• November 16th, 2018
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Tribute to Chief David Frederick

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Salmaan Jacobs The passing on of Chief David Frederick of the !Aman Traditional Authority from Bethanie, //Karas Region on Friday, 12 January 2018, came as a shock and dismay to many, judging from the expressions of sorrow; sympathies and condolences received by the family through messages and via social media. Personally, I lost a brother. A very loving and supportive brother, and a brother who traversed the land of the brave in search of answers to pertinent questions he had. Maybe he found the answers, maybe not, but in the process he left remarkable footprints, worthy of emulation by many to come after him. He was 85 years old, 3 months and 29 days, and under normal circumstances would have just passed as another elderly person reaching his finality. But he was a giant, and his assignment on this earth was altogether a different ball game. According to William Shakespeare, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. Our late Chief Frederick was the combination of all these fine qualities, he was born great, achieved greatness in his life, and through his commitment to genuine causes, had greatness thrust upon him. His was a relentless soul and he was a warrior, trotting this ancestral land of his forefathers from east to west, north to south, and over the sea and mountains. He was burning from within, to witness finality to the chapter of his ancestors’ human skulls dismembered from their bodies and taken to Germany for research and what not, to be returned. He brought some of those skulls back, having been part of the delegation entrusted by the Namibian government to bring back those remains from Germany. I met him at the airport that day in September 2011. We both cried, when he said, “I thank God, the enabler, the consoler, that our age-old yearning for the return of these essential parts of our grandparents, could be realised, let us praise His Holy Name”. A very deep and conscientious believer and religious person, who knows that only the Unseen Power could have enabled these remains to return; as mortal beings, we only fulfil His wishes. His quiet departure from this world left us all, his family, especially his beloved wife and adored children, his community, the broader Nama community and the Namibian nation at large, in shock and total emptiness. We did not expect his departure now, because fairly or unfairly, his passing-on caused anxiety, particularly for those who pinned their hopes on his persistence to see closure on claims for reparations and genocide, including return of all skulls of ancestors still lingering in museums and libraries of foreign hinterlands, to be returned for reunification with the rest of bodies and for proper burial. Chief Frederick experienced brutality of the apartheid regime when he was barely 10 years old and in Standard 2, today’s Grade 4. He was expelled from the Rhenish Missionary School at Bethanie. The expulsion was not for reasons of his own making but because his father, and his father’s brother, Chief Josef Frederick of that time, together with large group of community members, walked out and discontinued membership of the Rhenish Missionary Church in 1942. Subsequently, they joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church around the year 1946. His father, his namesake, must have seen leadership qualities in his son already, because it is reported that the father narrated to late Chief David Frederick horrifying stories of how Nama people were subjected to cold-blooded extermination. He told him how his grandfather, Captain Cornelius Frederick, one of the !Aman Chiefs was beheaded, together with many Namas and other nations at Shark Island in !Nami-#Nûs, Lüderitz. He was beheaded on 16 February 1907, on Shark Island, or Death Island, as this wretched place of death came to be known. Because of his efforts, and efforts of others, may be his offspring may live to see the realisation of Shark Island be declared Heroes Acre. This is the place where many early inhabitants of Namibia perished under harsh conditions of hanging, beheading, diseases like cholera, but mostly brutal inhuman treatment meted out to them by the colonial German settlers. Our late Chief had a father, who ensured he is properly told the history, and always showed him the house where Captain Cornelius Frederick used to live when they come in to Bethanie from the farm. The smooth transition into the royal seat was paved with careful preparations, and he was first appointed as Senior Counselor under Chief Samuel Herero from 1960, after Chief Josef Frederick passed away in 1957. This position enabled him to work closely with his community, consulting widely on issues of water and grazing points, peaceful co-existence and cooperation, combating theft. In addition, he arranged traditional festivals and dignified burial for those who passed away in the community. (to be continued)
New Era Reporter
2018-01-26 10:22:54 9 months ago

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