Posts Tagged ‘caprivi strip’

The previous episode focused on the history of the Caprivi until the German administration, which ended with the First World War.

As from 1914 the area was placed under South African military rule. In 1921, the British High Commissioner for South Africa administered it as part of Bechuanaland. According to this regulation the East Caprivi fell under the responsibility of the commissioner at Kasane, while the magistrate of Maun was responsible for the West Caprivi. In 1929, the area was handed over to the South West Africa Administration. The administrative centre of East Caprivi was moved to Katima Mulilo in 1935. As from 1939, the area east of the Kwando River resorted under the Minister of Native Affairs, later the Minister of Bantu Administration and Development, while the administration of West Caprivi was placed under the authorities in Windhoek.

An ox-drawn sleigh with water barrel in the eastern MaSubiya-area (1980). Photo: Antje Otto; Collection: National Museum

An ox-drawn sleigh with water barrel in the eastern MaSubiya-area (1980). Photo: Antje Otto; Collection: National Museum

As a result of increasing poverty, discriminatory laws and the Administration’s failure to provide education and medical services the people of East Caprivi felt neglected and oppressed. In 1958, nationalism gave rise to the formation of the short-lived Caprivi African National Union (CANU) and its president was Brendan Kangongolo Simbwaye. In 1972, the East Caprivi area received its own Legislative Assembly with limited powers, which substituted the old order of a magistrate or native commissioner. The launch of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) in 1977 introduced the process of returning the people of East Caprivi into the administrative ambit of South West Africa.

After years of underlying tribal conflicts between the MaSubiya and MaFwe regarding the demarcation of the borderline, the South African Administrator-General for South West Africa in 1982 announced a border commission headed by the experienced government ethnologist, Dr Kuno Budack. However, both parties rejected the proposals, which were made after in-depth investigations.

A further reason for the conflicts was a power struggle between the two major tribal groups, the MaSubiya and MaFwe, as the former demanded a superior position in the area. In May 1993, the so-called ‘Katima Declaration of National Reconciliation’ was signed under the chairmanship of the Minister of Local Government and Housing, Dr Libertine Amathila. Although the equal status of both groups and their chiefs was reaffirmed, tensions between the two groups soon mounted again. In addition, disappointment and mistrust was growing among the BaYeyi, who no longer supported the MaFwe alliance of which they had been loyal supporters for more than a century. In 1993 they elected their own chief, who was confirmed in his position by the Namibian government according to the Traditional Authorities Act in 1995. Two years later the BaMashi under chief Mayuni also split from the MaFwe.

Caprivi (ox-drawn sleigh), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

Caprivi (ox-drawn sleigh), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

During the mid-1990s, a group of secessionists, who called themselves the ‘Caprivi Liberation Army’, started a unified resistance under the leadership of Albert Mishake Muyongo. The movement was mainly aimed at identifying the people of Caprivi as ‘Caprivians’ and not as ‘Namibians’ and conceiving Caprivi as a separate independent nation. An armed attack, which was planned on 2 August 1999, was uncovered and many of the leaders were arrested, while some managed to escape into exile.

Since Namibia’s independence repeated demands were put forward to replace the German names ‘Caprivi’ and ‘Schuckmannsburg’. Yet, there is no uniformly accepted name for the whole area of East Caprivi. Controversial opinions relate to the often-suggested name ‘Itenge’ and its exact boundaries. To indicate small specific areas within the East-Caprivi the local population used other names, e.g. ‘Kuhane’ and ‘Livanga’. The name generally favoured is ‘Lyambai’ – the SiLozi name for the Zambezi River. The indigenous name for Schuckmannsburg is ‘Luhonono’, which is derived from the many large Terminalia sericea trees, which grow there.


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The question that often crosses people’s minds is why the Caprivi Strip, which reaches far into the heart of the Southern African subcontinent and has its independent multi-facetted history, was demarcated in its present form and is part of Namibia.

The area known as the Caprivi Strip became part of German South West Africa as a result of the so-called Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty, which was signed between Germany and Great Britain on 1 July 1890. With this Germany was hoping to gain access to its land properties in East Africa via the Zambezi River. Although the main concern of the treaty was the exchange of the British island Helgoland and the German territorial claims on Zanzibar, Germany also insisted that it was allocated the land strip between the Okavango and Zambezi Rivers. The area was initially known as ‘German Barotseland’ or ‘German Zambezi Region’, but was later named ‘Caprivi’ Strip after the then German Imperial Chancellor Georg Leo Count von Caprivi. The borders of the area were demarcated according to geographical degrees of latitude and longitude or rivers without taking the local inhabitants into consideration. The exact demarcation of the various border sections was a long process and was only finalized in 1933.

Caprivi (map), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

Caprivi (map), series of four stamps, issued in 1986

The Caprivi Strip consists of the narrow piece between the Okavango and Kwando Rivers and the area of East-Caprivi situated east of the Kwando. Some Khwe and small groups of Mbukushu formerly occupied the mostly waterless West-Caprivi. In addition, it was an area of conflict between the BaLozi of Barotseland and the BaTawana of Ngamiland during the 19th century. Although some Khwe still occupy certain parts of it today, the area is a conservation area, which includes the Bwabwata National Park in the north.

The people of East-Caprivi, who form part of the Zambezi tribes, are not related to the other Bantu-speaking inhabitants of Namibia and comprise the BaLozi, BaSubiya, MaFwe, HaMbukushu, BaYeyi, MaTotela, MaMbalangwe and BaMashi, as well as some Khwe.

Since the 17th century the BaLozi, who were living in the Barotse Kingdom north of the Zambezi, dominated and enslaved these tribes. A temporary change was introduced by the terror regime of the Zulu chief Shaka in Natal in the early 1800s. As a result smaller tribes escaped to the north and as far as they proceeded, came into conflict with local groups. In 1830, a group of BaSotho origin, known as the MaKololo, settled under their chief Sebetwane in Old-Linyanti, which is the present Sangwali. They subjugated Barotseland and the area of East Caprivi and founded the Kololo kingdom. Under Sebetwane’s successor Sekeletu they gradually lost power and in 1864 the Lozi chief Sepopa defeated them decisively. The era of Sepopa and that of his successor Lewanika were characterized by cruel suppression and slavery. Only through the influence of the French missionaries 30,000 slaves were released in 1906. The language of the MaKololo, which stems from SeSotho, later became a mixed language, which took up many elements of SiLozi and is still used in the area today.

Border river between East Caprivi and Zambia: The Zambezi at Katima Mulilo. Photo: Archive of Allgemeine Zeitung

Border river between East Caprivi and Zambia: The Zambezi at Katima Mulilo. Photo: Archive of Allgemeine Zeitung

Although Germany had taken possession of the Caprivi Strip, it delayed the opening up and development of this remote area for a long time. Only in 1909 Captain Kurt Streitwolf was sent out as representative. On the banks of the Zambezi River he built a station, which he named Schuckmannsburg after the then German Governor Bruno von Schuckmann. Streitwolf immediately set out to create an administrative structure, which was based on the traditional political system of the local people. This effectively meant that the population was given the opportunity to rid themselves from slavery and dependence and to elect or reaffirm their own chiefs and representatives. During their five-and-half year stay in Caprivi, Streitwolf and his successors managed to gain the confidence of the population. The First World War ended the German era.

Continuation on further developments in the Caprivi in the next episode.

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Imagine Travel | Luxury Tailor-Made Holidays to Africa, the Indian Ocean and Latin America

1. Hot air ballooning over Sossusvlei

Take to the skies and witness the awe-inspiring views of Sossusvlei (The largest sand dunes in the world). A unique and romantic way to tour the dunes and one that will inevitably leave most of you wanting more.

2 : Quad Biking the Dunes

If it’s sense of speed that you are looking for why not try scaling the dunes on a Quad bike. Intense thrills at high-speed and another great way to visit the worlds largest sand dunes and the Namibian desert.

3. Hiking and cycling The Fish River Canyon

Namibia is a great place for guests to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities including hiking or cyling The Fish River Canyon. This is a great way for guests to spend part of their holiday doing something pro-active and they will also get to witness the stunning views that the canyon has…

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