President Wishes Basters Well On Sam !khubis

All roads lead tomorrow to Sam !Khubis, 80 km west of Rehoboth, where thousands of Namibians from all walks of life will come together to commemorate the centenary of the battle of Sam !Khubis.

President Hage Geingob yesterday sent his best wishes to the Baster community and said it was unfortunate that he could not attend as some confusion blighted the invitation.

“It’s unfortunate. I would have loved to be there but I was barred from coming there, I heard. So I made some other arrangements. I might delegate the deputy president to attend. I wish them well and in the future we must plan properly. No one must be left out,” he said before jetting out to South Africa.

Every year on May 8 the Rehoboth Basters celebrate the covenant that was made by their forefathers who vowed to thank God for saving them from near extermination at the hands of German colonisers.

The covenant was preceded by the battle of Sam !Khubis, which took place in the !Khubis mountains 80km south-west of Rehoboth on the road to Klein-Aub.

After the Basters settled in Rehoboth in the early 1800s they suffered many attacks and stared extinction in the face on many occasions.

A small party of Basters were unexpectedly and brutally assaulted and killed in the early hours of November 14, 1882, by outlaws. The 26 graves at Horabes on the road to Walvis Bay bear witness to this.

Subsequently the Rehoboth Baster community entered into a treaty with the Germans in 1885 that obliged the colonisers to render protection when the Basters were threatened. In exchange, the Rehoboth Basters had to come to the aid of the Germans when they clashed with other indigenous groups.

However, when Germany lost the First World War and her colonies, she was extremely reluctant to surrender South-West Africa – the current Namibia.

Germany approached the Rehoboth Basters to join them in the fight against the new occupiers, the South African Union troops.

The Basters declined to do what was asked of them. Unable to accept this, the Germans entered into a conspiracy with the German clergyman of the Rhenish Church, Adolf Blecher, motivating him to ring the church bells on Sunday, May 8, 1915.

The plan was to attack the Basters when they gathered for worship, and kill them all.

Meanwhile, Blecher’s assistant – a Khoekoegowab-speaking person called Heitab, who could understand German, alerted the Baster community, who fled to the !Khubis mountains the same night. When the Germans learned that they were outwitted, they were furious and chased after the Basters.

A fierce and unfair battle raged all day.

The Basters were only armed with the old muzzle-loaders, while the Germans had modern rifles, machine-guns and cannons. The Germans were, however, still not familiar with the conditions in the country and mostly rode their horses in single file.

The Basters, who had established fortified positions, were therefore able to cut them down and take away their weapons. For years afterwards many Rehoboth Basters still owned these 98’s, as they were known.

It is said at times the fighting was so heavy that the bullets from the Germans looked like they were casting shadows. The Sam !Khubis covenant, according to community elders, saw one of the warriors on the battlefield – during the life and death struggle – repeat the confirmation verse like a refrain in his head all day long.

It was Psalm 50 verse 15, which says: “And call upon me in the day of trouble I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” These are the words that were taken as a vow.

It is estimated that nearly 400 Germans died and 11 Basters.

The Basters took an oath before God that the covenant would always be honoured, even if “only one Baster remains on this earth”. Every Baster subsequently vowed to travel to Sam !Khubis on May 7 each year.

Celebrations as tradition dictates, during the night of May 7, have choirs sing tales of bravery and suffering is brought to life again. The covenant is commemorated with prayer and song in the early morning hours, and shots are fired the next morning before dawn. Also customary is that Basters from surrounding farms, who cannot attend the Sam !Khubis church services, faithfully honour the covenant where they are.

Many hoist the black, red and white flag and sing hymns, while they go about their chores. Often they gather and look in the direction of the !Khubis mountains and observe a moment of silence. At Rehoboth some commemorate May 8 under an old camelthorn tree – the meeting place of the old kapteins.

Source : New Era