Prof Fritz Isak Dirkse continues to explore Nama Genocide

Last year, Globe Post introduced a columnist who delved into Nama history. Now, Fritz Isak Dirkse returns with an in-depth exploration of Great Namaqualand and Germany’s controversial acquisition, opposed by the Nama people.

Abridged Biography: Fritz Isak DirkseI was born in southern Namibia on Farm ǂUpus in Keetmanshoop district. He started primary education in Witkrans Roman Catholic School in 1980 and completed at Blouwes Primary School in 1986. He completed his schooling in 1991 at J. A. Nel Secondary in Keetmanshoop. 

Due to lack of qualified Nama language teachers back then, he began teaching at P. J. Tsaitsaib Junior Secondary in 1992, while pursuing his education degree through distance learning in university. For the past 31 years, Dirkse continued teaching Nama language. He is currently, teaching at Keetmanshoop Secondary.

In 2016, Dirkse published his first history book titled Gaob Hendrik Tseib, King of Kharo!oan and founder of Keetmanshoop. Another publication titled Hornkranz Massacre – The start of colonial wars in Namibia was out in 2019.

Dissatisfied with land and opportunity that caused economic hardship, coupled with political unrest – particularly after the failure of the revolutions of 1848, many Germans fled the country. In the decade of 1845 – 1855, more than one million Germans fled to the United States of America and was of no use to Germany, and therefore, emigration where tied to the motherland (Germany) remain intact became an imperative.

The viable solution was colonization, with policies influenced by publications such as those of Friedrich Fabri’s ‘Does Germany need Colonies’ in 1879 and William Hübbe-Schleiden’s ‘German Colonization’ in 1881. Although Friedrich Ratzel was introduced in 1901 the term ‘Lebensraum’ – the need for expansion due to lack of living space, the description and application thereof was already in place.

On the other hand, during the same time period, the Gaogu (or Kings) of Kai-Namakhoe!hūb, generally referred to as Great Namaqualand based on European orthography, a vast territory in southwestern Africa comprised of thirteen sovereign Nama states, were addressing challenges relating to Europeans entering the territory in 1800s and employing strategies to acquire land.

The response of Nama leadership was the !Hoaxa!nâs Treaty, which was signed on 9 January, 1858. The royal houses of the Ovaherero and Griqua tribes were also invited and signatories, because the Treaty was focused on protection and governance of the land, people, properties resources within its territory. 

In 1883, deed of sale dates 1 May and 25 August 1883, Adolf Lüderitz defrauded Gaob Josef Frederick of the !Aman Nama in a land deal  (Drechsler, 1966) which became known as the “Mile swindle”.

Lüderitz, one of the independent colonizers’ requested for the German government to protect this strip of land, the Berlin Conference of 1884/5 and Germany’s ambitions for colonization resulted in chancellor Otto von Bismark and German Reich taking over protectorates of private colonizer, which eventually led to Germany’s invasion of today’s Namibia.

Germany was very much determined to colonize the territory, irrespective of the potential costs and consequences. Their strategy of signing of protection treaties to acquire land was not so successful because those Nama leaders who signed protection treaties included a clause that states: ‘the land belong to our people and the two governments must consult each other on new laws’.

On the other hand, the likes of Gaob Hendrik Witbooi refused to sign protection treaties with Imperial Germany, which resulted in chancellor Leo von Caprivi declaring on 1 March 1893 in German parliament that: “South West Africa is ours. It is ours, German territory, and it must remain so!”.

 Imperial Germany employed many other strategies for land expropriation from indigenous people, but all systems failed. Kaiser Wilhelm II’s aggressive approach for rapid expansion of colonies and Lothar von Trotha’s belief for complete extermination of the indigenous people resulted in killings of over 60% of Nama and more than 80% of Ovaherero indigenous communities of today’s Namibia.  

Because of Imperial Germany’s failure to lawfully acquire land in Great Namaqualand and Hereroland, the same Imperial Germany, in the middle of 1904-08 extermination war, issued expropriation orders of land and properties against the two indigenous communities, without any compensation. After challenged by the Social Democratic Party, Reichtag (German Parliament) on 30 May 1906 adopted a resolution calling on the Government to hand back to the Nama and Herero as much land and as they need to make a living (Drechsler, 1966), but this has not materialize until today.

The Germans reiterate their position that no international laws existed to protect Namas and Ovaherero communities against the crime of genocide, and they have acted within their rights, and therefore, no reparations and compensation for the lands which are today in their position.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *