Ovaherero Split Over Von Trothas’ Impending Visit

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

It’s general news now that relatives of that butcher by the name of Lothar von Trotha would be coming to Namibia next week.

For the uninitiated, Von Trotha was the Commander of the German Imperial Forces in Namibia during the last and crucial stages of the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu-German War of 1904-1908.

In particular, he is notorious for the infamous Extermination Order against the Ovaherero that he issued on October 2, 1904 at Ozombu Zovindimba in the Otjinene Constituency and presided over its execution.

This is how, since the centenary commemoration of that order in 2004, Ozombu Zovindimba has now become a shrine where every year in October, people converge in memory of those who died as a result of the war and the Extermination Order.

The purpose of the Von Trotha clan’s visit is among others, to come and apologise to the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu on the unspeakable deeds of one of their own during the Ovaherero/Ovambanderu-German war.

When Chief Kaihepovazandu Maharero of the Royal House of Maharero/Tjamuaha visited Germany in 2004 and met this clan, they apparently wanted to apologise to him over the deeds of their relative. However, Chief Maharero declined this offer, explaining that he was only one of many leaders of the Ovaherero and it would be appropriate that such an apology was extended in the presence of all of them. Hence the imminent visit of this clan next week when it is also expected to attend the annual gathering of the White Flag in Omaruru next weekend.

There are two lines of opposing thinking on the coming of the Von Trothas.

Ovaherero as could be expected are split – crudely put – split along political lines that are often pretended as traditional lines. Add to this political divide, the recognised and unrecognised traditional leaders dichotomy.

Speaking over the weekend in Lephalela in the Limpopo Province during the centenary commemoration of the arrival of erstwhile Ovaherero Paramount Chief Samuel Maharero in South Africa, Riruako could not understand the essence “in this difficult time” of the visit of the Von Trotha clan to Namibia.

He went further to call for a demonstration against the visit and to wish the wrath of the ancestors upon the Von Trothas, should they dare visit areas where Ovaherero/Ovambanderu war victims succumbed and/or fell.

I am a little bit baffled. Certainly, the Von Trotha’s clan’s imminent visit to Namibia cannot and does not have anything to do with the reparation campaign, in the least not the one the Chief has initiated together with others and has since been leading and spearheading.

One would have thought Paramount Chief Riruako and company know best by now who their reparation campaign is targeted against to be bothered little about an individual or a clan’s apology.

In Lephalela, the Paramount Chief was categorical that the quest for reparation is not the domain of anyone individual but a collective mission and endeavour by the Ovaherero if not the entire Namibian nation. Mostly because of past historical and political reasons, the campaign for reparation has become a bone of contention between rival traditional leaderships.

I cannot understand why, rather than expending the much-needed energy and resources on their respective campaigns, the two leaderships seem ever locked into bickering, back-stabbing, pushing and shoving. How can we really believe their dedication and devotion to the cause in the face of such petty and pitiful nagging of each other? So, please let the Von Trotha clan peacefully come to Namibia.

If you simply do not believe in their goodness, stay away from them and let those one who do deal and engage them. However as is nature to democracy, there is nothing precluding those who do not agree with the visit of this Germanic clan to state their opposition by whatever democratic and legal means of expression including demonstrating against the visit.

So please Dear Paramount Chief if you think the Von Trotha clan’s Namibian visit is a no-good to the reparation cause, don’t let it distract and distract your focus from your do-good and just mission!

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