The statue, towered over Independence Avenue in central Windhoek, celebrating the “founder” of Windhoek, German colonial military officer Curt von François, toppled yesterday, an act welcomed by cheers and ululation.
The statue was lifted by crane from its pedestal in front of the City of Windhoek’s head office, with the council now preparing for comprehensive consultations with the public on its replacement.
The municipal council passed a resolution to remove the statue, which the majority of councillors branded “a symbol and celebration of colonialism”.
Speaking to New Era during the removal of the statue, the chairperson of the sub-council committee on heritage and local authority councillor Job Amupanda said the city cannot have something that symbolises a lie.
“We cannot be a city with a statue that symbolises a lie. People must understand that this is a monument; it is just an asset,” he explained. Amupanda said although some people wanted the city to discard it at the dumpsite without spending any resources, they settled on giving it to the museum. “Those who want to have access to the statue or perform rituals on the statue will then have to do it at the museum and they do not want to mislead the nation with a lie. He cannot claim he is the founder of the city just because he came in 1850.
There must be some people who were already here before him,” he added.
The city’s mayor Sade Gawanas said council is trying to decolonise the mind of its residents, and removing the statue does not mean the city denies the history that exists.
“We are moving it to the museum and telling his story so that our children will learn about what happened in the
past. We also want to tell the history from the victim’s side not only the victors,” she
Last month, councillors voted nine to five to decide Von François’ fate.
Those who voted in favour of the statue remaining were Jürgen Hecht, Ndeshihafela Larandja, Ben Araeb and Ottilie Saarty Uukule – all from the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC).
They were joined by the National Unity Democratic Organisation’s (Nudo) Joseph Uapingene.
Yesterday, Larandja said the removal caused division between council and residents, as no proper engagement was done.
“The focus should have been to correct history by not removing the current statue but to correct what was wrong [the claim of having established Windhoek],” she said.
“…and redirect the funds that were used in removing the statue to erect the correct statue to be agreed upon to make sure it teaches the generations to come that the history here was corrected. There is no harm in keeping both statues and with the current one written with the correct information.”
Swapo, Popular Democratic Movement, Affirmative Repositioning and Landless People’s Movement councillors had voted in favour of the removal.
The statue is now all but set to join the Reiterdenkmal, which was moved to a museum following its removal on Christmas eve in 2013 from where it stood near parliament.
The Von François statue was unveiled in October 1965 during the 75th-anniversary celebration of the ‘founding’ of Windhoek under German colonial rule.
The removal resolution emanates from a petition submitted to the council back in 2020 that demanded the statue’s removal.
The petition was spearheaded by decolonial activist Hildegard Titus. It generated over 1 500 signatures.
To this day, there is no counter petition, despite Namibians being divided on the statue’s removal.
Titus argued the statue would be better suited in a museum where historical facts could be better contextualised.
The councillors who witnessed the falling of the statue said there will be national consultation on who or what will be put in the space where Von François stood as soon as the resolution is passed.