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‘People don’t eat projects’

2021-09-07  Paheja Siririka

‘People don’t eat projects’

Traditional authorities have, once again, vehemently opposed the Namibian and German governments’ genocide reparations pact, as parliamentarians are getting ready to debate the issue in the August House. 

At a press briefing held yesterday in Windhoek, the government-recognised leaders again gathered to state their position and reaffirm their disappointment with the terms the government agreed upon with Germany.

Leaders of the Maharero, Kambazembi, Mureti, Zeraeua traditional authorities and the Nama Genocide 1904-1908 Development Trust feel an amount of N$8 trillion as reparations from the German government is reasonable and the suggested N$18 billion is a drop in the ocean for the Germans as they can easily pay that amount.

“The agreement that was negotiated is highly skewed and extremely favours the German government rather than the descendants of the victims of the 1904-1908 Ovaherero Nam Genocide. The Namibian parliament must note and refer this agreement back to the Technical Committee so that it can be negotiated properly with the new German government,” stated Chief Manasse Zeraeua.

He added that after consulting the affected communities, the suggested €1.1 billion (around N$18 billion) in projects over a 30-year period is not enough and it is a slap to their face especially taking into account the atrocities committed, the land that was taken, the animals and the total livelihoods of the people cannot amount to that figure. Namibia’s negotiation strategy is based on three pillars, namely, acknowledgement, apology and reparations.

 “We don’t have a problem with acknowledgement and apology, we have an issue with reparations, and they are talking about grants and it is different from reparations and whatever terminology is being used, that money is simply not enough,” added Zeraeua.

 “A 90-year-old will benefit more from social grants so that they can afford things they couldn’t. People don’t eat projects, people eat food. Confining that money to projects over 30 years is an insult.”

Another recommendation by the group includes the re-appointment of the envoy after the passing on of Zed Ngavirue, for those living in the diaspora to also benefit from the reparations, and for the matter to be debated in parliament.

“Members should indulge themselves in a serious and dignified debate regarding this painful matter,” shared the group.

The matter is expected to be debated in the National Assembly in the coming days. 

The Namibian negotiating team initially submitted an amount of N$1.1 trillion to the German negotiating team as losses incurred by the affected communities during the 1904-1908 genocide.

Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, who announced government’s position on the issue in June this year, also said the initial offers made by Germany were “totally unacceptable”.  “I am fully aware that the reparation amount was always going to be a highly contentious issue,” he said. 

“In 2016, the Namibian government submitted a quantum for reparations to the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. This quantum was the total calculation of the loss of life, ancestral land, livestock, cultural properties and heritage of the Ovaherero and Nama communities between 1904-1908. The German government gave a counter-offer of a lesser amount. It was for these reasons that negotiations took more than five years due to numerous counter-offers from Germany, which were totally unacceptable to Namibia. This situation almost led to a deadlock and inconclusive talks.” Tens of thousands of Namibians, mainly the Nama and Ovaherero, were killed in what is called the first genocide of the 20th century when German troops exterminated and displaced them in 1904-1908.  In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by the German as well as reparations. 

2021-09-07  Paheja Siririka

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