Friday, January 19, 2007

Namibian Political History - Part 2- B.F. Bankie

Alexander ( Alexander 1998) describes the Namibian war of anti-colonial resistance of 1904-7, otherwise known as the Nama-Herero uprising, as the ‘central event’ in the recent history of Namibia. This war witnessed the inability of the Ovaherero and the Nama to establish, at that point in time, common cause to fight a common invading enemy, Germany.
The German response to the Ovaherero Declaration of War was to seek to eliminate physically every living Herero as a factor in the history of the Shutzegebiet. Whereas General Trotha’s Extermination Order referred to the Ovaherero, the Nama and Damara were also killed systematically, bringing into view the Nazi extermination of the Jews half a century later. The purpose of Trotha’s order was to take the land and cattle of the natives.
It is said that close to two-thirds of the Ovaherero were killed in the genocide and its aftermath. Paramount Chief Kuiama Riruako ( Riruako 2004) claims that 100,000 men, women and children were killed as well as vast tracks of ancestral land seized. All this is today subject to a reparation claim by the Chief.
The battle of Ohamakari was decisive with the Ovaherero being routed and forced to flee into the desert, eastwards towards Bechuanaland / Botswana, where many are still found today in places such as Maun. Those who could not flee, especially women and children, not only Ovaherero but Nama and Damara, were rounded up and herded into concentration camps, again forerunners of what would be an institutional incineration malpractice of the Nazis in Germany. Shark Island is located off the coast near L├╝deritz. Few survived the killing fields of Shark Island and the other concentration camps run by the Germans ( Erichsen 2005).
Some reflection on the ethnic mix of what came to be governed as an ethnically divided apartheid-ruled area, cannot be avoided in understanding the contemporary political system existing today in the country.
In as much as demographics are concerned, the first groups in the country to challenge the foreign invaders at the turn of the twentieth century, the Ovaherero and the Nama of the South of the country, were consequently so decimated in numbers by their physical elimination, that thereafter they could not compete numerically in nationbuilding with the Ovambos in the North, who during the German colonial period or the early years of South African settler colonialism, failed to mount a serious challenge to the invaders. Some would say that is the reason today there exists a ‘skwered' dominance by the Ovambo, who survived the 1904 genocide and have proven lukewarm in their pursuit of reparations for the genocide. Even so when the majority led Ovambo party called the South West Africa Peoples Organization (SWAPO) pursued armed struggle it did not do so alone but was joined by Ovahereros, Namas, Damaras, Caprivians and Kavangos, in a united struggle, whose fruits, many claim have been monopolized by Ovambos.
Another present day reality of Namibia, shared with South Africa, which also experienced apartheid (separation of the races) rule, is that majority rule did not overnight change ingrained social practices. It was not the hoisting of the Namibian national flag on ‘independence’ day that from one moment to the other banished racial prejudice and the division of society along black, white and coloured lines. ‘Coloured’ as a classification is clearly understood in 2006 as to connote the likelihood that he or she will live either in Rehoboth or in Khomasdal, the coloured location in Windhoek. In Namibia in 2006 socialization remains around race first. This has political implications. True, there has been some blurring of the lines, but not to the extent that was expected, as the author discussed with SWAPO exile circles in Luanda, Angola in the mid –1980’s, when self-government was expected to end racial differentiation.
These issues are rarely discussed publicly in Namibia. At page 37 of the June 2006 issue of the Windhoek publication Insight, patronized by the new elites / middle classes, there is a frank social commentary from a white businessman married to a black Namibian, who was then living in Tsumeb, a mining town in Central Namibia, who has since relocated with his wife and daughter to St. Helena in the Atlantic. The article states:-
The hourly, daily confrontation with race issues was wearing us out. Too often, Afrikaner administrators, bankers and clerks tried to impose their views of life on everyone else and then the ruling elite wanted to do the same….
This scenario had a direct impact on the life of a mixed couple in Tsumeb. Former schoolmates of my wife would refuse to have any contact with her since she was married to a ‘White business guy’. I would not have any social life either, because I’d bring in a black wife and a coloured daughter. In the eight years that we lived in Tsumeb, we were invited out just three times on a social level.

One of the observations of the post-apartheid Namibia / South Africa scene today is that none of the whites will admit today that they supported apartheid, yet most of them did. South Africa would never have been able to wage war against all its neighbours if it had had an army of conscientious objectors. Lest we forget the South African army consciously ‘fought blacks’.
The white population in general actively oppses any further ‘concessions’ / progress / advancement by blacks, such as Africanist curriculum development. Whites claim

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

a Perspective of Namibian Political History - B.F.Bankie

Political Parties and Democracy in Namibia
The historical and social context
The original inhabitants of the area of South West Africa now called Namibia were the Khoisan. Later on the Bantu came into the area, thereafter the Caucasians and in recent times increasing numbers of Asiatics. The Khoisan were in the area 50,000 years ago. By about 10,000 BC there existed two types, the small Khoisan physical type and the large Negro type. The thinking is that the San and the Black man fused and mixed, so that, in a sense, they formed a common root ( Angula, 1988). However it would be accurate to say that the Khoisan were crowded-out by the Bantu. With the arrival of the Caucasians in Southern Africa the Khoisan came under attack from the Caucasians. This was the first genocide seen in Southern Africa. This resulted in the Khoisan today being marginalized in Namibia and the rest of Southern Africa.
Estimates of the Khoisan population in South West Africa / Namibia in 1921 were 3,931 as counted by the South African Administration. In 1945 the figure was put at 10,331 and in 1970 was said to be 21,909. Since independence there has been no improvement in the marginal status of the Khoisan.
Concerning the civilizational aspects of the Khoisan, of note is the fact that their drawings and paintings; pursuit of peace as distinct from warlike culture; their acceptance of all races as beasts of pray and only those in their small band as equals, evidences a high level culture. Despite the disappearance of their politico-communal organization, of concern here is that their political structures took practical forms to survive under colonialism. An embryonic Khoisan resurgence movement exists today, mixed with an ultra-left Rehoboth workerist tendency – a heady mix of uncertain future.
According to the information available in the period of 1844 to 1917, with the arrival of the Caucasians, they had little or no contact with the Ovambo and Nkhumbi societies in the Northern part of the territory. This area was and remains the most populated in the country. The culture of the people in the North of the country was rooted in settled agriculture and cattle herding. These cultures extended to the Kunene region in the North-West and the Caprivi region in the North-East, where climatic conditions were beneficial for the practice of sedentary agriculture.
So, in the North of the territory called South West Africa / Namibia the Northern ‘Kingdoms’ were less exposed to Europe than the Midlands and the South, largely inhabited by the black Herero and the Nama (Khoi/Black with some white admixture) people.
We are told (Vigne 1988) that in the window period around 1870 the Ovaherero sort the protection of the Cape colony and that the British flag flew over Okahandja for 18 months. This arrangement was never formalized.
The Berlin Conference of 1884-5 was the first of its type, being primarily concerned with titles to territory on continental Africa amongst contending and competing European interests. The land partition which took place, created a political order, which was supposed to remain forever. Namibia was given to Germany, which remains to today the dominant economic interest in the land despite political power residing with the black people. In 1988 whereas Germans constituted one third of the white population, they controlled seventy per cent of the country’s economy.
Whereas South West Africa was formally annexed by the German Empire in 1884, the Northern part of the territory remained largely uncolonized. It was after the Hendrik Witbooi Peace Treaty of 1895 that colonialism started in earnest. The Ovaherero of Central Namibia launched a full-scale war against the Germans in 1904...Continues on this friday