski

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Person.png Anton Lubowski  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(Lawyer, Politician, Activist)
Anton Lubowski.jpg
BornAnton Theodor Eberhard August Lubowski
3 February 1952
Lüderitz, Namibia
Died12 September 1989 (Age 37)
Windhoek, Namibia
Cause of death
ChildrenNadia and Almo
Victim ofassassination
Namibian anti-apartheid activist assassinated by South Africa's Civil Cooperation Bureau

Anton Lubowski (murdered on 12 September 1989) was a Namibian politician, lawyer and an activist of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) which was recognised by the United Nations as the sole legitimate authority in Namibia during the 1970s and 1980s when apartheid South Africa illegally occupied the country.[1]

As an Advocate, Anton Lubowski was a Member of the Windhoek Bar. He defended political prisoners and got involved with the Namibian trade union movement in the capacity of Secretary of Finance and Administration of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW). Anton Lubowski joined SWAPO officially in 1984. Before 1989 he had no official party position but he made frequently public statements on behalf of SWAPO. In 1984, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN) in Lusaka, Zambia, Anton Lubowski was pictured with the SWAPO leadership and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.

He initiated the NAMLAW Project, a legal research organisation to draft legislation for Namibia after Independence. He received the Austrian Bruno Kreisky 'Prize for Achievements in Human Rights'. As a SWAPO activist he was detained six times by the South African authorities. In 1989 he became Deputy Secretary for Finance and Administration in the SWAPO Election Directorate. Shortly before his death he became a Member of the SWAPO Central Committee.[2]

At an inquest in 1995, Judge Harold Levy of the Namibian Supreme Court found that Donald Acheson, hired by South Africa's Civil Cooperation Bureau, had assassinated Lubowski. Judge Levy's report named nine CCB members as Acheson's accomplices. The Civil Cooperation Bureau is also alleged to have been responsible for the targeting of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, on Pan Am Flight 103 of 21 December 1988.

A second inquest was scheduled for February 1998, but Lubowski's family withdrew support. Mrs Lubowski said the family wanted Irish mercenary Donald Acheson and Civil Cooperation Bureau operatives Ferdi Barnard, Leon 'Chappie' Marais, Calla Botha, Abraham 'Slang' van Zyl, Joe Verster, Staal Burger, Wouter Basson (aka Christo Britz), Charles Wildschudt (formerly Neelse) and Johan Niemoller, who were all implicated during the first inquest, to stand trial.[3][4]

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report in 1996 dismissed earlier claims, made by General Magnus Malan, that Lubowski was a paid informant for the South African Military Intelligence (SAMI).[5]

Education and early life

Anton Lubowski was born in Lüderitz, South West Africa (Namibia), on 3 February 1952. He was the second child of a German-speaking father and an Afrikaans-speaking mother. In some senses, Anton was an Afrikaner, in that his 'mother tongue' was Afrikaans and he was baptised in the Dutch Reformed Church, a bastion of Afrikaner culture. However, he also spoke German fluently. When he married a German-speaking wife, Gabrielle, the couple raised their children with German as their 'mother tongue', but often spoke English at home. This high degree of cross-cultural experience probably contributed to the fact that Anton later broke across racial and cultural barriers by becoming one of the few white Namibians who literally laid his life on the line in support of what was largely a 'black' cause, namely freedom and independence. However, his later 'radical' political position was probably also influenced by his parents' opposition to the apartheid government - albeit a more moderate position than the one that Anton adopted.

When Anton was eight years of age, his parents sold their business in Lüderitz and moved to the family farm near Aus in southern Namibia. Because schooling opportunities were limited in such a rural area, when he was 13 years of age he was sent to attend high school at the Paul Roos Gymansium in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Later, he attended Stellenbosch University, where he studied law. Both of these institutions have been the alma maters of many Afrikaner leaders. During these years, he lived an ordinary student life, standing out as a leader. There was an ironical result of his leadership abilities when, in 1971, he was conscripted into the South African Defence Force, as happened to most young white men at that time. There he attained the rank of second lieutenant, which he held until 1984, when he was released from service obligations because he was a member of SWAPO, the enemy of the South African apartheid government.

A big move forwards in Lubowski's political development occurred when he left Stellenbosch University to continue his legal studies at the University of Cape Town, where his 'liberal' views no longer put him into a minority position and where he could meet and exchange opinions with fellow students from a variety of racial groups and with a variety of political backgrounds and experiences. While he was there, he married Gaby Schuster, a childhood friend from Luderitz who had also attended Stellenbosch University and was working as a teacher in the nearby town of Paarl. When he completed his studies, the couple, who were homesick for Namibia, relocated to Windhoek in 1978. There Lubowski joined the respected law firm of Lorenz and Bone.[6]

Political activist

UNIN's 10th anniversary: Namibians Hidipo Hamutenya, Anton Lubowski, Charles Courtney-Clarke, Sam Nujoma and Hage Geingob with Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda

The year 1978 was an important one for Namibia because in that year, after prolonged negotiations amongst the relevant parties, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 435, which provided the blueprint for independence for Namibia. It was also an important one for Lubowski because, as a lawyer, he came face to face with prisoners who had been tortured because of their pro-SWAPO positions. The brutality further confirmed Lubowski in his opposition to the status quo. One result was that he became involved with political movements that favoured an independent, democratic, and non-racial Namibia. However, he was not yet a member of SWAPO.

During the next few years, Lubowski worked on a number of cases that involved captured SWAPO prisoners and political detainees, at first-hand learning more about, and seeing the human face of, the movement that was demonised and vilified in Namibian media organs, all of which were either strongly South African-inclined or were officially controlled. Slowly but surely, he moved towards a decision to join SWAPO formally. His intentions became fact after he met Sam Nujoma, the President of SWAPO, in Paris and was able to talk with him for three days. Lubowski came away convinced that Nujoma and his colleagues were patriots who, having seen the failures in Africa at close hand, wanted to make a success of independent Namibia and, moreover, were committed to human rights and a democratic society. Soon after that, he was invited to be a member of an official SWAPO delegation to a peace conference in Lusaka, Zambia. When he returned to Windhoek, he publicly announced that he had joined SWAPO and called on other whites to do the same. Almost immediately, he began to receive a continuous stream of abuse and death threats, which was the price of being regarded as a ‘traitor' and a member of a 'terrorist organisation' by his fellow whites. Of course, the attention of the agents of the police state focused on him as well; by the end of 1985, he had already been detained three times - and there were more detentions to come.

The sixth detention was the worst. In 1987, together with five senior SWAPO officials in Namibia, Lubowski was detained for three weeks at the notorious Oshire detention camp. There, wearing only underpants and sitting on dirt floors, they were kept in solitary confinement in corrugated iron shacks, which became unbearably hot during the day and freezing cold at night. As is often the case with police practice in oppressive societies, the aim was not to physically injure the detainees, but to break their spirits. After three weeks, Lubowski developed a dangerous kidney stone infection and was taken to hospital to be treated. During this time, a Supreme Court judge ordered that the prisoners should be released.

Apart from his legal work and his functions as a prominent SWAPO representative, from the mid-1980s onwards, Lubowski became strongly involved in mobilising in the trade union movement. This probably roused the ire of the authorities as much as anything else, because a mobilised black work force would pose a massive threat to the apartheid state. Lubowski's involvement with the unions undoubtedly gave impetus to the authorities' decision to detain him in such harrowing conditions.

A strong motif in Lubowski's work for SWAPO was his concern that fellow white Namibians should come to understand that SWAPO was not composed of a band of demons and blood-thirsty terrorists, but rather was a nationalist movement that, amongst other concerns, propagated a genuine non-racial society in which whites would be welcome as citizens. To this end, he was instrumental in arranging a number of meetings between SWAPO leaders and various white individuals and groups. Because most of the SWAPO leaders were in exile, these meetings all took place on foreign soil.

When UN Security Council Resolution 435 was finally implemented and the independence process began on 1st April 1989, Lubowski was heavily involved in the election campaign. One of his most triumphant moments was when, at Windhoek airport, he was a member of the internal SWAPO delegation that welcomed the exiled SWAPO leaders when they returned to their country. Only one leader remained abroad; Sam Nujoma was due to return during the third week of November 1989, to lead the final phase of the election campaign that would result in the assembly that would write the country's first constitution and, ultimately, led to independence. However, Lubowski did not live to see any of these events. During the early evening on 12th September, a gunmen sprayed bullets into him as he entered his front gate. Lubowski died on the spot. The gunman escaped in a car and, until this day, has never been identified, in spite of enquiries and inquests. All that is known is that the assassination was arranged by the Civil Co-operation Bureau, a state-terrorist organisation that operated clandestinely within the apartheid security apparatus.

Anton was the first white person to be buried in the graveyard in Katutura, the black, working class township of Windhoek. Even in death, apartheid kept human beings separate.[7]

Investigation by the TRC

In April 1996, The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) heard evidence from Anton Lubowski's relatives, including his father Wilfried Lubowski.

I am the undersigned Wilfried Franz Lubowski and I hereby declare that I am an adult male of Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, Western Cape Province. The facts deposed to herein are true and correct. I am the father of the late Anton Theodor Eberhard August Lubowski. Anton was shot and killed at approximately 20:30 on the 12th September 1989 as he was about to enter his home at 7 Sanderburg Street, Windhoek, Namibia. There is no doubt that the death of Anton resulted from a politically motivated assassination.

Anton was an advocate of the Supreme Court and he practised as such both within the then South West Africa as well as the Republic in Government South Africa. He was also a high profiled and very well known member of the South West Africa People's Organisation known as SWAPO. Anton established himself as a fighter in the Namibian Liberation Struggle and at great personal sacrifice fought fearlessly for that cause. As an advocate he was involved in a large number of so-called terrorist cases, he however also took a leading part in the political struggle. He addressed meetings and marched with demonstrators. He represented SWAPO in 1984 at the Peace Summit in Lusaka and announced his membership of SWAPO encouraging other white people to follow his example. He was soon detained by the Security Police and in all detained six times including a time in solitary confinement in 1987 until he was released after the application was brought to the Supreme Court in South West Africa.

It is a fact that for many years Anton had been harassed by the authorities of the day in Namibia. The assassination of Anton took place during the transitional period in Namibia that is when UN Security Council Resolution 435 of the United Nations was being implemented there. The United Nations Transition Assistance Group known as UNTAG, led by UN Special Representative Martti Ahtisaari, was from the 1st of April 1989 actively deployed inside the country occupying military bases and monitoring certain police activity.

An election which would be free and fair was to be held in the terms of Resolution 435. This election was scheduled for November 1989, a few months after the assassination of Anton. The day after the assassination of Anton, namely the 13th of September 1989, an Irish national, one Donald Acheson, was arrested in regard to his murder. Acheson was a hardened soldier who served in the Rhodesian Army and possibly also in the South African Defence Force. Acheson appeared in the High Court of Namibia charged with murder on the 18th of April 1990. The Prosecutor-General advocate Hans Heyman, however, applied for a postponement of the case and for Acheson to be remanded in custody. The postponement was sought on the basis that the Prosecutor-General wanted to join two co-accused in the case who were both South African citizens but that there were various difficulties in securing their attendance at the trial in Windhoek. The Court granted postponement of the matter until the 7th of May 1990 in order to enable the Prosecutor to produce evidence of the diplomatic initiatives that were taken to ensure the attendance in Court of the said two persons. The prosecution could not produce any such evidence on the postponed date, and the charge of murder was consequently withdrawn against Acheson.

It is, however, rumoured that the police were involved in the murder. These rumours persisted until a local newspaper The Namibian published an article on the 17th of May 1993 which contained allegations by a former Namibian policeman, one Willem Rooinasie, concerning police involvement in the assassination. This resulted in a renewed investigation by the Namibian police and an eventual inquest into the death of Anton which was conducted in the High Court of Namibia by Mr Justice Harold Levy. The inquest ran during the period April to June 1994. The Court eventually made its findings on the 23rd of June 1994. As more fully appears from various extracts from the inquest findings of Mr Justice Levy, Anton’s death was attributed to being shot seven times on various parts of his body with an AK-47 rifle and a final shot through the head with a different calibre firearm. In other words they wanted to make quite sure. The Court found that Acheson had executed the assassination on the instructions of the Division of the South African Defence Force known as the Civil Cooperation Bureau, also known as CCB. The inquest findings also rejected the allegation, which was made by the then South African Minister of Defence ex-General Magnus Malan, in the South African Parliament on the 26th of February 1990, and repeated in evidence by one of the witnesses at the inquest, Willem Rooinasie, namely that Anton was an agent of the South African Defence Force. It is clear that the investigation into the assassination of Anton was plagued by misinformation, obfuscation, subterfuge and lies in order to conceal the fact that the assassination was planned and executed under direct orders from the CCB. Even the conduct of the prosecuting authorities of Namibia was clearly irregular and was severely criticised by Mr Justice Levy insofar as the prosecution of Acheson was concerned.

Extracts from the inquest findings are annexed to this affidavit, I've got them here in front of me, clearly setting out the background to the assassination and the manner in which it was eventually handled by both the Namibian police and the prosecuting authority. The assassination and subsequent defamatory allegations made against Anton has been a tremendous blow to our whole family but particularly the family of Anton and his good name and memory. I require from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to fully investigate the assassination in order to finally expose those responsible and to restore the good name and memory of Anton. It would also be appreciated if the Commission could consider the possibility of assistance for the family of Anton who has lost a breadwinner, husband and father.[8]


Anton Lubowski was assassinated on 12 September 1989. It stunned the country, not only because of who he was but because it came at a time of delicate transition (supervised by Martti Ahtisaari's UNTAG) between the apartheid/colonial dispensation and the not-yet-independent Namibia. In addition, it was only one week before Sam Nujoma, president of SWAPO, was due back in Namibia after almost thirty years in exile. Whoever was behind the assassination apparently wanted to do more than kill a SWAPO activist: they also hoped to derail the whole independence process.

Anton Lubowski was shot dead at close range with an AK-47 rifle outside his luxury home in Windhoek. According to Lubowski's friend Charles Courtney-Clarke, the briefcase that he is pictured holding went missing. Anton Lubowski's assassination would eventually be blamed on South Africa’s Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) and a CCB operative, Donald Acheson, was arrested on 13 September 1989. Acheson was charged with Lubowski's murder and remanded for trial at the High court of Namibia on 18 April 1990 (a few weeks after Namibia had achieved its independence from apartheid South Africa). The Prosecutor-General, having sought evidence on two co-accused South African citizens from the apartheid authorities which was not forthcoming, requested a postponement of the trial. The evidence had still not been provided by 7 May 1990, and the murder charges against Acheson were dropped.

Application to the United Nations

In October 2014, Charles Courtney-Clarke created a public private forum "establishing an economic equilibrium between the key financial beneficiaries to the wealth of the country and the government". The website recorded that an application was submitted to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to compel the investigation into the unsolved crimes against humanity committed by the South African Apartheid Government during the Namibian independence process supervised by the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), between April 1989 to March 1990, in terms of UN Security Council Resolution 435 (1978).

Declaration and Demand, dated 25th January 2014, is submitted to the United Nations to investigate the crimes mentioned below, after having exhausted local legal remedies to have them investigated and the planners/perpetrators prosecuted in South Africa and Namibia are:
1) Bombing of the UN office in Outjo, Namibia.
2) The capture and escape of the perpetrators of the bombing.
3) The murder of Adv Anton Lubowski.
In the interim a public request to the UN to determine the existence and integrity of the police dockets of these crimes in the custody of the local Namibian authorities.
As a result of the failure of the respective authorities to act and dispense justice in Namibia, South Africa and Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, this website will serve to communicate the on-going demands to International Institutions and governments to dispense Social and Economic Justice.[9]

Further reading

The life of Anton Lubowski is described in a book written by his widow Gabrielle Lubowski in her novel "On Solid Ground" ISBN 9781456475291 / ISBN 978-1-4564-7529-1.

Anton Lubowski's assassination was the subject of Bernhard Jaumann's novel "The Hour of the Jackal" ISBN 978-1-9067-8042-5


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