During the Herero Wars, the Herero and Nama people suffered a massive racial massacre and resultant human squalour by the Germans, who were seeking to conquer the then South West African, today called Namibia.
These racial atrocities took place from 1904 to 1907 with others leaving their homeland. They sought refuge in countries such as Botswana and other surrounding neighbours. Just like any war, there were others who did not survive – they were killed, and their livestock and land taken.
Throughout the world, victims of human rights abuses have risen to seek justice for atrocities they experienced, regardless of the time in history that such atrocity happened. In the US, victims of the Germans in Namibia, the Nama and Herero people, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the German government. Their genocide is considered the first in the 20th century and occurred around 110 years ago. That’s a very long time ago and questions have emerged in relation to the timing of initiating such an action.
Regardless of the timing, victims of genocide ought to seek justice for the agony they suffered and impartiality must be observed.
Repatriation is important in fostering social cohesion between both parties. They symbolise a process of making peace and apologising for the wrong committed against fellow human beings and against countries.
They further affirm that such atrocities will never happen by either party. Countries which have continued to agree on engaging on the matter have shown earnest will to correct the wrong committed by their forefathers, simply because victims remain from generation to generation and the scars are still very much detectable.
Today the people of Africa still suffer from slavery that occurred in time immemorial.
We know that Germans have paid their price for killing the Jews. In recent years the Australian government has initiated a number of programmes to facilitate the return of indigenous humans held in Britain. In South Africa the human remains of Sarah Baartman and Moses Kotane were returned home for their final resting place as part of repatriation.
And so must Germany also assist the Herero and Nama people to find some kind of peace. Their demand for repatriation is not roguish. In itself, repatriation does not necessarily have to be financial, but the financial aspect is important as people’s livestock was unlawfully taken, and land with mineral wealth is also at play.
The Nama people are within their right to seek justice; it is within their right to demand acknowledgement of the wrong committed, to demand an apology and to demand financial compensation for what they suffered regardless of the duration.
Of importance is how the money will be distributed and to whom.
Do these two Namibian tribes have some form of database and generational tree to show who-is-whom on the beneficiary list? In essence the compensation and resources must be channelled to community development and not to individuals.
Their suffering can never be compensated enough. The least that can be done is to channel the resources to building lasting legacies like schools, hospitals, clinics and community centres. It would defeat the object if such resources were not properly utilised, with lawyers and leaders cutting the share of the compensation for their narrow financial gain. DM
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked. She is also an NEC member of the ANC Youth League and writes in her personal capacity.