Reiterdenkmal replica must go

An activist says the presence of a statue at a local restaurant is politically insensitive, provocative and insulting.

14 January 2020 | Local News

Laidlaw Peringanda; NGA chairman; “… people's blood is boiling and they want to storm the restaurant to destroy the replica.”

Swakopmund • [email protected]

One of the co-owners of the Altstadt Restaurant, Norberth Sadlowski, says the presence of a Reiterdenk­mal replica at the establishment is not political and has purely to do with history.

According to Sadlowski, many tourists that visit his establishment are German and he would like them to see and experience something of the history of Namibia which has disappeared.

The original Reiterdenk­mal was removed on 25 December 2013.

“I am merely creating a place where some of the country's history is preserved,” he said.

Sadlowski confirmed that he has not seen or heard anything from the police or lawyers concerning the case opened against the Altstadt Restaurant by Laidlaw Peringanda, an activist and chairman of the Namibian Genocide Association (NGA).

“I am prepared to remove the monument provided there is a valid reason. However, to me Peringanda's arguments are not valid. I think he is just a stirrer. I know for sure that there are Germans standing behind him who want to turn this into a political issue,” Sadlowski said.

He refuted claims that the statue has anything to do with racial discrimination. “It is merely a historical object. We decided to recreate some lost history at our establishment. I don't want to get into politics, but personally I feel Namibia's history has been twisted and politicized. This was done to pit the Germans against the Ovahereros. Accounts of what actually happened, differ. The Ovaherero caused the war. They started killing the Germans who in turn retaliated,” Sadlowski said.

He is also of the opinion that the removal of the original Reiterdenkmal on 25 December 2013 was unnecessary. “It is a memorable monument for Germans, Ovahereros and other Namibians in remembrance of all the people that died in that war.”

Peringanda opened a case against the owners of the Altstadt Restaurant and Beer Garden for erecting a replica of the Reiterdenkmal on the premises of the popular restaurant. He registered a case on New Year's Eve.

“I decided to open the case at Swakopmund police station because the restaurant owners refused to remove the statue. The presence of the replica Reiterdenkmal is inciting racial disharmony and is in contravention of the laws of the country,” he said.

According to Peringanda, he had a meeting with Sadlowski on 1 April 2019.

"I asked him to remove the statue. He refused and told me that it is part of his history. He also said that he will not remove it even if the Namibian government tells him to do so.”

Peringanda accused the owners of the Altstadt Restaurant of violating Article 23 (1) of the Namibian Constitution, the Racial Discrimination Act 26 of 1991 as well as the Policy of Reconciliation implemented by the first president of the Republic of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, and intends to challenge the owners in a court of law for doing so.

According to him, the replica Reiterdenkmal is politically insensitive as well as a nuisance.

“It is provocative and insulting to the spirit of our ancestors who suffered forced labour, human rights violations and were tortured.”

The original Reiterdenk­mal was erected on 27 January 1912 at the former Windhoek Concentration Camp ground on the 53rd birthday of the last German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The emperor ordered Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha and the German soldiers to kill more than 100 000 Ovaherero and over 20 000 Nama people in the 1904-1908 genocide orchestrated in German South West Africa.

“The reappearance of the replica Reiterdenkmal in February 2019 in Swakopmund shocked and traumatised us. It opened old wounds. Once we win the case, we will file a lawsuit of N$2.5 million against the Altstadt Restaurant for causing psychological trauma.”

Peringanda labelled the replica as a threat to peace and stability, saying the majority of black Namibians who suffered colonialism and racism are against the statue.

“If the statue is not removed from public view at the restaurant, it will enrage the descendants of the survivors of the 1904-1908 genocide whose ancestors died at the Swakopmund Concentration Camp. Some people's blood is boiling and they want to storm the restaurant to destroy the replica statue. I advised them to be patient and to trust in our judicial system,” Peringanda said.

According to the activist, the case will go to court once the CID Unit completes their investigation.

Peringanda said the police told him that they are going to obtain a statement from the owners of the Altstadt Restaurant to hear their side of the story and the reason behind putting up a replica of the Reiterdenkmal.

The Racial Discrimination Prohibition Act stipulates that “any person who contravenes any provisions of Section 2 to 12 both inclusive, shall, subject to subsection (2) of an offence and be guilty on conviction be liable (b) in the case of an offence in terms of Section 11, to a fine not exceeding N$100 000 or to im­prisonment for a period not exceeding 15 years or to both such fine and imprisonment”.

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