No answers for colonialism’s victims
Nama chief Johannes Matroos of Heiraxabis told DW: “We are landless because of the genocide.” He is head of the Bondeslwarts Traditional Authority, descended from people who lost their land after their 1904 rebellion against German rule.
In 1904, the Nama and Herero tribes revolted against the colonial invaders and were crushed.
On October 2, 1904, General Lothar von Trotha issued his notorious “extermination order”. “Within the German borders every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot,” it read.
By 1908, between 75,000 and 100,000 Herero and Nama are estimated to have been killed.
Around 80 per cent of the Herero died. The survivors’ descendants now number 200,000-plus of Namibia’s 2.3 million inhabitants.
In July 2015, the Berlin government referred to the killings as genocide for the first time.
In 1906, Matroos’ Bondelswarts clan agreed to a peace deal brokered by Catholic missionary Johann Malinowski. Elsewhere the killings continued for another two years.
Matroos still leases land from the Catholic Church that used to belong to his ancestors.
“After the peace treaty, we had to hand over our firearms and were removed from here, Heiraxabis, to Warmbad and Heibxabis. That’s how we lost our land,” Matroos, 64, said.
Heiraxabis, where Matroos was born, belongs to the Catholic Church within 57,000 hectares of farmland. The Bondelswarts clan lease an 8,000 hectare plot for 1,000 Namibian dollars (€67) per month from the church, Matroos explains.
Namibia has been trying to buy and distribute land but progress is slow.
And Namibia’s 16,000 ethnic Germans, who still dominate business and farming, are twitchy about the threat of reparations and land seizures.
For Matroos the issue remains unresolved.
“This land issue is still not addressed and we ask now for our ancestral land, but the government only introduced this resettlement programme which is not working and not suitable for us, because we did not even get land through this programme,” the clan leader said.
He is hoping for German reparations so he can buy back his clan’s land.
Meanwhile, Herero and Nama representatives are suing Germany in New York in July and Namibia’s government is also considering suing Germany.
“We hope we will succeed in this reparation issue with the government and with the German government, so that we can get land and develop our people,” Matroos said.
“Without land you can do nothing. [With] land … we can also send our children to higher education, so that they can equip them for future life and make their own living.”
Picture credit: Pixabay