• July 12th, 2020

Heritage council enters fray over Henties gallows

WALVIS BAY – The acting director of the National Heritage Council, Erica Ndalikokule, says public opinion bears much weight, especially when it comes to landmarks that are deemed offensive or declaring heritage sites. 
Ndalikokule was responding to the issue of the gallows in Henties Bay that has sparked public debate and an online petition to consider their removal. 

Historically, the gallows were used for public hanging and lynching of black people across the world. 
The monument, dubbed ‘the most photographed artefact at the town’, is according to activists making a mockery of black pain and should have been removed when Namibia gained independence 30 years 

The landmark was erected 42 years ago at a time Namibia was under the 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. Ndalikokule confirmed that the landmark is not declared as a national heritage at this stage and falls under the Henties Bay municipality.  She explained that such issues have to be approached with a balanced view because there are citizens who feel offensive monuments in modern Namibia should be removed from public view, while others opine it should be preserved. 

“In their context, monuments form part of different chapters of Namibian history and that history cannot be wiped out. Public opinion matters – and in this case, if the public strongly feels that the landmark should be moved, they should consult the Henties Bay municipality and reach an agreement on the way forward,” she said. 

She explained there are still many more heritage resources in the country that are yet to be identified and declared. “Therefore, it is imperative that processes of this nature should only be concluded after consulting the heritage council. In the case of a declared monument, there are procedures to be followed as stated in Section 40 of the National Heritage Act.  In the end, the final decision is taken in the interest of the public,” she explained. 

Henties Bay mayor Herman Honeb last week said he would not be pressured to make a hasty decision with regards to the infamous gallows at the town. Honeb yesterday said although the sentiments concerning the gallows are valid and deserved to be heard, he needed to consult with fellow councillors before any decision can be made.
Speaking to New Era yesterday, Honeb said the municipality has been working hard to address racism issues at the town. He explained that some of the people, including residents, do not know the real history of Namibia and Henties Bay itself, and to assume that the two settlers who set up the landmark were the first residents of the town is only part of the history. 

“To say the least, indigenous people have been hunting here and led a nomadic lifestyle. Namibians have been living all over the country and saying the landmark was set up to keep the beach clean is convenient, taking into account that it was during the apartheid era. In fact, there are better ways to educate our people about keeping the beach clean,” he said.  He added Namibians were chased away from many towns that white settlers wanted to occupy, and this gave the impression that they were the first residents of a town.
“That is how towns were proclaimed in the past; hence, it does not mean there were no Namibians but we simply did not have the right to claim land or a town. People simply moved away to avoid clashing with the apartheid regime,” he said. 
Weighing in on the matter, Arandis mayor Risto Kapenda said: “I understand that there are parts of history our people do not know. What I can tell you is that Henties Bay and Arandis were part of Damaraland.  To even question whether Namibians occupied these areas before the two white settlers is an insult to Namibians who lived all over the country.” 

Residents of Henties Bay were also divided in terms of the landmark, with many saying it is part of the town’s history and a major tourist attraction that should rather be preserved than removed. “Nobody was hanged on it so I do not know why we are making a fuss about it. Just because someone was killed in America does not mean everything that some people think is offensive should be removed. We all have a say,” a resident of Henties Bay, who wished to stay anonymous, said. 

– edeklerk@nepc.com.na 

Eveline de Klerk
2020-06-09 10:10:29 | 1 months ago

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