19 February 2019

Namibia: Fight Over Witbooi Bible Repatriation

THE government and the Witbooi Traditional Authority are at loggerheads over the repatriation of kaptein Hendrik Witbooi's Bible and whip from Germany.

This comes after the traditional authority wrote to stop the reparation early this year, while the education ministry has already made arrangements for the Bible and whip to be brought back to Namibia by 26 February 2019.

The Namibian has seen a letter written by American lawyer Kenneth McCallion on behalf of the Witbooi Traditional Authority to the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, where the Bible and whip are being kept.

Education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa held a press conference last week with Namibian ambassador to Germany Andreas Guibeb, where she revealed that the Bible and whip were expected to be in the country by yesterday.

Last week, the Nama Traditional Leaders Association held a press conference where they announced that they would decide when Germany should pay compensation after exploring the question of to whom the reparations should be made.

Denise Burgert, deputy head of communications in the German ministry of science, research and arts, confirmed yesterday that they had received the letter from the traditional authority, but said they will not delay the return of the whip and Bible.

"I can confirm that we have received the letter from the Witbooi Traditional Authority, which we are currently reviewing, and will answer shortly.

"As of now, we plan to return the family Bible and whip of Hendrik Witbooi to the Namibian government as these are the wishes of both the Witbooi family as well as the Namibian government," said Burgert.

She made reference to September 2018 when state secretary Petra Olschowski held several talks with members of the Witbooi family in Windhoek.

"We thus feel we are committed to the family's wish for a swift return of the heirlooms," she added.

Hanse-Himarwa said the fact that such a request was made means nothing because they are confident that enough consultations there were, and that the Witbooi family was in agreement that the Bible and whip should be returned.

She said the Bible will be kept at the national archives, and be moved to Gibeon after a museum has been constructed there.

The Witbooi family will also get a certified copy for their keeping.

Ida Hoffman, member of the Nama Technical Committee on Genocide, said the leaders had no right to demand that the return of the Bible and whip should be delayed.

She said she had started the fight and verbally whipped the Nama association for wanting to halt the repatriation.

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