The debate on whether there is ancestral land in Namibia has defied pressure to recede for good. There are calls that the discussion on ancestral land is misplaced and must cease, amid rage contained in the breasts of communities whose ancestors lost land and wealth.
This dialogue has picked momentum towards the envisaged land conference slated for October this year and tempers are rising, fueling a dichotomy between those who feel that Namibia is ancestral land to all and we must settle down to share in this heritage, and those who feel that whereas some communities did not lose land and wealth, some did and there is a requirement for minimum standards of redress, as the majority of those who lost land have not yet gained access to the land.
There is a case for ancestral land in Namibia with ample evidence to this effect. These are some examples.
Katjitamuaha Zaire was discovered by German families when he was a boy of twelve years, who was abandoned by fate in the rocky surroundings of Otjituezu that formed rural Otjomuise, present day Windhoek.
The first day the settlers failed to subdue the boy on foot and on the second day they chased him with horses until they captured him. Katjitamuaha was tamed by these German settlers and converted into a cattle herder. Years along his life, Katjitamuaha was booted out of Otjituezu which was by then ring-fenced as Crown Land into Farm Voightz Land, because the numbers of his cattle were not acceptable. He either had to sell to the German family or move out.
He moved with his family to the newly proclaimed Otjimbingue Reservaat from where he later moved to Ovitoto, from where the German settlers of Farm Voightz Land rediscovered him and persuaded him to return to the farm to work, minus his cattle. Katjitamuaha consented and returned to the farm - he worked there until his last day alive. The only property he has in Otjituezu is a one-hectare piece of land where he was buried and where we have returned on numerous occasions to bury his descendants.
He gave birth to prominent Ovaherero leaders Katjiukirue Zaire and Luther Zaire, both who are entered on the said piece of land. Among Katjiukirue Zaire’s living children are Tamunee, Ukasuva, Tiree, Pingenee and Ndjai Zaire. These children continue to farm in Ovitoto Reservaat, safe for Ndjai who bought a farm. Farm Voightz Land is ancestral land.
Ngatajosi descends from a famous Ngatajosi family that lived in the Osire area of Hereroland before the German crown had expropriated and transformed the area into German Crown land. During the German campaign whole Ovaherero families were rounded up and locked into concentration camps. A few years later these camps were opened up and many of the survivors were let go.
The Ngatajosi family returned to the area they used to inhabit. The area was ring-fenced into a farm with a windmill and modern kraals and the land was allocated to a German settler.
When the family arrived at the farm after walking for days, the German settler spoke to them through an interpreter. He told them that this place belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm and he was protecting the farm for the Kaiser. While the elders were interacting the children had recognised their cattle and were playing with their names. The settler enquired what the children were doing and the father of the children told the settler that they recognised their animals.
The settler said that it was a lie. The family was given a spot underneath a tree to spend the night. The next morning the Ngatajosi family were given instruction to move on, forced on a march from their land to nowhere. Osire area is ancestral land.
Ovaherero decided to bury Ondangere Katjiritja Mungendje on farm Otjombuindja, west of Okahandja. Otjombuindja was traditional habitat of the Mungendje and Mungunda families long before they were expropriated from them by imperial Germany. Otjombuindja is ancestral land.
Okakango on the edges of the Okahandja River has been habitat to the Rukoro and Katjiuongua families long before the German stampede and these families were forced off the land through the German land expropriation decrees of 1905. Okakango is ancestral land.
Hornkranz was a traditional settlement of the Witboois from time immemorial. One early morning in 1905, the German troops under the command of Kurt von François attacked the unsuspecting nation. During this raid, this settlement was leveled to the ground, women and children were maimed.
Witbooi survived because his fighters had managed to dash him away under the cover of darkness and pushed him into a rock opening, from where he helplessly watched as the German soldiers destroyed his people. He watched in disbelief when a German soldier executed, in thieve-dog style, his paralysed 12-year-old son, who could only coil on the ground.
The Witboois were forced onto a march to nowhere. Later Theodor Leutwein would write a letter to Hendrik Witbooi, imploring the latter to surrender. Witbooi replied and reassured Leutwein that he would fight on. He said, “I shall die honestly for that which is mine”. Witbooi’s words were prophetic because years later he died of a German bullet while he inspected the area of Vaalgras on horse-back.
His comrades buried him with the bible on his chest, at a place yet to be discovered. Hornkranz is ancestral land.
By the end of 1908, the German government had acquired a total of 46 million hectares of land that was property of the Namas, Herero, Damara and the San people. Which way shall we go?