Germany is guilty until proven innocent

By Dr Rukee Tjingaete

THE protracted dialogue and court case in respect of Germany’s genocide committed against Namibians requires fresh perspectives and approaches. This time not only from the affected communities alone but from all Namibians – many whom have also suffered peripheral damage through reduced population, arrested development, colonial occupation of their land, as well as theft and plundering of the country’s natural resources.

This is why this issue is a national issue that demands national solidarity and international support, irrespective of who was killed. The question today is fundamental: Where is the voice of Namibia’s social movements, trade unions and especially the ruling party? Where is the official voice of Swapo and its trade union affiliates on this issue?

Trade unions must remember that slave labour, economic exploitation and confiscation of properties are also their domain in the campaign for social justice. It is also strange that the Namibia Council of Churches (CCN) seems to be very silent on this matter, whereas it used to be one of the social movements that helped the liberation movements to dismantle the apartheid system. Is this not hypocrisy?

The position of government, provided by our Minister of Foreign Relations, in response to the concerns raised about what the President said or did not say need to serve as a progressive position that should rally Namibians, irrespective of their social and political affiliations to support fellow Namibians asking for restorative justice? By preferring to be silent, does it not mean that we are condoning Germany’s atrocities committed against Namibians, irrespective of who is seen to be championing this cause?

Swapo as a ruling party has perhaps more might and power to force their own government to adopt a conscious decision, instead of paying lip-service to an issue of this magnitude. Failing to tell Germany that “You are guilty until proven innocent” unfortunately gives the wrong impression that the ruling party is in bed with Germany.

The affected communities want to hear the voice of the ruling party, just like they hear the voices of all the other parties? The seriousness of this matter demands bi-partisanship, inside and outside parliament.

During the harsh years of our struggle for independence, the current President was very successful at the United Nations to canvass for international solidarity, because he was backed by the moral imperatives of that issue. But when he was apparently “misquoted” by the NBC in its TV News bulletin to have said: He does not believe that Germany would pay reparation, represents two steps forward and three steps backward. Is this statement attributable to the President or the NBC? The statement was read as such by the NBC TV News presenter and I am sure the tape is there to confirm this.

What is needed is a completely different approach. We need a national referendum on this issue to gauge the views of all Namibians about whether the issue should return to Parliament to be given a fresh mandate with concrete demands and terms of reference. This is in view of the fact that political conditions in Germany are changing, as recently stated by the country’s special envoy Dr. Zed Ngavirue.

This referendum must be motivated by political parties and civic organizations and should be funded by the German and Namibian governments. This is also important because many people, including some parliamentarians, are not sure about the exact strength of the mandate executed by the current negotiation teams and why the Minister of Foreign Relations does not appear to be central or direct party to the negotiations. For example, who gives directives to our negotiation team? Is it the President, Cabinet, Parliament, affected communities or the Minister of Foreign Relations?

Failing to get this motion through Parliament, the affected communities and civic organizations must conduct their own referendum aimed at finding out what Namibians feel about this issue and to formulate an official position to government. The affected communities must force this issue onto the election manifestos or agenda of political parties to give the affected communities an idea about who supports or rejects their struggle for reparation, social justice and atonement for their past.

Germany is guilty until proven innocent, not the other way round. It is not the affected communities that must prove that Germany is guilty.  It is Germany that must prove to the world that she is innocent.

* Dr Tjingaete holds a Ph.D from Michigan State in the USA and is currently a senior part-time lecturer at the International University of Management. The views expressed here are his own.