THE PERIOD OF SOUTH AFRICAN ADMINISTRATION
The Administrative Takeover of Namibia by South Africa
On 9 June 1915 German troops surrendered to the South African troops under the command of General Louis Botha at Khorib and later on German also suffered a defeat as a consequence of its involvement in the World War I. In 1919 the Versailles Treaty dispossessed Germany of all its colonies, including Deutsch-Südwest Afrika (i.e. Namibia). In 1920 the League of Nations gave Deutsch-Südwest Afrika as a trustee to Great Britain. But Great Britain asked the Union of South Africa to govern Deutsch-Südwest Afrika (i.e. Namibia) as a mandate territory on its behalf.
Main activities of the South African Administration during the period were:
a. division of the territory excluding Ovamboland, Okavango and a few other areas where the commissioners have been existing since the period of military government;
abolition of the existing elements of German administrative machinery, and replacing it with South African administrative system
South African Resettlement Policies in Namibia
The main objective of South African Administration between the two World Wars had been to gain as much control as they could over Natives’ land and other resources. The land expropriated from the natives was distributed among the White farmers who were given generous aids by the South African administration.
Indeed, one of the most remarkable acts of the South African Government at the start of its trusteeship over Namibia was the initiation of a massive resettlement programme through which members of the indigenous Namibian population, especially the Damara, were removed from their land to make room for the resettlement of a big number of poor South African whites. The Land Resettlement Programme lasted until 1946. It also provided a model for the resettlement of the
Angola or Humpata Boers later
As a result of this resettlement programme the farming activities in Namibia increased considerably due to the government support.
South African Attempts to Make Namibia its Province
Although initially South Africa gave reports on its trusteeship to the League of Nations, slowly it relented and later ceased to do so. The outbreak of the World War II, the crisis and the death of the League of Nations, its subsequent replacement by the United Nations and the advent of the National Party government in South Africa compounded the problem. The South African government became determined to incorporate Namibia into South Africa as its fifth province. However, the international community, first through the efforts of Ethiopia, Liberia and India, and later on of the United Nations, opposed the South African move. The South African attempts to annex Namibia was dismissed once and for all on 27 October 1966 through a UN General Assembly Resolution that revoked South African Mandate over Namibia and declared its presence in Namibia illegal.
The Contract Labour System and the Pass Laws
Since the takeover of the South African government and administration by the ruling National Party, in South Africa many racial and labour laws were enacted. These laws were especially harsh on Blacks as they robed them of almost all the rights. Passes, racial and ethnic laws were introduced and harsh restrictions were imposed on Blacks who could no longer move freely in the country of their ancestors. Workers were subjected to a contract labour system through the South West Africa Native Labour Association (SWANLA) and the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA) that kept them away from their families for up to thirty-six (36), twenty-four (24), eighteen (18) or twelve (12) months in compounds and away from their families.
Although colonial wars had a decimating impact on the anti-colonial resistance in Hereroland and Namaland because of the pogroms and the diaspora, the defeat and disappearance of Germany from the political scene helped to re-ignite the flame of nationalism in central and southern Namibia. Worthy mentioning here are the freedom ideas of Marcus Garvey that from West Africa found their way into central Namibia through the shipping lines and the coastal towns of Lüderitz and Walvis Bay.
Contrary to many African countries that thank their nationalism to the movements of university students who were studying in the colonial metropoles, Namibia’s nationalist movement originated from the working class in the living compounds where labourers gathered after their daily exploitative work. Namibian students started to add their nationalist voice to that of the workers only in exile and the early 1970s at home. In actual effect up to that time, Namibia didn’t have any significant school system. Nor did it have meaningful higher education That could serve a free and independent Namibia.There were only apartheid institution of higher learning.
Because of the thirsty for freedom and the indomitable spirit of the Herero leadership and community, the Marcus Garveys ideas of a self-government for the colonised Black communities easily found their way into Hereroland. Soon it inspired a messianism for the restoration of the old Herero Empire.
The first Whites to settle in Hereroland were missionaries. It is only understandable, therefore, that, following the fierce colonial wars and the pogroms to which the Herero community was subjected by the German colonial authorities, Herero Christians started looking at the white church with certain mistrust to the extent of forming their own – Oruuano - church.
However the wind of Namibian nationalism gained a special impetus following the visit in 1947 by a British clergyman, Reverend Michael Scott, to the Herero Paramount Chief Hosea Kutako who is seen as the father of modern Pan-African Politics in Namibia.
The Formation of Socio-Political Movements
Drawing inspiration from their African National Congress (ANC) comrades in South Africa, Namibian (Owambo) contract workers in Cape Town established the Ovambo People’s Congress (OPC) in 1957. OPC aim was to fight the exploitative labour contract system and policies of the South West Africa Native Labour Association (SWANLA). Two years later, in 1959, Sam Nujoma and Jacob Kuhangua established the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO) at the Old Location in Windhoek. Around the same time the Herero Chief’s Council under Chief Hosea Kutako established the South West African National Union (SWANU) onto which the leaders of OPO were also co-opted13 to broaden and strengthen the nationalist basis of the movement.
In Cape Town, Ya Toivo and his colleagues formed the Ovamboland People’s Congress (OPC) and sent us a copy of OPC Constitution. On 19 April 1959, we formed here, in Windhoek, after Ya Toivo had been deported, the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO). Our chief objectives were the end of the South African colonial administration, and the placing of South West Africa under the UN Trusteeship system, but the end of the Contract system was our first priority. We were determined to destroy the Contract migrant labour system which was the most humiliating type of oppression against our people.
Petitions to the United Nation Organization
The social, political and racial polarisation to which the inhabitants of South West Africa were being subjected ever since the National Party ascended to power in South Africa and Namibia awakened them so as to look for a workable solution to end the South African political rule in the Territory. One of such options was to petition the United Nation.
Thus in 1947 the British Anglican missionary, Reverend Michael Scott, succeeded to bring the first petition before the UN on behalf of the inhabitants of South West Africa who were not politically free to travel abroad and appear before the world body.
The pattern of my life had completely changed … through the chain of events that began in South West Africa in 1947 when the Reverend Michael Scott, on behalf of Chiefs Hosea Kutako and Samuel Witbooi, commenced the petitioning of the UN
I myself had first become aware of the United Nations through Chief Hosea Kutako.
The Reverend Michael Scott became our first link with the outside world where he helped to start the long struggle for South West African freedom andindependence by petitioning to the United Nations on behalf of Chief Hosea Kutako and Samuel Witbooi
SWAPO Historical Background