Day 21: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

The date of 31 August 2018 will forever remain etched in my memory. On that day I attended as invited guest the annual International Nama Festival in Lokgwabe, Botswana. Lokgwabe is a very tiny village near Hukuntsi which is 100 kilometer due west from Kang. Kang is not exactly a metropolis itself and South Africans only know of it due to the Trans Kalahari highway which passes it and where weary travellers often spend the night.

To most people the village of Lokgwabe is just another insignificant village in the back of beyond, but nothing can be further from the truth. The events that are celebrated there every year has its roots in the flight of Simon Koper and his KharaKhoen people there from their native Namibia (then German SWA). They were the last of the Nama people resisting German imperialism and who fought them in the Nama War of 1904-1908. Simon Koper’s people made a last stand against a mighty German force equipped with machine guns. That took place, as readers of this blog will no doubt know now, on 16 March 1908. 55 Namas and 13 Germans died in this battle but their graves and the battle site is lost. We hope to find it in October.

Simon Koper escaped and fled with his people to Lokgwabe where they eventually settled. That Nama community prospered and cherished their culture and language.

Now, the Namas is considered the last of the Khoi Khoin, Southern Africa’s First People. There are more than 200 000 in Namibia and a few thousand, perhaps 20 000 in South Africa, but in Botswana the only sizeable group is that of Lokgwabe, the descendants of Simon Koper. That is why the annual International Nama Festival is held there.

I considered it a great honour to be invited and to give a brief talk and present a copy of my book, The Scourge of the Kaiserbird, to the Chief Justice of Botswana.

The festival was a grand affair with much music, Namastap (traditional Nama dance), a demonstration by Bushmen and an exhibition of horsemanship by a group of young Namas. A talk on the Nama language was also given by a linguist who gave us a lesson in Nama counting. Because I was a sort of dignitary I was given a private tutor.

I became aware of the dignified pride of these forgotten people. Their sense of loss is almost too much to bear. It reminded me of so many losses that my own people have experienced and it dawned upon me that we have much in common and that in championing their cause I will be resisting the dark and ominous cloud of the oppressors who seem to want to usurp power for their own dubious purposes in Africa. Zimbabwe came to mind and the legacy of one Jacob Zuma also featured prominently in my imagination.

I may be a dreamer and an idealist but I am convinced that we can do much good in Africa, if we work together for a common good, if we respect each other as individuals and as different groups. If anybody has a claim to the land of Southern Africa, then it is the Namas, not the different ethnic groups, including my own. We must begin there and do something about it. We must acknowledge this one truth and build the future from there.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

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