Müntefering’s apology torn apart

03 September 2018 | International

JEMIMA BEUKES

The Nama and Ovaherero people have taken Michelle-Jasmin Müntefering’s apology and admission of the 1904-08 Nama and Ovaherero genocide with a pinch of salt.

During the official welcoming ceremony for the latest repatriated skulls in Windhoek on Friday, Müntefering, the German deputy foreign minister, said the atrocities committed in Germany’s name constituted genocide.

Even though she apologised profusely and even cried during the earlier church ceremony in Germany, Festus Muundjua, member of the Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) said it was not enough.

Muundjua, a member of the delegation that went to collect the skulls in Germany last week, insisted that the German government must officially admit to genocide and apologise for it.

“Remember a few times the Left and Green parties in Germany tabled motions in the German parliament and all those motions were rejected. These motions included an apology and reparations and they were rejected. The only apology we (OTA) will accept is the apology that is coming from the German parliament and this must be accompanied with an admission of genocide,” said Muundjua.

The Nama Technical Committee on Genocide chairperson, Ida Hoffmann, too rejected Münterfering’s heartrending apology, saying it was superficial.

“She is not senior enough to give that apology. Imagine if we were in Germany’s position and Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah apologised, do you think they would have accepted it?” she asked.

Namibia’s special envoy on the genocide, Zed Ngavirue, also rejected Müntefering’s apology, saying it was not a formal government position and must be followed up.

“This is not an official decision taken by the official government as such. She is a very important person in her position but obviously a formal sort of government apology would be done through the normal procedures of government.”

Germany’s refusal to admit to genocide and persistence in talking about atrocities has thrown a spanner in negotiations about reparations.

According to Ngavirue there has not been a written position adopted by the Bundestag.

“The negotiations are still going on. As you know, there has been a pause in the formal meetings and the formal position will be part of a formal agreement and that would be taken to the government and that would be accepted by our parliament as well. But we haven’t reached that stage yet,” he said.

Müntefering slammed her own country’s colonial past and condemned the “imperial thirst for power with which Europe colonised Africa”.

“The arrogance and the horrible thought that our culture was superior to yours; and, in a word, racism. Today we know how abhorrent and wrong that all was. We Germans acknowledge our historical-political and moral responsibility, and the historical guilt borne by the Germans of the time,” she said.