chapter  5
36 Pages

South West Africa (Namibia), 1966–90

German colonization in South West Africa began in 1884 with Berlin’s sudden entry into the European race for African territory. Unlike its other colonies in tropical West and East Africa, the Germans viewed the arid grasslands between the Kalahari and Namib deserts as a potential place of European settlement along the lines of the neighbouring Boer (Afrikaner) republics and British colonies that would eventually make up South Africa . During the 1890s the Germans consolidated their control through a divide-and-rule strategy whereby they made an alliance with the Herero and crushed Nama resistance. However, in 1904 the Herero rebelled against German land alienation and oppressive debt collection. A er defeating the Herero at a major battle on the Waterberg Plateau, German military commander Lothar von Trotha ordered the extermination of these people who were driven into the Kalahari Desert and kept away from waterholes. e Nama joined the rebellion and were subjected to the same treatment. In what became the rst genocide of the twentieth century, Herero and Nama were eventually herded into concentration camps where, until 1907, they were used as slave labour and forced to undergo deadly medical experiments. e subsequent shortage of African labour for settler ranches and regional mines impelled the Germans to extend their control over the Ovambo and other peoples in the north close to the border of Portuguese Angola . Like all the German colonies in Africa, South West Africa was invaded by the Allied powers during the First World War . For imperial Britain, the immediate objective of the campaign was to deny the use of South West Africa’s south Atlantic ports to German naval raiders. For the government of South Africa , a new self-governing British dominion that carried out the invasion of its German neighbour, the campaign held out the promise of territorial expansion. Although delayed by a Boer rebellion at home, the South African invasion force used armoured cars and aircra to quickly outmanoeuvre the Germans who surrendered in 1915. In 1917 a South African expedition solidi ed control of the north by defeating the forces of Mandume Ya Ndemufayo, ruler of the Kwanyama Ovambo . A er the First World War Germany was stripped of its colonies and South West Africa became a South African administered mandate of the League of Nations . While mandates

were theoretically meant to be prepared for self-government in the very distant future, South Africa ruled South West Africa as a new province and imported poor Afrikaner settlers. In 1946 South Africa refused to transfer its mandate to the new United Nations (UN) which wanted to impose more rigorous international supervision of the administration of South West Africa . South Africa did not annex the territory but its white minority enjoyed some representation in the South African parliament. Following the 1948 election of the Nationalist Party in South Africa , apartheid policies were extended to South West Africa and in 1959 eleven black protestors were shot dead by police during the forced removal of their community from the territorial capital of Windhoek. African nationalist movements were formed such as the South West African National Union (SWANU) in 1959 and the South West African People Organization (SWAPO ) in 1960 which sought UN trusteeship and eventual independence. Harassed and imprisoned by South African security forces, nationalists began to ee the country to seek assistance from sympathetic nationalist leaders in other parts of Africa that were becoming independent. International revulsion over apartheid and the rapid European decolonization of Africa impelled the UN, in 1966, to revoke South Africa’s mandate over South West Africa .1