The prominence of Hendrik Witbooi in the history and destiny of Namibia, his resolve and intense yearning to free Namibia at all costs, his philosophy of Pan-Africanism, came to be recognized, and rightly so, by both the Namibian Government and the international community through the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Sam Nujoma, Founding President and Father of the Nation, at the Opening Ceremony of the Heroes Acre on 26 August 2002 said: “As we inaugurate this Heroes’ Acre today, we will unveil the graves of nine of our national heroes and heroines whose names have already been engraved here in the Heroes’ Acre. These heroes and heroines were identified from the period of our people’s resistance against German colonialism to the era of modern anti-colonial struggle, specifically the Windhoek Old Location Uprising on 10 December 1959. I will now present them in the following order.”
The recognition of the nine national heroes starts with Hendrik Witbooi, followed by Jacob Marengo, Chief Kahimemua Nguvauva, Chief Samuel Maharero, Chief Nehale lya Mpingana, Chief Mandume ya Ndemufayo, Chief Iipumbu ya Tshilongo, Chief Hosea Komombumbi Kutako and Kakurukaze Mungunda.
UNESCO recognised the role played by Hendrik Witbooi in the late 1800s. The Witbooi Papers were included in the Memory of the World Register in 2005 in the following words: “Witbooi’s insights into the nature of colonialism, about the fundamental difference between conflict with African competitors and with European invaders, his attempts at formulating African legal concepts, and the visionary and poetic power of some of his texts are the qualities that set his letters apart and above the bulk of contemporary and earlier African texts of the same genre. The texts include the probably first written formulation of the concept of Pan-Africanism.”
Namibians remember their fallen heroes through dedicated days, Heroes’ Day, Cassinga Day, and soon Shark Island Memorial Day. The sequence in which each painful chapter unfolded itself is narrated and continues to be painted at each occasion by all our leaders. It started with Nujoma, who spares no platform to remember these brave heroes and heroines, whose mantle he carried forward until the dawn of independence in 1990.
Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba continued to remind the nation of their sacrifices throughout his tenure. At the occasion of the official launch of a new generation of banknotes on 21 March 2012, in the presence of President Pohamba, Bank Governor Ipumbu Shiimi explained why Witbooi was chosen to be on the Namibian banknotes. He said that “Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi will forever remain one of our martyrs, a hero who fought fearlessly against the occupation of our motherland. The battles he fought, for example in the Naukluft Mountains on 27 August 1894 and subsequent battles in the Auab Valley, were not ordinary, but acts of bravery … according to history, these were his last words, ‘It is enough now, the children shall have peace.’ Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Namibians, let’s treasure the peace we are currently enjoying for this was bought with blood.”
The current Head of State, Hage Geingob, during Heroes’ Day on 26 August 2017 reminded Namibians once again that “the bravery of the Namibian people against oppressors can be traced back to the 1800’s and was characterized by bravery and sacrifice. This resistance was best summarized by Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi’s words of, ‘Let us die fighting.’” The legacy of Witbooi continues to inspire us all.
• Salmaan Dhameer Jacobs is a history activist and Annarine Jacobs is from the /Khowese clan from Gibeon.