Namibia: 'Germany Could Easily Pay for Vaccines'

Germany genocide in Namibia (File photo).

News - National | 2021-07-07

ADAM HARTMAN, CHARMAINE NGATJIHEUE and SHELLEYGAN PETERSEN

GERMANY should, instead of continuing with talks around the recently finalised genocide agreement, rather help Namibia acquire more Covid-19 vaccines.

Jürgen Zimmerer, a historian of German descent, yesterday told The Namibian Germany should consider delaying the final discussions on the agreement if they take reconciliation and atoning for the genocide seriously.

This, however, should not be seen as a way for the German government to pay for the Nama-Herero genocide of 1904 to 1908, during which roughly 65 000 Ovaherero people and 10 000 Nama people were killed by German soldiers.

Apart from this, those who survived were placed in concentration camps where some eventually died of starvation, while others fled to neighbouring countries and abroad.

Zimmerer said the German government must do its utmost to protect Namibians against the pandemic, because they failed to do so during the genocide.

"Germany did not protect the Herero and Nama during colonialism and genocide ... it therefore must do so now," he said.

'HISTORICAL JUSTICE'

In May, the German and Namibian governments entered into an agreement, concluding five years of genocide negotiations, in which Germany acknowledged the genocide, undertook that their federal president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, would render the affected communities an apology, and promised to pay Namibia over N$18 billion towards reconciliation and development.

Zimmerer, however, said there can be no sustainable reconciliation without the consent of the majority of the Herero and Nama communities.

The historian last week told German publication RedaktionzNetzwerk Deutschland (RND), it is a "requirement of historical justice" that Germany helps Namibia in the fight against Covid-19 by supplying the country with vaccines.

"Since the victims of German and South African colonialism are among the most affected victims of the pandemic, quick help, for example by providing vaccines, is a requirement of historical justice, lived reconciliation," Zimmerer, who is a professor of history at the University of Hamburg, and the president of the International Network of Genocide Scholars, said.

Leading representatives of the Herero community died in Namibia last month over a period of a few days.

The deceased include Ovaherero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro, OvaMbanderu chief Karaerua Nguvauva, and special envoy on the genocide talks Zed Ngavirue.

Namibia is currently facing a vaccine shortage, and is one of the countries on the continent with the highest infection and death rate.

Less than 3% of the country's population has been vaccinated.

Zimmerer said the fact that the threatening medical dilemma coincides with the conclusion of the government's negotiations on the genocide, requires the German government "to act quickly and clearly".

"I would advise the German government to pause the procedures as to allow the Herero and Nama and all Namibians to formulate their position on the agreement. So, a moratorium for a year or so is what I would call for," he said.

Zimmerer said vaccines for the whole of Namibia "could easily be paid for" by the German government.

'NO SUBSTITUTE'

The president of the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo), Esther Muinjangue, says the two governments are already engaging on more than vaccines.

"With the Covid thing, it is very difficult to bring in politics, because it is about saving lives. It is not about politics. So if you have medicine you will only give us some. Why would you do that?" Muinjangue says.

Ovaherero Genocide Foundation chairperson and traditional authority acting secretary general Nandiuasora Mazeingo says it is Germany's prerogative to assist Namibia with vaccines, but such a gesture cannot be acknowledged as a substitute or element of reparation.

"Reparation is a punishment for the crimes committed by the Germans against our people - that is the real conversation to be had only with us," he says.

According to Sima Luiperdt of the Nama Traditional Leaders Association, the Nama's position is that the existing bilateral agreement cannot be brought into the equation of genocide.

"It is not our intent to interfere in any manner in the matters of bilateral exchange. That is why NTLA is not part of the special assistance arrangement," she says.

Vipua Muharukua of the Popular Democratic Movement says there is a historical tie between Germany and Namibia, however, German reparations and an apology are completely different to help from Germany against Covid-19.

"That's the responsibility of our government," he says.

He said Namibia does not need to depend on donations or foreign philanthropy.

NOT TABLED YET

Currently, the joint declaration has not been tabled in the National Assembly yet, spokesperson David Nahogandja said yesterday.

It is set to be tabled once the National Assembly (NA) resumes for debate.

The session has been halted following reports of numerous Covid-19 cases among staff members and lawmakers, Nahogandja said.

"The resumption of the house sittings will be communicated in due course," he said.

Minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah yesterday confirmed that the genocide declaration has not yet been submitted to the NA, due to a recess as a result of the pandemic.

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