The name Hornkranz made headlines in December 2018 when President Hage Geingob launched a month-long “Operation Hornkranz” as an army/police anti-crime operation to fight the rising crime across the country.
Social media wanted to know why Hornkranz and where the name originate from. Well, Hornkranz made headlines some 127 years ago when German soldiers made a surprise attack on Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi at Hornkranz.
Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi, Auta !Nanseb, our revolutionary icon, refused to sign a protection treaty with the Germans. In the meantime, Namas and Hereros abandoned their differences and signed a peace treaty in November 1892. Germans saw the danger of unity amongst indigenous people, and German Imperial Chancellor, Count Leo von Caprivi declared on 1 March 1893 in Berlin, that “South West Africa is a German territory and it must remain so”.
Attack on Hornkranz was, therefore, a pre-planned and calculated move. Imperial Chancellor von Caprivi, therefore, sent additional troops, and on 16 March 1893, 214 men and two officers disembarked at Walvis Bay. 200 from these men were used in the attack on Hornkranz less than a month after their arrival.
Hornkranz situated west from Rehoboth was a state, according to various Germans who visited the community. The enlarged community settled around 1888 in Hornkranz. Besides /Khowesin clan, there were many others like //Hawoben, Grote-Doden, some from Red Nation, and other Nama clans.
Another German officer describes the Hornkranz as a state of equal rights and communal ownership of property, a kind of primitive communism. They were greatly impressed by the unique discipline among the inhabitants. Alcohol was completely forbidden, and begging was not allowed. The highest law was the Ten Commandments from the Bible and unconditional obedience to their leader in whose mission they believed in.
Witbooi refused to sign the protection treaty, and Von Francois, therefore, responded with an attack on Hornkranz. The community was caught by surprise. As 200 men with their rifles shoot 16,000 rounds of ammunition. Within 30 minutes, 78 women and children were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Death and destruction prevailed, screaming and total bewilderment, blood all over, lifeless bodies of women and children, wounded were crying for help.
To Captain von Francois it was an appropriate form of punishment. Huts and church were burnt down. German imperial forces counted their loot, and amongst the captured objects at Hornkranz were the repatriated Bible and Whip of Auta !Nanseb, from Germany on 28 February 2019.
Last year, the Day was commemorated on 12 April 2019 at UN Plaza in Windhoek. Deputy Prime Minister Honourable Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah, the keynote speaker implored those present to keep the memory alive of the victims of Hornkranz as they made extreme sacrifices for our freedom. Hon. Doreen Sioka, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, also honoured the Hornkranz massacred victims and stated that this was the first gender-based violence committed against innocent Namibian women and children, it should, therefore, be included in remembrance of our fallen heroes and heroines.
These statements encouraged those present as Hornkranz massacre is an untold story for the last 127 years. In the words of the founding President, in writing foreword of the book, Let Us Die Fighting, said: “Society is only fully intelligible when it is studied in terms of its history”.
The story of the Hornkranz massacre should be included in school history books. The victims should be accorded hero status, their burial sites are declared heroes acre. Just like Auta !Nanseb Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi is recognised as a national hero, the repatriated Bible and Whip are national treasures, the returned skulls and artefacts are state properties, the massacre at Hornkranz is also extreme sacrifice in blood for the liberation of our country.
Hornkranz farm should be acquired and declare it National Heritage Site to benefit Witbooi offspring and nation at large through tourism-related activities. The current off-springs of Auta !Nanseb is accorded the veteran status. The children of this off-spring, be recognised as children of the liberation struggle. Therefore, no need to bring ‘struggle kids’ from other regions to Gibeon, they should benefit from job and business opportunities reserved for struggle kids.
The off-spring of Auta !Nanseb should read the history and follow the teachings and legacy of Auta !Nanseb and embrace the example and discipline as taught at Hornkranz. That legacy deserves emulation. The golden rules of self-discipline and inner moral control taught by our forefathers preached and practised deserves to be revisited. Come back home, we should call one another, as we have strayed and have lost the path of moral convictions and unwavering principles. Our leaders and our people were feared, revered and admired.
Today, the offspring of these great leaders are looked down upon, called derogatory names, found to be lazy, drunkards and unproductive. These are far cry from the type of principle leadership their forefathers projected and envisioned. Let us produce films on the life of Kaptein Hendrik Witbooi and write books on our cultural practices to continue with the legacy of Auta !Nanseb and great Red Chiefs, and embrace principled life practised at Hornkranz.
Let us remember those who were brutally and meticulously murdered at Hornkranz. Their sacrifices cannot be in vain. Let us educate ourselves, equip ourselves with skills and lead ourselves, as was shown by our forefathers. May their souls find an everlasting rest. If we do this, the dying wish of Auta !Nanseb would have been fulfilled, when he said, LET MY CHILDREN HAVE REST!!!