WINDHOEK – The Reiterdenkmal, the German colonial equestrian statue opposite the Bank of Namibia, will be moved to the back of the Alte Feste Museum courtyard, as it does not symbolise national reconciliation where it currently stands, said the Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, Jerry Ekandjo.
“You might feel closer to the statue but you do not know the history behind the statue. We live in two different worlds. The past of this country was really bad. There were good things like education and the Christianity brought here by the missionaries, but there were bad things as well,” said Ekandjo who was the guest speaker at the annual general meeting of the Namibian-German Foundation at the Goethe Centre last Friday.
Ekandjo said the statue faced Berlin at its original placing where it was initially mounted and still faces Berlin at its current location. “The people that erected it in front of the Alte Feste must have used a compass to set it up facing Berlin. This time [when relocated] it will not face Berlin. It will face up,” he said. The statue was originally placed between the Christus Kirche and the Alte Feste but was moved in 2009 a further 50 metres towards the end part of the Alte Feste, to make way for extensions to the National Museum.
Referring to examples of change in any country, the minister said because of the political system in Germany, things have changed in that country as well. “If they [Germany] can change there, why can’t we change here,” he said, adding that for the sake of national reconciliation cabinet has approved the removal of the statue and it will be replaced by a genocide statue showing the breaking of chains.
“I do not think the statue is of German culture. It was put there. Do we understand what was the purpose of the statue?” he asked the audience. He said on the day of its unveiling, on January 27, 1912, men and women dressed neatly with the new colonial elite proud of its achievements. Reading some scripts from papers he gathered from archives, Ekandjo said the principle behind the statue is to honour the dead and to encourage the living, to propagate and build up what was achieved in their hearts – that they fought selflessly for the love of the fatherland. “The venerated colonial soldier announced to the world that we [colonial Germany], are the masters of this place now and forever. The Germans were masters not only of South West Africa’s future, but of the past,” one of the scripts reads.
Ekandjo explained that during Namibia’s colonial occupation there were concentration camps in front of the Alte Feste Museum but when the camps were dismantled, the statue was put there to remind the people that colonial Germany was the master of Namibia.
Ekandjo asked the audience if they really understood the motive behind the erection of the statue saying if it was a church or a building to which people attached sympathy, one would have understood the uproar. “But this statue is not a good reminder and unfortunately it must go,” he said, adding that one can interpret the history to say that some sections of Namibians feel they are proud while other sections say the past reminds them that they have been defeated and that they are the masters of this country now. “So I do not think the statue is German culture,” he said.
By Fifi Rhodes