CALLING for the preservation of the horse and rider statue (Reiterdenkmal) next to the Alte Feste in Windhoek is a show of flagrant apathy to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century. That horse and rider statue symbolises Germany's 1904 to 1908 genocide of the Herero and Nama people. It is a symbol of mass murder and Germany's first mass concentration camps, which took place in Namibia.
Indeed, this first genocide of the 20th century is part of Namibia's history, of that there is no doubt and no one disputes this fact. However, how can Namibians contemplate glorifying General Lothar von Trotha's extermination order and the shocking atrocities committed against the inhabitants of then South West Africa? How can that be?
The horse is a painful reminder for the Namibian people of how their forefathers and mothers were driven off their land and were killed like wild animals. Has the history been forgotten to the extent that bona fide Namibians can call for the preservation of this evil statue? Its removal from the site is not an attempt to re-write history but simply to give the statue a befitting place of rest: in a museum. Time has come for the rider to rest instead of proudly standing on a hilltop surveying the land below that he has just conquered, by literally annihilating almost an entire nation.
History books are full of photographs and accounts of what happened to the Herero and Nama people at the beginning of the 1900s. Even the town of Swakopmund, which is still a haven for Germans from all over the world, is still a stark reminder to many people of the cruelty of the Germans. This town itself still makes many Namibians remember how their ancestors were worked to death.
Do we now have to remind these poor victims that Germany provided pre-printed death certificates to its South West African colony, with the cause of death already stipulated as "death through exhaustion"? More than 3 000 Herero's imprisoned in Swakopmund's two concentration camps were systematically murdered as they built the town and the railways leading to it.
Is it not time that we have a monument that honours those that suffered untold miseries in that period? Perhaps Namibians should also consider a debate on renaming Swakopmund to an indigenous Namibian name to honour those that suffered untold miseries at this coastal town.
In this regard, the swift response by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Joel Kaapanda, to the comments by some prominent German-speaking Namibians who found removing the statue to be 'disgusting' should be commended. Kaapanda told them, in no uncertain terms, that the continuous display of this statue in a public area is an insult to the memories of the victims of the genocide and it should thus be confined to the museum of history. Even to this day not all Namibians are aware of the true history of the people of this country and by removing the statue, the Namibian nation is on the way to preserving the accurate and well-documented history as it unfolded in the wake of colonialism on the continent.