A pilgrimage to Hornkranz

The German onslaught on Hornkranz nearly 126 years claimed the lives of more than 80 people - most of them women and children.

07 March 2019 | History

There is a bliss one cannot put a price on that envelops the rocky plains of Hornkranz, the former headquarters of the late Nama chief Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi.

If it were not for the history books, one would scarcely believe that a brutal battle was fought here nearly 126 years ago.

The German onslaught left Witbooi wounded and claimed the lives of more than 80 people - most of them women and children.

On 12 April 1893, German imperial forces launched a ruthless crackdown on the Nama people after Witbooi had refused to sign a protection treaty to surrender territory to the Germans.

In response to this refusal, German troops killed and plundered at Hornkranz. They took livestock and other possessions and also burned down houses.

Namibian Sun visited Hornkranz this past Friday - a day after the official handover ceremony of Witbooi's Bible and whip, which had been repatriated from Germany, took place at Gibeon.

The Germans robbed a wounded Witbooi of these artefacts at Hornkranz.

Hornkranz is a settlement surrounded by rock faces; it is a quite a rocky place indeed.

And so occasionally one finds rocks stacked up to form a wall or shelter. This was seemingly done by Nama fighters, who were trying to defend against the relentless onslaught by German forces, who fought with superior weapons.

Fascinatingly it is in the close vicinity of these half-moon hideouts that Namibian Sun found cartridge casings - most of them marked 'Westley Richards No.2 Musket'.

Riva Cloete, whose father bought Hornkranz from a certain Malan in 1999, was our tour guide.

According to him these cartridge casings are frequently found “all over the place”, but mainly around the hideouts.

Westley Richards & Co Ltd was established in 1812 by celebrated Birmingham gun maker William Westley Richards.



Treasure hunt

There are precious stones to be discovered during a visit to Hornkranz. It is remarkable to think that most of these have survived for more than a century.

Riva says there is a place in the veld where one can see rock paintings. It is not clear whether these were painted by the San or the Nama. It is virtually impossible to go there with a vehicle because of the rocky patches.

“If you take time to walk through the veld you can still find pieces of the clay pots the Nama people used at the time,” he said.

“A few years ago I found a water pipe made out of blue rock. It was so nicely made; I am almost certain it was made by the Nama people but someone took it from the house so I cannot show you,” he said.

We encounter graves scattered in a 600-metre radius around the main house, which was built long after the battle.

The German graves are beautifully marked and decorated, albeit in a humble fashion, while the Nama graves are marked by rough stones that have been pushed into the ground.

“Since we started living on the farm about 19 years ago we have only seen German soldiers visiting these graves. No one else came,” said Rebekka Cloete whose husband Peta bought the farm.

“The Germans come here almost every year, then they come and paint the graves of the German soldiers, but that is it,” she said.

Rebekka said visitors are welcome at the farm to view the graves and explore history.

She and her son showed Namibian Sun a bend in the river where a retaining wall was built.

“It is said there was a dam somewhere here and they built the wall to collect the water from the underground fountain. We are not sure who exactly built this wall, but it should have been the Germans because Witbooi knew the area and he knew where to get water,” Riva said.

History tells us there was an important spring in the Goab River at Hornkranz.

During the early 1800s, the Nama and Ovaherero used the Khomas Hochland valleys as travel routes, because water was readily available there.

There is also an old dam at the main house, which according to the Cloete family was probably used as an underground prison.

“It looks like something that was built by the Germans and is believed that it was used as a prison,” said Rebekka.

On the side of the dam there are signs of a little staircase, which has now been covered and closed with stones.

Hendrik Witbooi, fondly known as Auta !Nanseb, was a chief of the

/Khowesen clan.

He was born in 1830 at Pella in the Northern Cape and died on 29 October 1905 in a skirmish with the Germans near Keetmanshoop.

Imperial Germany colonised Namibia, then known as South West Africa, between 1884 and 1915. During this time they committed the Nama-Herero genocide and killed more than 60 000 Nama and Ovaherero.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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