Witboois on warpath

The storm around the late Chief Witbooi's Bible and whip continues to rage, with the /Khowese Royal House saying that while they support the repatriation, they were not formally consulted.

22 February 2019 | Cultural

The /Khowese Royal House has accused arts and culture minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa of deceiving the nation, when she said the Witbooi family had agreed to have the bible and whip of Hendrik Witbooi displayed in the national museum.

They have also demanded that the German and Namibian governments address the methodological reliability and soundness of the repatriation process of the items from Germany and accord the

/Khowese Royal House its legitimate and rightful place and space.

The /Khowese Royal House say this had been done for the Ombalantu people during the repatriation of the Ombalantu ritual stones in 2014 from Finland.

“The reckless and insensitive statements made by the minister through the radio series as if the government is doing the /Khowese Royal House a favour and the Witbooi Traditional Community a grand favour and that we should agree with flawed processes and an irrelevant narrative,” said Kaptein Salomon Josephat Witbooi of the royal house.

“This is disrespectful to us especially emanating from a political high office. The minister must know we know the history and the sequence of all the events as they have unfolded, even before Namibian independence, regarding the artefacts that are being repatriated.”

He added that Hanse-Himarwa is conflicted and is confusing the reparation issue with succession issues in the Witbooi clan.

The storm around the late Chief Witbooi's bible and whip continues to rage, with the /Khowese Royal House saying that while they support the repatriation, they were not formally consulted.

Last week Hanse-Himarwa emphasised that Witbooi was much more than a “small tribesman” but rather “a world icon”, and that government has been in consultation with his descendants regarding the repatriation.

“This bible [is] coming back after 100 years in a new dawn, a new era where we have a legitimate government elected by the people, including the Witbooi and other clans, representing the people of Namibia in its entirety, [which] has the legal standing to represent the people of Namibia at a state-to-state level. States do not negotiate with individuals,” she said. Salamon said this week the /Khowese Royal House supports the return of the artefacts, however they take exception to the manner in with the repatriation is being handled by arts and culture ministry. He said it is disheartening and disrespectful that the ministry can push a narrative that the assets of the late Witbooi are state assets, due to his nation hero profile.

“It is very disturbing that surviving direct descendants, namely the great-grandchildren of Auta !Nanseb, are denied to receive these items on behalf of the Witbooi Royal House and the clan at large.

This is not only ethically flawed but represents a flagrant denial of the final wishes of the surviving elders of the /Khowese clan,” Salamon said.

He reminded the Namibian government that when the bible and whip were stolen at Hornkranz in the Naukluft Mountains, the late Witbooi was neither under a German protection treaty nor a peace accord.

“Therefore the return of these personal artefacts cannot be treated as an exclusive state-to-state handover event, but should embrace the surviving great-grandchildren of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi.”

This comes at a time when the Nama Traditional Leaders Authority (NTLA) has dug in its heels, saying the repatriation will negatively affect the New York court case regarding reparations for the Nama and Ovaherero genocide of 1904-08. The Ovaherero Traditional Authority (OTA) has also added their voice, saying the artefacts must remain at the Linden University in Stuttgart Germany.

The university posted on its website that on 1 March the family bible and whip that belonged to Chief Hendrik Witbooi (1834-1905), which had been donated to the university in 1902, would be returned to Namibia by the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.


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