Cursed by slavery and racism!

A while ago the Confidente and other local newspapers drew attention to a bitter fact of the gallows’ existence at Henties Bay. This disgusting artefact, which represents the era of slavery and racism in the Namibian history, when white settlers were massively lynching indigenous people, deserves to be removed immediately.

Let’s recall that dark period of our past.

In 1884, Germany proclaimed a protectorate and started its conquest of Southwest Africa (now Namibia) with the arrival of imperial commissioner, Heinrich Göring. In 1893, 200 German troops staged an attack on the Nama town of Hornkranz because Hendrick Witbooi, the leader of the Nama, refused to recognise German authority.

The German colonial governor, Theodor Leutwein, had a plan for the indigenous peoples. His prediction was that “15 years from now, there will not be much left for the natives”. The Germans saw the indigenous peoples as inferior human beings, drove them from their land and destroyed their leadership and way of life.

General Lothar von Trotha, the commander the German forces, proclaimed the following: “No war may be conducted humanely against nonhuman… It was and is my policy to use force with terrorism and even brutality. I shall annihilate the revolting (ethno nation) with rivers of blood… ”

The destruction of the Herero and Nama proved to be the opening genocide of the 20th century. German repression took approximately 80 000 lives in three years. No fewer than 80 percent of the Herero and half of the Nama had lost their lives.

Colonialism left Africa underdeveloped, as the region was used to develop the west while holding back progress on the ‘black’ continent. The scientific, political and industrial revolutions the Western school systems are so proud to proclaim, were only possible because of the blood, toil and bounty exploited in Africa.

Any discussion of progress in racial equality in the world has to acknowledge the damage that the west has inflicted on the former colonies and their descendants. It is the height of delusion to think that the impact of slavery ended with emancipation. Descendants of enslaved Africans in the west find themselves subject to steep racial inequalities in every area of social life and are more likely to be killed by the state, as evidenced by the recent brutal murder of George Floyd by the US Police.

Overall, the cumulative consequences of colonialism and racism are underdevelopment and poverty in Africa, despite the fact that most of Africa achieved ‘flag’ independence since the mid-20th century. Furthermore, the African wealth is still siphoned mainly by powerful countries through unequal trade, dispossession and exploitation.

The only way the former colonisers may redeem themselves is to pay back all the bounty they have looted in Africa, in other words – reparations.

It is not just governments that owe a debt. Some of the biggest institutions and corporations built their wealth on slavery. Lloyds of London is one of Britain’s most successful companies and its roots lie in insuring the merchant trade in the 17th century. The church, many of the biggest banks, much of the ironworks industry and port cities gorged themselves on the profits from human flesh.

It is clear that it would be just to pay reparations, and it is possible to calculate the amount that Western nations owe. For example, the researchers estimate that African Americans are owed for unpaid labour, taking into account interest and inflation, anywhere between $5.9tn and $14.2tn.

Isn’t it a good sum of money, which could really be useful now, when African nations are groaning under the burden of very costly measures to combat the spread of COVID-19?