Germany consistently the same: A response to John Grobler

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Uncle Bob Kandetu

I take issue with John Grobbler when he said on social media: “Bob Kandetu’s family was one of the first to buy a commercial farm from someone close to my family outside the so-called reserved areas in the early 1980s. To try and stir up ethnic hatred in an apparent effort to shame Germany into paying over billions to the Herero for compensation for lost land amounts to a rank hypocrisy. You need to control that Herero hysteria thing you guys like invoking to have your way. We are all wise to this “going crazy” thing. Infrading to say the least”.

I bought my farm in 1999, not in the 1980s. Also, I do not stir up ethnic hatred to shame Germany, instead I mobilise Ovaherero and Nama victims of German genocide to smoke the German government out of hiding in order that it accounts for the killings of our people – and to this one I have committed my life unconditionally.
The reason I say that Germany of today is the same as Germany of 1998 is because in that year John Grobbler wrote an article for the Mail & Guardian that appeared in the edition of 13-19 March 1998. The said article was carried against the backdrop of the visit to Namibia and South Africa by German president Roman Herzog.

Writing under the heading “Still No Redress for Hereros” this is what Grobler said: “The battle for a free Namibia has been won, but the Herero people still suffer from a defeat at German hands in 1904. The Herero’s quest for reparations from the German government cuts to the heart of the burning land question in Namibia.. the Hereros lost most of their grazing areas, now occupied by prosperous white farmers, many of them third-generation German Namibians… The reprisals came slow at first but increased in swiftness and brutality. The defeated Hereros fled into the Omaheke desert but von Trotha wanted to make an example of them; nothing but annihilation would do.
Offering huge bounties for the head of Samuel Maharero and his captains, von Trotha issued his infamous extermination order on October 2nd 1904. He warned: “Every Herero found within German borders, with or without guns, with or without livestock, will be shot. I will not give shelter to Herero women or children. They must return to their people or they will be shot.”

Grobbler writes further that when Roman Herzog was asked whether he would apologise for the extermination orders and the concomitant genocide on Ovaherero people, he refused.

Above eloquent presentation of the victim communities’ struggle against Germany was ably crafted by John Grobbler and I can only add a few critical details: In 1905, Kaizer Wilhelm issued a decree to expropriate all of Hereroland. On May 8th 1907 Kaizer Wilhelm issued a decree expropriating all of Namaland, with the exception of Berseba and Warmbad. By 1908, the German government had acquired by decree and otherwise, 46 million hectares of land that was the property of Namas, Hereros Damaras and San.

When the Ovaherero were defeated at Ohamakari and forced into the desert to die, von Trotha proudly exclaimed in a report to Kaizer Wilhelm: “The Herero indictment has come to an end and they have ceased to exist as an independent people”. This statement is very true and if we depart from the fact that by then more than 46 million hectares of land belonging to the indigenes of South West Africa was captured and in the hands of German settlers, their soldiers and their missionaries, it goes without saying that all of present-day central Namibia south of Oshivelo rests on ancestral lands and the house of John Grobler enjoys the hospitality of ancestral lands belonging to Damara, San, Herero and Nama people of traditional South West Africa.

I belabor these matters just to allay John Grobler’s self-inflicted fears of me stirring up hatred and sowing the seeds of hysteria for the sake of shaming Germany into paying billions to the Herero for compensation for lost land. I bought a farm in conformity with the laws of Namibia. The 1982 constitutional principles that were enshrined in our law of the land placed an added responsibility on Namibia’s legislature not to allow land take-overs that are not governed by law.

No land would be taken without fair compensation and at independence we were all under obligation not to claim ancestral land, so much so that many of us went out and bought back our land with our own money, notwithstanding the fact that we knew where our ancestral land is located inside Namibia. The insinuations by Grobler come from my public position that most of central Namibia rests on ancestral land. But while we know that, some of us went out and bought back our own land, in order to give our young state latitude to promulgate laws that would facilitate orderly management of the business of state. Contrary to beliefs by apologists of Germany, this did not mean that the Germans are off the hook. Germany wronged Namas and Ovaherero and they must own up to these crimes, accept that their extermination orders constitute genocide and pay reparations to the victim communities.

Should Germany not find this proposition feasible as it is apparent, they must come out clean, because the land that was taken from our ancestors was not exported to Germany, only its wealth was. Grobler was conversant with this position in 1998 when he wrote for the Mail & Guardian and he knows that Germany has not changed its intransigence. To this effect Germany has been consistent from 1998 when Roman Hertzog refused to apologise for the genocide. In fact Germany ditched her foreign minister when she intimated an apology. Also, the German parliament rejected the resolution by the German opposition party on genocide, insisting that they own up to their historical crimes.

The question to Grobler is thus, were you real in 1998 when you steadfastly told the world of Germany’s crimes against humanity, or are you real now as an apologist for the German government?

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