Operation Hornkranz backfires

Social commentators have slammed the police for their choice of a codename for their December anti-crime operation.

03 January 2019 | Police

Some Namibians are angry with President Hage Geingob and the police chief, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, for naming the festive season anti-crime campaign 'Operation Hornkranz'.

They say the president and his police chief were insensitive to link a crime crackdown with a painful episode in the history of the Nama people. Social commentator Henning Melber tweeted that “any rational and considerate person with common sense” would not think of calling a crime-fighting campaign Operation Hornkranz - and then defending the decision against criticism in a statement which “underlines the arrogance, or rather ignorance, of power”.

More than 125 years ago German colonial forces attacked Hendrik Witbooi at his village at Hornkranz in the Khomas Hochland on 12 April 1893, killing 80 people, many of them women and children.

Using Hornkranz as a codename for a police raid was insensitive and astounding, said Sima Luipert, deputy chairperson of the Nama Genocide Technical Committee (NGTC) assigned by the Nama Traditional Leaders Association (NTLA).

According to her the intention of the German soldiers under command of Hauptmann Curt von François was to wipe out the Witbooi people at Hornkranz and “reads like a horror movie”.

Given this background, many are therefore alarmed at the reasons why an ordinary crime-prevention operation, aimed at ensuring the safety of the capital's citizens from criminal activity rooted in poverty, unemployment and a desperation to survive, has been codenamed after a massacre aimed at “destroying and exterminating” an entire tribal clan who refused to be subjugated into slavery to give up their land and their dignity.

Luipert said the president's sincerity about fighting crime must be applauded, but it is alarming that the sacrifices made by an exemplary freedom fighter, and an attempt at the total annihilation of the Nama people at Hornkranz, should be associated with crime.

“Hornkranz was rooted in the right to autonomy, a refusal to foreign subjugation, a determination for the preservation of self-governance and human integrity. Gaob Witbooi's people were brutally massacred for these noble values. Crime in present-day free, democratic and independent Namibia is rooted in poverty, unemployment and a struggle for survival.”

She added that the government's attitude not only alienates but also radicalises young people in the affected communities.

“Feelings of a north-south divide are very real and [the] government, it seems, is feeding this perception. It is a dangerous trend which goes against the principles of nation-building,” she said.

Liberation struggle veteran Mihe Gaomab also took on Geingob and his advisers, asking whether they understood the symbolic significance of Operation Hornkrantz.

“Was the president showing himself off as a modern Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi or his embodiment? Did this government build a shrine at Hornkranz as they did in other parts of Namibia?” Gaomab asked on Facebook.

Gaomab suggested that the police should carry out a “Lubango Dungeon Operation to weed out criminals as they did with Operation Hornkranz”.

Social commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah challenged the police to an open and nationally televised discussion on this matter.

“The Namibian police have issued a statement regarding the ill-advised crime-prevention [operation] codenamed Hornkranz, accusing those criticising their choice of that code of having alien interests.

“That's a serious charge! Since I am one of those commentators questioning the police's judgement, I am challenging Nampol for an open and nationally televised discussion on this matter. I am ready to return to the capital any time to engage in this debate,” Kamwanyah said.

The presidential press secretary, Alfredo Hengari, referred Namibian Sun to the police statement issued in response to the criticism.

Lieutenant-General Ndeitunga said in the media statement issued on 31 December that the codenames of police operations were the prerogative of the force.

“The objection may be a lack of knowledge of Namibia's history or may have derived from other interests alien to us, with some political commentators accusing the authorities of being insensitive to the atrocities committed by German colonial troops under the command of then then colonial governor of the German South West Africa, Major Curt von Francois, when they attacked the settlement of Hornkranz on 12 April 1895,” said Ndeitunga.


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