Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said he realised relatively early in his life that a system of racial segregation and racial oppression is grossly unjust and incompatible with a free and enjoyable life for all.
Making his contribution to the genocide debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Schlettwein said the discussion might usher in a new era of how we Namibians relate to each other.
“I want to start my intervention by recognising that I am a descendant of the colonising nation, Imperial Germany, a nation that committed genocide and inflicted unimaginable suffering on Namibian people,” he said.
“What Lothar von Trotha did to his opponents in the war of1907-1907 is a genocide and must be recognised as such by all,” he told the National Assembly.
Schlettwein said he joined his comrades in Swapo in the struggle for freedom, liberty and justice before independence.
He also said that Swapo embraced him, and made him one of them without asking which race, which tribe, or which creed he belonged to, gave him the hope and courage to join the struggle.
“The genocide Namibians experienced during the German colonial regime forms a pivotal and painful part of Namibian history and is, therefore, a most important matter that must be addressed and concluded,” he said.
Schlettwein said Namibia took the first step when the National Assembly adopted the late Paramount Chief Hon Kuaima Riruako’s motion to engage the German government on the genocide.
According to Schlettwein, the discussions have confirmed that today Namibians still suffer from the consequences of the genocide of 1904-07.
He said there are severe and multiple impacts on the most affected groups and groups and individuals other than the Nama and Herero. Further, he explained, this genocide was not the only oppressive act through which Namibians were killed, dispossessed, expropriated of their wealth and means of production.
Schlettwein said he has noted that the opposition critiqued the government on the outcome and its approach.
He said the main contention is that the government failed in three aspects:
It accepted a quantum amount, which by no means reflects the appropriate level “to do right again”.
It allowed the reparation negotiations to drift into developmental considerations instead of only focusing on reparation pay-outs to the two affected groups, namely the Ova Herero and Nama tribes.
The government did not allow the Nama and Herero to be the lead negotiators.
Schlettwein agrees with the first point of the quantum of 1.1 billion euro, which will be paid over 30 years because it is not close to the initial proposed.
“We, too, believe that should be renegotiated. On points two and three, we disagree because taking a stance ignoring the developmental needs of the nation as a whole undermines the principles of the unitary state and that of liberal democracy based on equality,” he said.
The minister said he was convinced that in a diverse society like that of Namibia, where the majority of Namibians over the past 150 years or so has resisted oppression and fought for equality and freedom from any form of exclusivity, a democratically elected government can only act within the legal framework of the National Constitution.
“We can become a nation only if we recognise that Namibia belongs to all of us. All of us must continue to fight against inequality together. We must maintain an inclusive approach. It is pivotal to make sure that no one is left out.
“The divide and rule approach only fuels conflict and disunity. We know it. We experienced it. We fought all oppressive regimes. I, therefore, firmly stand by the government that I am part of in its steadfast upholding of the constitutionally entrenched principles of equality by negotiating a deal for all Namibians, albeit with emphasis on the most affected groups,” he said
Traditional leaders, Schlettwein urged, must support the process, be visible in their advice, and be part of the process, but leading negotiations is the government’s responsibility.
“A government-led negotiation is the only chance for success. I know it is a very bitter pill to swallow, but that is how democracies have to work,” he said.