Leader of the Nama tribes in South-West Africa.Born near Pella c. 1840; Died: Vaalgras 29.10.1905
Born at the Pella mission station, just south of the Orange River, he was a member of the Khowese (‘beggars’) or Witboois, the fifth and last group of Coloureds (Oorlams) who migrated from this district northwards across the Orange River to seek a home among the Nama tribes in the southern part of Namibia.
Their leader was Cupido (Kido) or David Witbooi (c. 1780 – 31.12.1875), who was succeeded by his son, Moses or Klein Kido Witbooi (c. 1810 – 22.2.1888), the father of Hendrik. From before 185o the tribe wandered about until they settled at Gibeon, in Great Namaland, around 1863. As a young man Hendrik participated in the ceaseless wars that the Namas waged among themselves, and he lost his right thumb as a result of a bullet wound.
As a married man with six children Witbooi was baptised at Gibeon by the Rev. J. 0lpp in 1868. He learned to write a neat hand. His diary, written in ‘High’ Dutch and containing numerous letters dating from 1884 to 1894, was published by the Van Riebeeck Society in 1929.
At the time when the general war broke out between Namas and Hereros in 1880, Hendrik Witbooi believed that he had seen a vision, which convinced him that he was called by God to unite the Namas and lead them in a war against the Hereros. From 1884 he carried out this self-imposed mission and continued his merciless campaign against the Hereros, even though the German Empire had from 1884 gradually been extending its authority into the interior.
In 1888 he became chief of the Witboois and killed his two principal opponents among the Namas: Paul Visser (1888) and Jan Jonker (1889). Witbooi consistently refused to place himself under German protection or authority. In 1889 he left Gibeon and established his headquarters at Hornkranz, west of Rehoboth, from where he continued his ‘mission’ as the ‘king of Great Namaland’.
The bloodshed and unrest caused among the Hereros as well as the Namas by his raids, brought him into conflict with the German government, which became considerably stronger in the country after 1890. In April 1893 he was taken by surprise by the German commander, Curt von François, at Hornkranz and fled with a part of his following. In 1894 he was compelled by the new governor, Col. Theodor Leutwein, to surrender at Naukluft. Under German supervision he lived quietly at Rietmond, near Gibeon, until he suddenly decided in October 1904 to take up arms again.
Owing to the treachery of his ‘Witkams’ German officials and numerous Boer settlers in Namaland were murdered. Before the end of the Witbooi war, Hendrik Witbooi was wounded on 29 Oct. 1905 in a minor engagement against German troops at Vaalgras, near Tses. The wound was on the shin and he died shortly thereafter, apparently from blood poisoning. The precise spot where he died and lies buried is unknown.
Source: SESA (Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa)
Source: www.ekir.de/pkomit/ herero_2.html)
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