REHOBOTH - Baster Kaptein John McNab says his people are embittered because they have since independence as a group “lost everything” – their culture, sacred places and even traditional land.
He also claims the current government refuses to recognize their traditional authority.
A resentful McNab said this in an exclusive interview with New Era, in which he charged that “government’s refusal to give the Baster people the right to self-determination and property rights can equally be considered genocide”.
The Kaptein added that since independence, the government also took away indispensable services such as birth registration points (under Home Affairs), Namibia Traffic Information System (NaTIS) offices, and the community now has to drive to Keetmanshoop to acquire those basic services.
McNab said that government registered Rehoboth land in its name and now uses the excuse that since the group do not hold or own communal land, they cannot be recognized as a traditional authority.
“That is fraud,” he continued, adding that they tried to speak to the parliamentary standing committee to put their plight on the agenda, but nothing came of it.
The Baster leader said before independence any one who wanted to acquire land in the small town had to approach the Chief’s Council, but now the local town council apparently just sells land at will.
He said that their farms have been registered as commercial land and they now have to buy land back from government at exorbitant prices the average farmer cannot afford.
“This is disregard for international law and minority rights,” he lashed out, adding that the government continues to ignore the International Human Rights Declaration and that the Rehoboth community is now in danger of extinction.
He said that in 2007 they joined the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisation (UNPO) - an organisation that represents peoples, nations and states that do not have a seat in the United Nations.
The UNPO has since November 30 2012 called upon the Namibian government to recognise the Rehoboth Basters as a traditional authority.
He said that the UNPO came to Namibia to research the condition of the Baster people and expects more court cases to be held on the Basters’ plight.
On the cultural front, McNab said the Baster youth now know nothing about their culture.
“Basters have lost their identity. There is no discipline and religious values have vanished,” he added ruefully, saying alcohol abuse and other moral standards are also non-existent.
McNab succeeded Kaptein Hans Diergaardt who died of a heart attack in 1998.
The Kaptein’s (Chief’s) Council sought compensation and justice regarding Rehoboth lands through the courts and was given locus standi (the right of a party to appear and be heard before a court), but in 1995, a High Court verdict declared that Rehoboth lands were voluntarily handed over by the Rehoboth Baster community to the then new Namibian government.