New Era (Windhoek)

19 December 2005

Namibia: Markus Kooper: Death of a Hero

THE spiritual and religious leader of the Hoachanas community and staunch petitioner to the United Nations in the early 1960's to prevent the incorporation of the then South West Africa into South Africa as a 5th province, Reverend Markus Kooper, will find his last resting place in Namibia's Heroes' Acre on Thursday, 22 December 2005.

Rev. Kooper passed away in the Windhoek Central Hospital at the age of 87 after a short illness, on Friday, 9 December 2005.

Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia called a Special Cabinet meeting on Sunday, 11 December 2005 to deliberate on the status of Rev. Kooper's funeral. Cabinet resolved to endorse a recommendation of President Pohamba to confer the honour of a national hero status on the late Rev. Kooper and to direct that a State funeral be held in his honour for his role in the national liberation struggle of Namibia.

Following the Special Cabinet meeting, President Pohamba has in terms of Article 32 (3) (h) of the Namibian Constitution conferred the honour of national hero status on the late Rev. Kooper and directed that a State funeral be held in his honour.

Born at Hoachanas on 12 September 1918, Rev. Kooper completed his education at the Elementary School in 1932 and spent his time assisting his ageing parents with general housework, livestock framing and gardening until 1938. From 1939 to 1941 he studied at the Teacher Training School at Okahandja. He married Rachel Witbooi in 1942 and started his teaching career the same year. He taught in the Elementary Schools of Stampriet, Gochas and Hoachanas between 1942 and 1946.

On 3 July 1946 he became one of the signatories to the secession document following a split in the Rheinisch Mission Church, an event which sent shock waves through the country's white communities.

Rev. Kooper and other secessionists joined the A.M.E. Church. He resigned from teaching and received a scholarship to attend the School of Religion at Wilberforce from 1946. Circumstances beyond his control forced him to cut his studies short and to return home at the end of 1948.

Back home, Rev. Kooper became the centerpiece of the harsh apartheid and colonial pressure that was determined since 1923 to relocate the Hoachanas community to another location. When the colonial regime failed to relocate the community, the 50 000 hectares of land at Hoachanas was confiscated and reduced to 14 000 hectares in a move to make their life unbearable. Rev. Kooper and the community was determined and committed to hold on to what they considered as their heritage.

In 1954 Rev. Kooper was ordained as a Deacon and in 1955 he became an Elder in the A.M.E. Church. The white community viewed the A.M.E. Church at Hoachanas as a communist church and a threat to their own existence. They saw the forcible removal of Rev. Kooper from Hoachanas as the only way to rid the community of the communist influence.

In 1952, the community was issued with temporary residence permits on the pretext that the former German colonial agreement only gave Hoachanas to them as a temporary residence. Rev.

Kooper was told that the German agreement did not grant him the right to live at Hoachanas. He was summoned to appear in the High Court in Windhoek to advance reasons to the administrator why he should not be removed from Hoachanas, since he was living there illegally. He refused to appear in the High Court and instead collected all the permanent residence permits from the community between 1952 and 1958 and sent them back to the administrator.

Rev. Kooper, his wife and five children were removed at gunpoint from Hoachanas on 29 January 1959 and dumped in a lifeless area some 300 kilometers from Keetmans-hoop. Restricted to this area, they were deprived of visits, food supplies and housing and only state security accessed the area for their regular interrogation and inhumane intimidation of the Kooper family. Towards the end of 1959, Rev. Kooper left his family under difficult circumstances and returned to Hoachanas from where he escaped to Zambia via Botswana early in 1960 after years of harassment by the colonial occupiers.

In Zambia, he linked up with the Founding Father of the Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, the late Adv. Jariretundu Kozonguizi, Mburumba Kerina, the current Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, the former Prime Minister Hage Geingob and others to petition the United Nations on the future of South West Africa/Namibia.

After 16 years as a petitioner to the United Nations, Rev. Kooper returned to Namibia in 1976 and established the A.M.E. Private Community School at Hoachanas. In 1981 he was among 41 men arrested and imprisoned for 6 months for refusing to register for the colonial and ethnic-based census by the Transitional Government.

The late Rev. Kooper served on the SWAPO Elders Council and received several awards from the A.M.E. Church for relentless sacrifices and achievements in the A.M.E. Church. He was indeed a pioneer in the areas of education, religion and human rights and in his fight for the dignity and brotherhood of all mankind in Namibia. He also played an important role in the liberation of the country.

The late Rev. Kooper is survived by his wife, Rachael, five children and several grand and great grandchildren. The Hero's Memorial Service for the late Rev. Markus Kooper is scheduled to take place in Parliament Gardens on Wednesday, 21 December 2005. On Thursday, 22 December 2005, he will be laid to rest at Heroes' Acre with a hero's funeral.

The programme for the Hero's Memorial Service and Funeral will be made available once it has been finalised.

Further information on the late Rev. Kooper can be obtained from his son, Francis Kooper at telephone number 0811246145.

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