Basters Want May 8 Holiday

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By Surihe Gaomas REHOBOTH The Baster community at Rehoboth want May 8 to be declared a public holiday. On this historic day, German imperial forces brutally massacred hundreds of people at Sam Khubis in 1915. The Baster community sees the day when they were brutally attacked and killed by German troops as important. There have been attempts in the past to have the day declared a national holiday. Sam Khubis is situated some 80 km from Rehoboth. The event this year was commemorated under the theme “The Role of the Youth”, where the younger generation is encouraged to carry forward the cultural heritage of their forefathers. Tents were pitched at the memorial site of Sam Khubis, where most of the Baster forefathers and great grandmothers and their children fled for refuge as they were escaping from the German forces. Surrounded by mountains, with a lit flame on one side and the historic graves of their ancestors on the other, the Baster community braved two cold nights to pay homage to their heroes. The general public who attended the event came from as far as the coastal town of LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz and other towns. Some of those who attended were retired teachers and leaders who have continuously honoured the day throughout the years. The attack by the Germans against the Basters started on a farm called Garies. Recollecting events of this day under a huge tent, the Baster people told the horrific tales of how they suffered and some died while fleeing the attack. “The Basters fled barefoot for kilometres on end. Along the way, my grandmother Ouma Katrina was shot by the Germans as she also tried to flee,” said Manfred Draghoender who issued snippets of oral history on the Sam Khubis event. Although exact figures have not been documented, it is said that hundreds of Basters were killed in the most brutal way by the German colonial authorities, which eventually led to an uprising by the Baster community at the time. “It was many years back but our people were in dire straits at the time and history is reminding us of just how much of a struggle it was at that time,” said another young man. “Some of the people were quickly buried in shallow two-metre graves with stones on top of them,” said one of the commemorators. “Years ago, their remains were picked up and reburied here at Sam Khubis,” added another woman who had purposely brought along her two girls to witness the historical event. “From the remains, one could see the bullet hole through the back of the skull of an elderly woman with a smaller baby like body on her chest – she was probably fleeing from the Germans when she was shot from the back,” said another woman. Over the years and despite the hardships they experienced, the Baster community have remained united in a bond of what they term in Afrikaans “‘n Volk.” One elder by the name Willem van Wyk said that today “we have no problems with the Germans as we have made peace and we are not angry anymore.” What matters now is for the Baster community to strive for unity of purpose as a group that has overcome hard times, and pay tribute to their cultural heritage, said one man. During the two-day commemoration that ended yesterday, the most significant salute was given to those who sacrificed their lives during the struggle, when five rifle experts shot several shots into the air. “This is how we pay respect to the forefathers,” said one elderly man who sat relaxing in his camping chair not really bothered by the loud echoing gunshots. In order to avoid a sudden block of the ears, children were asked to stand with their mouths open so that the loud gunshots do not have an impact on their hearing. Afterwards, women dressed in their traditional white headgear or “kappies” laid several wreaths at the gravesite in honour of the ancestors of the Baster people. The chairperson of the organising committee of the Sam Khubis celebration Jacky Britz said that over the last months, the committee has managed to dig a borehole for access of water to the site as well as gravel the road that leads of the Sam Khubis site. Strategically located in the surrounds of boulder like mountains, the site now has ablution blocks, taps and camping sites for the Baster community who come to commemorate the day conveniently on May 7 or 8 every year. Committee members want the site to be declared a monument and the day a public holiday as per the wishes of their people.

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