Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

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By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro WINDHOEK Pledging her unequivocal support for the motion on genocide, Congress of Democrats (CoD) Vice-President, Nora Schimming-Chase, parted ways with some fellow parliamentarians consoling German-speaking Namibians, saying there was nothing to apologise for to them. Schimming-Chase kicked off the fourth round in the debate on the motion on genocide in the National Assembly on Tuesday. She said unlike some of her fellow parliamentarians who felt the need to console German-speaking Namibians, they have never been treated differently. Instead, they visited it upon themselves by, among others, preferring to be referred to as Europeans and Germans. She also paid homage to women for their contribution to the anti-colonial struggle. “They were the ones who were forced to take care of the children on their own; they had to feed those babies under the most severe conditions,” she said. Schimming-Chase cautioned against the impression that reparations alone could wipe out the pain and consequences of the genocide. One direct consequence of the genocide being felt to date, she pointed out, was the country’s inability to attract foreign investment because of its small population as well as a human resource shortage. The parliamentarian drew her fellow members’ attention to the racist element in the excuse that the matter would open up a Pandora’s box. She referred to the differential treatment of descendants of Germans, discriminated against, amongst others, through Germany’s “one drop of blood policy”. By this policy descendants with one drop of German blood were entitled to German citizenship. She reminded the nation that, above material reparations, there was a need to repair the dignity and humanity of the victims as part of the debate on genocide. Therefore, there was a need for the Namibian Government to take the lead in negotiations in consultation and cooperation with the representatives of the affected people. Schimming-Chase suggested that Parliament convert the genocide motion into a resolution by Parliament mandating the Government to act on genocide through dialogue and to institute a civil case for genocide and reparations at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, if dialogue does not work. Further, she asked Parliament to adopt a resolution asking the German Parliament, the Bundestag, to pass a motion for Germany to officially take responsibility for German crimes in Namibia and not only pay lip service for those crimes by an apology, but accept duty to pay reparations. She said it must be clear that reparations are not payment for lost lives but an act of atonement and reconciliation. “The issue of racism and selective morality” should be part of the campaign to get justice and fairness, she said, concluding that development assistance to Namibia should not be used as bribery to divert attention from genocide and reparations, or “divide our Nation whose present Unity was paid for by the blood that waters our freedom”. Prime Minister Nahas Angula pointed out in his contribution to the debate that General Lothar von Trotha’s extermination order, the highest expression of impunity, was only an extension of colonial Germany’s colonial policy. “German colonial policy was all along either to depopulate the territory or to turn the native communities into paupers in service of colonial settlers.” He said the motion should be interpreted within the current context of apology and acceptance as Germany has turned a new page. “We Germans accepted our historical and moral responsibilities and the injury incurred by Germany at the time. And so, in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, I ask you to forgive us our trespasses,” the Prime Minister quoted from the German Minister for Cooperation and Economic Development, Heide-Marie Wieczorek-Zeul’s speech at Ohamakari in 2004, saying those were sincere words not only from a representative of the German Government but from a mother and a humanist. Hastening to qualify his thoughts on future relations between Namibia and Germany as personal, he advocated restorative justice. This, he said, requires work to restore those who have been injured; those directly involved and affected should have the opportunity to participate fully, if they so wish, and the goal is to promote a just order and maintain a just peace. He said this process could start with the obvious victims, the Ovaherero and Nama in the Diaspora, either through a scholarship programme, a proper resettlement programme for returnees from Botswana and the development of the impoverished communities of the South, amongst others.