Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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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January 1677. At the tip of Africa, where a supply station has been established at the foot of Table Mountain, the Dutch ship ‘Bode’ sets sails to explore the coastline north of the Gariep/Orange River mouth. In early March the ‘Bode’ arrives at Sandwich Harbour. The crew goes ashore but is attacked by Khoisan who live there. After a brief skirmish the sailors retreat aboard ship and leave the bay. Thus the inhabitants of today’s Namibia have put up resistance against European intruders for more than three centuries.

Adventurers, explorers, hunters and traders travelling north from the Cape start to cross the Gariep/Orange River in the late 18th century. Missionaries soon follow suit. Often they are in fact called by tribal chiefs because they are seen as attracting traders. Livestock is exchanged for European merchandise, most notably weapons, because Nama, Oorlam and Herero clash repeatedly.

Namibia Independence, 45 Cent, issued in 1990, artist: Theo Marais

However, the European influence on the country’s fate begins only at the end of the 19th century. In 1884 Imperial Germany extends its protection to a coastal strip in the southwest which Adolf Lüderitz, a merchant from Bremen, acquired from the Oorlam in Bethanien. In 1886 Germany and Portugal agree on the northern border of the German protectorate. Like all the European colonial powers, Imperial Germany wants cheap sources of raw materials for its aspiring industry, but the vast country is also interesting for settling. In the beginning of the 20th century local population groups rise against German rule.

This first battle for independence (1903 until 1908) is lost, however. Herero, Nama and Oorlam are defeated by the technically superior Germans, some of their numbers are heavily reduced and they are now subjected to a strict regime. Most of their land is confiscated and sold to settlers. The position of these population groups does not change much when South African troops invade the country after the outbreak of the First World War and defeat the German colonial power in 1915. South Africa is granted a League of Nations mandate for the administration of South West Africa in 1920 and aspires to annexe the territory as its fifth province.

After the Second World War South Africa tries to maintain ‘white’ minority rule over the country’s ‘black’ majority with the Apartheid system. In Namibia the removal of people from the ‘Old Location’ in Windhoek to Katutura causes a violent rebellion in 1959. A total of 13 people are shot dead by the police. Three months later, on 21 March 1960, the massacre of Sharpeville in South Africa causes a worldwide outrage. Sam Nujoma goes into exile, becomes the leader of SWAPO which was established shortly before and takes up the armed struggle through its military wing, PLAN. The first battle is fought at Ongulumbashe on 26 August 1966.

Resistance leader becomes president: Sam Nujoma is sworn in by the Chief Justice Hans Berker on 21 March 1990. Photo: National Archives

Resistance leader becomes president: Sam Nujoma is sworn in by the Chief Justice Hans Berker on 21 March 1990. Photo: National Archives

Now the power is no longer divided as unequally as it was during colonial times. Resistance fighters are equipped with modern weapons and receive foreign support. In 1966 the United Nations withdraw South Africa’s mandate for Namibia’s administration and recognise SWAPO as representing the majority of the population. But the Cold War helps to sustain South African policies – on the African continent the West needs South Africa as ally against Communism.

The road to Namibia’s independence is paved when the collapse of the Eastern Block becomes imminent in the late 80s and South Africa has to realise that it cannot win the battle against SWAPO by military means. In early 1989 the United Nations despatch an UNTAG force for the transition, Sam Nujoma returns to Namibia in September and elections for the constitutional assembly are held in November. The assembly approves the constitution in February 1990 and chooses Samuel Daniel Shafiishuna Nujoma as the country’s first president. Namibia, ‘Africa’s last colony’ celebrates independence on 21 March 1990 – 30 years after the Sharpeville massacre and 313 years after the skirmish at Sandwich Harbour.

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