Witbooi 'stood like no other'

Artefacts that belonged to Nama chief Hendrik Witbooi were ceremonially handed over to his descendants at Gibeon yesterday.

01 March 2019 | Cultural

German minister of science, research and arts, Theresia Bauer says it is unfortunate that it took her country so long - more than a century - to take responsibility for its horrific past.

She was speaking during the official handover of the Bible and whip of the late Chief Hendrik Witbooi at Gibeon yesterday.

“I am deeply sorry. We cannot forget history. There is a deep need for healing. Hendrik Witbooi stood like no other in the rebellion history against German colonial rule,” Bauer said.

She added it was important that these artefacts were now in their true and rightful home. The Namibian government in 2013 requested the return of the artefacts from Germany, where they had been kept at Linden University since 1902.

The Bible and whip arrived in Windhoek on Tuesday.

They were transported to Gibeon via Rehoboth, Kalkrand and Mariental, where prayer sessions took place.

“We cannot undo the suffering that your family (the Witboois) has experienced. This trip here is not only for the Bible and whip, but it is also focused on the future and the process of restitution,” Bauer said.

The Bible and whip were handed over symbolically to Witbooi's only surviving great-granddaughters, Christina Frederick, Anna Diba, Johanna Witbooi, Elizabeth Kock and Anna Jacobs.

The Bible was officially handed over to culture minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, while the Witbooi family received a certified copy from President Hage Geingob.

Hanse-Himarwa recently announced that a memorial museum would soon be erected at Witbooi's hometown of Gibeon, but until then the state would safeguard the items.

Kock angrily asked whether this was the last time Germany would be returning looted items.

“We are now impoverished because of the war. We are now in poverty,” she said.

In 1893 German soldiers stole the artefacts from a wounded Witbooi during an attack on his stronghold at Hornkranz. More than 80 people, including women and children, were killed.

During that period German imperial forces launched a brutal 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 plundered Hornkranz. They took livestock and other possessions and also burned down houses.

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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