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Namibian History During The Years 1915-1990, PART 1

Updated on June 26, 2020
Hertha David profile image

Herthas love for history began at Dawid Bezuidenhout High School, in Mr Van Wyks classroom 2015. To her writing about history is fulfilling.


Namibia, formerly known as South West Africa, a country located in the south western parts of Africa. Well known for having one of the world's largest national park, Etosha National Park as well as for the highest dunes in the world known as Sossusvlei.

It is distinguished by its diverse cultures and the Namibian desert wich is along the Antarctic Ocean.

It is home to over 2.448 million people. Furthermore, Namibia is not a maker of history but is made by history. This article will focus on Namibia during the period 1915-1990, as it was under the South African Control as a mandate.

Describe how South West Africa passed from German rule to South African rule.

Namibia was colonized by the German Empire in the 19th century after Germany lost the World War One in September 1914. She signed the treaty of Versailles in Paris 1915 thus agreeing to all the terms of the treaty. One of the terms of the treaty was the establishment of the League of Nations, which strived to make all formerly colonized countries mandates.

South West Africa was then given to South Africa. On July 9th 1915 South African troops occupied Namibia as Theodor Seitz surrendered.

What role was South Africa expected to play in Namibia.

  • South Africa was expected to govern the South Western territory and prepare her for independence.
  • They were expected to promote the moral well well being and social progress of the inhabitants of the territory.
  • They were given a "sacred trust of civilization".
  • They were also required to set annual reports of the mandate territory to the League of Nations and later to the United Nations.

Article 22 of The of the Covenant Nations of Nations, paragraph 2.

Article 22 of The Covenant of the League of Nations states paragraph 2 states that;

The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.

What role did South Africa play in South West Africa instead.

  • They sent annual treport to the League of Nations as expected however, they refused to sent annual reports to the United Nations when they took over the functions of the League of Nations in 1945.
  • Instead of South Africa preparing the territory for independence, Jan Smuts ( the leader of the United Party which was the rulling party in South Africa at that time) saw this as an opportunity to annex the territory and incorporate it into South Africa.
  • South African officials did not promote the moral well being and social progress of the inhabitants of the territory effectively. This is due to the fact that;

- The Natives were used as cheap labour.

-The South African government was only working towards the interest of the white. As a matter of fact, the white population increased over the years.

  • Bombing was justified in South West Africa. This led to many Namibian people loosing their lives. A good example can be the 1922 Bondelswarts Uprising. The Bondelswart people had failed to pay the dog tax so Jan Smuts sent an aircraft to bomb the residential area. About 100 people were killed including the chief and some others were injured in this havoc. This was a sign of police brutality and that Jan Smuts was not afraid to use violence against anybody that oppeoppre him. In addition, some Namibiana became unhappy and full of resentment due to the fact that they were plunged into poverty.
  • All the German officials and German people that lived in South West Africa were sent away while some left voluntarily.
  • All German offices were abolished but the municipalities were kept.
  • The Roman-Dutch law replaced the German legal system therefore, English and Dutch (which later gave way to Afrikaans) became the official language's in South West Africa.
  • The South African government also appointed Chiefs and or head man's to make sure taxes were paid however, they had very little power.

Important dates to remember.

9 July 1915
South African troops marched into South West Africa. Theodor Seitz who was the German Governor governing the territory at that time surrendered near Otavi.
10 January 1920
The League of Nations started.
26 April 1946
The League of Nations ended.

Why were South West African people unhappy with the League of Nations.

*People were being killed by the South African government and the League did little to protect the lives of these people.

*People were forced to pay high taxes which led to high poverty rated among the South West African people. Young black men had to go work on white farms.

*60% of the South West African land was controlled by the white people.

People were forced to give up their land so it could be given to white South African people.

How was South African rule imposed in South West Africa.

South West Africa was given to South Africa as a C-Class mandate territory. SpuSo Africa was expected to administer the territory in the interest of the inhabitants of the territory as well as to submit annual reports to the legal body and or council.

The terms of the mandate allowed it to administer the territory as an integral part of the Union of South Africa.

In addition, this meant that all laws in South Africa would also be practiced in South West Africa.

After the United Party under the leadership of Jan Smuts lost the 1948 South African general elections the National Party also known as Reunited National under the leadership of D.F. Mullan took over and they launched and or designed a number of laws to implement the policy of Apartheid. The following is a list of some of this laws:

  1. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages act of 1949.
  2. The Immorality act of 1950. It banned any sexual relationships between different races. As a matter of fact, they also sent police officers to regulate what people could see, hear and do.
  3. The group areas act of 1950, set aside specific residential areas for each race.
  4. Prevention of Illegal Squarter act of 1951, this gave the government power to move any black person living on "white land".
  5. Native laws amendment act of 1952, emphasized that different races must have different and or seperate amenities including beaches, parks, banks and pools.
  6. The Bantu education act of 1953. The education of black people was put in the hands of the state. The state decided that black people should not be taught mathematics and science subjects. Instead they shoysh only be taught subjects that will lead them a career as labour workers such as construction work. This was because they feared that if black people were highly educated they could become doctors which means that there would be competition between the white and black people in the employment industry.
  7. The suppression of communism act of 1950. The government had the power to arrest anybody who aeems suspicious or that is a threat to it or that belonged to a subversive organization.

How did the United Nations take control over South West Africa.

The League of Nations was a very weak body due to the fact that it did not have an army and for many other reasons. On September 1 1939, Adolf Hitler invaded Poland from the west and two days later France and Britain declared war on Germany which led to the beginning of World War Two.

The outbreak of this war did not only prove the weakness of the League of Nations but it also proved that the League of Nations has failed to maintain World Peace and settle disputes between Nations. Unfortunately, the League of Nations came to an end on April 20, 1946, it has ruled for 26 years.

Moreover, the United Nations replaced the League of Nations thus taking on all the responsibilities and functions of the League of Nations. What is more,is that the United Nations replaced the mandate system with the Trusteeship Council.

This meant that South West Africa and other mandated territories should be put under the Trusteeship Council of the UN.

Do you think the South African government was willing to put South West Africa under the Trusteeship Council just like that?

Drop your answer in the comment section while we wait for Part 2 of this Article that would be published as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for reading.

© 2020 Hertha David


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