Hoffmann fights back

A German NGO pleads for a review of the decision to have the genocide activist removed.

19 October 2017 | Cultural

Long-time chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee Ida Hoffmann is considering legal steps against Nama chiefs Petrus Kooper and Dawid Frederick who, in an unexpected and unprecedented move, decided to remove her from the committee on grounds yet to be explained to her.

The two chiefs in late September issued a letter in which they said Hoffmann would be removed as convener and chairperson of the committee and that she would no longer be recognised as a representative on any of the internal instruments, bodies or institutions of the genocide committee.

By Tuesday this week, Hoffmann said she had still not received any reason for her surprise expulsion, weeks before a Nama and OvaHerero delegation was to leave for the court case in New York.

“As far as I am concerned, if the traditional leaders are not human enough and cannot man up to their actions by asking me to sit down with them and talk, which they should have done in the first place, then I do not have much of a choice other than to take legal steps,” said Hoffmann.

She added: “I have not received a warning letter, there was no disciplinary hearing and I have not been suspended. I have received no reasons from them.”

Hoffmann received the notice from the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA) on 20 September.

This notification informed their OvaHerero and OvaMbanderu counterparts not to communicate with Hoffmann on genocide matters in future.

Hoffmann said Kooper had in the meantime pleaded with her not to take legal action against the NTLA decision, but she insisted the Nama chiefs would have to put that in writing, which they reportedly have yet to do.

Hoffmann, the public face of the Nama technical committee, said she had practically single-handedly advocated since 1991 that the genocide matter be dealt with by the new independent government when she solicited discussions with the founding president, Sam Nujoma.

She said she was the one who had convened discussions on the genocide matter with Nama traditional leaders in 1999 and again in 2007, after more than a decade of non-action by the Nama leaders.

“The most interesting thing is that the Nama leaders have not done anything. When we called a meeting in Mariental on 14 December 2007 with our OvaHerero counterparts, I had to cover up the shame of the Nama leaders because they have done nothing to the cause; they are mere followers,” said Hoffmann.

She claimed that she was the one who brought the Nama genocide matter to the attention of the Namibian parliament after OvaHerero paramount chief Kuaima Riruako had first tabled his motion on genocide in 2006, which called for the matter to be debated and for dialogue with Germany for reparations.

“Now I have to contend with the ungratefulness of the Nama leaders. I do understand that it has a lot to do with ignorance, but they do not want to learn,” fumed Hoffmann, adding: “I have brought them into the house that I have built. The Nama leaders must get out of my house!”

She said the bone of contention was that some Nama leaders wanted to turn the genocide matter into an intra-tribal or family matter.

“I speak on behalf of the human remains of our ancestors who cannot speak for themselves and on behalf of all the Nama,” Hoffmann said.

Chief Kooper at an earlier occasion would not comment on the matter. Chief Frederick on Wednesday said the Nama leaders were yet to convene to discuss the Hoffmann matter.

Frederick, however, hinted that the Nama chiefs were dissatisfied with Hoffmann for allegedly unilaterally co-opting people onto the technical committee and who failed to properly report to the Nama traditional chiefs.

A German NGO, Berlin Postkolonial, in the meantime has addressed a letter to Kooper and Frederick to express its concern over Hoffmann's removal from the technical committee.

It described Hoffmann as having been one of the “most energetic drivers of the campaign for a German apology and reparations in connection with the 1904 to 1908 genocide,” saying that Hoffmann had become one of the most respected voices of the campaign to the German public.

It called Hoffmann an “indispensible mainstay who connects” its work with what is going on in Namibia, saying her removal would be an unfortunate setback for the communities in southern Namibia.

“Her removal puts in jeopardy working relations she has helped to build over the many years. We dearly hope that this decision can be reviewed in a way that will safeguard the work that is dear to all of us and, indeed, unites us,” said Christian Kopp and Reinhardt Kössler of Berlin Postkolonial.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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