Culture & Sport

Controversial statue of German colonial officer in Namibia’s capital Windhoek removed

A controversial statue of German officer Curt von Francois erected 57 years ago to celebrate him as founder of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, has been removed. The fact he actually founded the city when Namibia was a German colony is challenged.

Statue of Curt von Francois in Windhoek removed
Statue of Curt von Francois in Windhoek removed on November 23 | © New Era newspaper, Facebook

A statue of German colonial officer Curt von Francois in Namibia’s capital city Windhoek has been removed on November 23.

The statue was controversial because it was a sign of colonization and the fact von Francois actually founded Windhoek in 1890 is challenged.

The statue was erected in 1965 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the city’s founding and was placed on a pedestal in front of Windhoek’s city buildings. In 1965, Namibia was under the control of South Africa, then led by a white-minority regime. Namibia became independent in 1990.

Germany colonized Namibia from 1884 to 1915 and von Francois was governor of what was called German South West Africa at the time. Von Francois is credited to have founded Windhoek but historians and activists reject he was the real founder as native population used to live in the area before the Germans arrived.

A petition launched two years ago which gathered 1 700 signatures in a few weeks considered the rightful founder was Jonker Afrikaner, the Nama ethnic leader who first established a settlement in the area around 1840. It pointed out that the German officer had only built Windhoek’s Old Fort as a military operation in 1890.

The statue was also controversial because von Francois led German troops to kill native population.

Von Francois married a Damara woman – both the Damaras and Namas are large ethnic groups in Namibia who share the same language – who gave birth to a daughter. One of Von Francois descendants, Sharon Nangombe, told VOA she agreed it was in the interest of the country for the statue to be removed.

The decision to pull down the statue was made in October by Windhoek City Council and follows a resolution in 2021 to develop an encompassing policy on heritage matters. On the official website of the city of Windhoek, it says the present Windhoek was founded on 1890 when Von Francois laid the foundation stone of the fort but the first recorded settlements made by Jonker Afrikaner date back to around 1849.

An avenue named after Curt von Francois was changed in 1990, the year it became independent.

Germany agreed last year to fund 1.3 billion dollars in development projects in Namibia over 30 years to compensate for the killings and land that was taken. In October, Namibia asked Germany to renegotiate the terms of the deal, which it refused to do.

The statue of von Francois was moved to a museum.

Read more news about Namibia

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