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Gallows make ‘mockery of black pain’… petition seeks to remove offensive landmark

HENTIES BAY - The Henties Bay community has been petitioned to consider removing the infamous gallows at the coastal town, which according to petitioners represent a dark era in the Namibian history. 
Historically, the gallows were used for public hanging and lynching of black people across the world. The monument dubbed ‘the most photographed artifact at the town’ is according to human rights activists making a mockery of black pain and should have been removed when Namibia gained independence 30 years ago. Infuriated by its existence, activist Lebbeus Hashikutuva started an online petition that gained 1 900 signatures by yesterday afternoon, calling for the removal of the gallows. 
“The Henties Bay municipality must take it down or we will do it for them. It is simply unacceptable that we still have an object that represents white imperialism, colonialism, lynching and slavery in our public space,” he said. 

The landmark was erected 42 years ago at a time Namibia was under South African apartheid regime, as an appeal to keep the beach and town clean. According to historical information, Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers, who respectively settled at the coastal town in 1969 and 1971 as two of the “first” permanent residents of Henties Bay, erected the structure. Hashikutuva added that the existence of the gallows after 30 years of independence makes a mockery of the pain and suffering thousands of Namibians died for during the apartheid era and glorifies those who inflicted such pain.  “We understand artifacts are part of our history and how it started. It has historical value but also signifies pain and thus should rather be kept in a museum instead of reminding our people of our dark and twisted oppressors,” he explained. “History needs to be taught but this overshadows the real history of Namibia and should not be allowed. Not only should they be removed but we should do away with colonial street and city names. Allowing them to grace in public space is a twisted idea of reconciliation.”  He also explained that the gallows is a loud and serious invalidation of the trauma and is also a poor attempt at whitewashing Namibia’s painful history. 

“We will not be told that the erection of such a structure was to warn people to keep the beach clean when everything about the year in which it was erected inclines us to believe that it was to warn black people to keep clear of the beach. Hence, we demand for it to be removed and placed in a museum,” Hashikutuva said.  Swakopmund-based activist, Laidlow Peringanda also said the monuments displayed publicly in an independent Namibia should be removed because they are promoting white supremacy. 

“Government was supposed to remove all these statues, colonial street names and monuments on 21 March 1990. We should also take note that the majority of blacks have inherited transgenerational trauma and it brings bad memories seeing them in an independent Namibia,” he said. Henties Bay mayor Herman Honeb yesterday admitted that although the monument is part of the town, it represents the apartheid era whereby blacks were killed by whites. 

“The monument itself does not sit well, especially with tourists who find it very offensive and it should not be tolerated. Most of the comments are really offensive,” Honeb said. As far the removal of the monument is concerned, he said they need to establish whether they have the authority to do so before tabling a motion to have it removed. Honeb also said they need overwhelming support in terms of signatures to justify the removal, as there are a few individuals objecting its removal, mainly whites that would protect it. 
“Henties Bay as a town promotes inclusivity. Whatever is not toward peace and development will not be tolerated as most of the comments we received about the monument are disturbing and we will strongly consider removing it if we have the authority to do so.” – edeklerk@nepc.com.na