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Reiterdenkmal must go

By Paul T. Shipale
The Namibian Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Honourable Joel Kaapanda, is reported to have called for the controversial Reiterdenkmal statue to be removed from public view and placed in a museum. Minister Kaapanda said this reacting to several German - speaking Namibians who said that "removing the statue was disgusting and a ploy to attract votes ahead of next year's elections".

Minister Kaapanda is quoted to have said "Namibia became independent in 1990 and we cannot glorify that statue. It deserves to be somewhere in the museum and cannot remain where our heroes' and heroines' statues will be erected. Government will make sure that our own history is preserved by getting rid of all colonial vestiges and distortions" and slammed historian Dr. Andreas Vogt for saying that President Pohamba "does not have knowledge or understand the law" when the President said during this year's Heroes' Day commemoration at OmugulugwOmbashe, "This monument (Reiterdenkmal statue) is a symbol of victory on the side of the Germans. This monument means 'we have defeated them'. The horse rider must be removed. If they want to take it back to Germany it is also fine, we will not have any objections."

I concur with Percy Mabandu who wrote in this week's City Press of South Africa that many whites are suspicious of any discussions of our colonial baggage, especially where there is an emphasis on the European descent of the conquerors and the Africanness of historical victims.

The same goes for many blacks. The subject works like a Pavlovian bell where its mention conjures up all manner of fears. The former think your next logical step is to make a call for the Night of the Long Knives even though we have long past that type of politics.

On the other hand, the latter fear the economic calamity and suffering that might result from white people being offended or as Muzi Kuzwayo writes in the same newspaper that many blacks are worry about a mass exodus of white business and management, which is happening anyway as many of their businesses have become offshore businesses. Blacks look at the suffering that followed the anti-colonial revolutions across Africa as a sign that they shouldn't ask hard probing questions. As such, any public talk of land re-distribution, identity and historical justice is spoilt by the baggage of poisoned language with the longterm effect of this self imposed censorship regime where truth is lost to politeness.

Mabandu further says that some infected wounds require us to scratch their scabs to encourage proper healing and cleanse ourselves. The truth is, the nostalgia of the colonial past mist up some people's eyes so badly that their view of history becomes corrupted and conveniently forget how we supped at death's door for long as the former masters denied us our rights. The underlying factor here is that we stem from a history of colonial oppression overlaid with the exploitation of natural resource. The tools and weapons of colonial expansion where trained on the exploitation of our people using them as cheap labour in the means of production, while they were dispossessed of their land with forced removals, influx control, poor education and a sophisticated security apparatus which were used to exploit our mineral wealth.

Coupled with that, the migrant labour system, the homeland system and Bantu education were added to the lexicon of the exploitation of our people with the single purpose in mind; the exploitation of our land while denying our people their rightful share and place.

It is against this background, that colonial relics are preserved and worshiped by some people in this country to glorify the history of slavery, atrocities and untold suffering of our people, including as victims of genocide. As Minister Kaapanda put it, it is therefore unbelievable that some German - speaking Namibians think that we should display in public view the remnants of colonialism in our country, and I should add, under the lame excuse that the Reiterdenkmal statue 'is part of the nation's cultural heritage and that it therefore belongs to everybody' while we all know that Hitler's statues are nowhere to be seen in Europe as they depict a history of genocide and extermination of the Jews people. This is indeed an insult to the memories of the victims of genocide.

We don't see statues of Patrice Lumumba in Belgium, Sekou Touré in France, Amical Cabral or Samora Machel and Augustinho Neto in Portugal, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Robert Mugabe, Oliver Tambo or Nelson Mandela in Britain as well as the statues in Germany of our heroes and heroines such as the brave warriors in the wars of resistance waged by our forefathers such as Kaptain Hendrik Witbooi, Jacob Marenga, Chief Samuel Maharero, Chief Kahimemwa Nguvauva, Chief Nehale lja Mpingana, Chief Mandume ja Ndemufayo, Chief Iipumbu ja Tshilongo and many others such as Chief Hosea Kutako, who together with other early petitioners such as Chief Samuel Witbooi and Rev. Theofilus Hamutumbangela petitioned, first to the League of Nations and later to the United Nations for the apartheid regime of South Africa to relinquish the authority it claimed over our country.

In addition, we don't see in Germany the statues of our heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle led by Dr. Sam Nujoma such as the pioneering Commandos of the G1 and G2 under Commander John Otto Nankudhu and the overall Command of Tobias Hainyeko and Peter Nanyemba including the gallant combatants of the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), SWAPO's Military Wing and its Military Council as well as the internal leadership of people such as Herman Toivo Ya Toivo, Nathanel Maxuilili, Rev. Hendrik Witbooi, Daniel Tjongarero, Immanuel Shifidi, Brendan Simbwaye, Kakurukaze Mungunda, Anton Lubowski and many others. If we don't put up the statues of our heroes and heroines, then who will? If we don't talk about our glorious history of the national liberation struggle and our great success during the struggle in keeping up the war inside the country in the face of the much larger South African Army, their technology and air cover, due to the mobility of our fighters who could cover great distances rapidly on foot and who dug trenches and slept in dug-outs, then who will talk about them? Our combatants successfully attacked the apartheid regime's SADF and SWATF bases at Omahenene, Okankolo, Okongo, Ogongo, Onavivi, Okatope, Eenhana, Onesi, Okalongo and many other places including at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale and if we don't talk about it, then who will? Who will speak of the massacres of our people at Oshatotwa, Cassinga, Vietnam, Oshikuku, Oshakati by the apartheid regime including the war crimes and genocide between 1904 and 1907 as part of the extermination order given by German General lothar von Trotha against our people? Only in Namibia will you find some German - speaking Namibians who think that we should display in public view the remnants of colonialism in our country.

Lest we forget, the history of this country points to colonialism and apartheid having left such a lasting legacy that we are still involved with its eradication. Our political opponents advance the pretence that they are defending the values of democracy and our constitution while they are in actual fact seeking to reinforce neo-colonialism. To buttress their agenda to maintain colonial and apartheid legacies, as opposed to their eradication, it is time that we apply decoloniality as a political- cum-epistemological liberatory project which is born out of a realisation that ours is an asymmetrical world order that is sustained not only by colonial matrices of power but also by pedagogies and epistemologies of equilibrium.

In this regard, I already amply elaborated on how the leading Portuguese sociologist and decolonial thinker Boaventura de Sousa Santos clearly articulated how the human space was divided into two zones: 'Zone of Being' and 'Zone of Non- Being' and provided details of how Western thinking operated as 'abyssal thinking' consisting of 'a system of visible and invisible distinctions, the visible ones being the foundation of the invisible ones.' The end product of all this were colonial discourses and negative representations of black people as being characterised by a catalogue of deficits and series of lacks. Let us reconcile in truth and indeed and not just when it is convenient for some. Against this backdrop, the Reiterdenkmal statue must go, period!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


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