South West Africa

South West Africa (Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrika; Dutch: Zuidwest-Afrika; German: Südwestafrika) was the name for modern-day Namibia when it was under South African administration, from 1915 to 1990.

Previously the colony of German South West Africa from 1884, it was made a League of Nations mandate of the British-ruled Union of South Africa following Germany's losses in World War I. Although the mandate was abolished by the UN in 1966, South African rule continued despite it being illegal under international law.[1] The territory was administered directly by the South African government from 1915 to 1978, when the Turnhalle Constitutional Conference laid the groundwork for semi-autonomy. During an interim period between 1978 and 1985, South Africa gradually granted South West Africa a limited form of home rule, culminating in the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity.

In 1990, South West Africa was granted independence as the Republic of Namibia with the exception of Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which continued to remain under South African rule until 1994.

South West Africa

Suidwes-Afrika (Afrikaans)
Zuidwest-Afrika (Dutch)
Südwestafrika (German)
Location of South West Africa
Location of South West Africa
StatusMandate of the Union of South Africa
Common languagesEnglish, Afrikaans, Khoekhoegowab, Dutch (1915–1983) and German (1984–1990)
• Established
28 June 1919
• Independence
21 March 1990
CurrencySouth West African pound (1920–61)
South African rand (1961–90)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
German South West Africa

German colony

As a German colony from 1884, it was known as German South West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). Germany had a difficult time administering the territory, which experienced many insurrections, especially those led by guerilla leader Jacob Morenga. The main port, Walvis Bay, and the Penguin Islands were annexed by the UK in 1878, becoming part of the Cape Colony in 1884.[2] Following the creation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, Walvis Bay became part of the Cape Province.[3]

As part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, a corridor of land taken from the northern border of Bechuanaland, extending as far as the Zambezi river, was added to the colony. It was named the Caprivi Strip (Caprivizipfel) after the German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi.[4]

South African rule

In 1915, during South West Africa Campaign of World War I, South Africa captured the German colony. After the war, it was declared a League of Nations Class C Mandate territory under the Treaty of Versailles, with the Union of South Africa responsible for the administration of South West Africa. From 1922, this included Walvis Bay, which, under the South West Africa Affairs Act, was governed as if it were part of the mandated territory.[5] South West Africa remained a League of Nations Mandate until World War II with the collapse of the League of Nations.[6]

The Mandate was supposed to become a United Nations Trust Territory when League of Nations Mandates were transferred to the United Nations following World War II. The Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, objected to South West Africa coming under UN control and refused to allow the territory's transition to independence, instead seeking to make it South Africa's fifth province in 1946.[7]

Although this never occurred, in 1949, the South West Africa Affairs Act was amended to give representation in the Parliament of South Africa to whites in South West Africa, which gave them six seats in the House of Assembly and four in the Senate.[8]

This was to the advantage of the National Party, which enjoyed strong support from the predominantly Afrikaner and ethnic German white population in the territory.[9] Between 1950 and 1977, all of South West Africa's parliamentary seats were held by the National Party.[10]

An additional consequence of this was the extension of apartheid laws to the territory.[11] This gave rise to several rulings at the International Court of Justice, which in 1950 ruled that South Africa was not obliged to convert South West Africa into a UN trust territory, but was still bound by the League of Nations Mandate with the United Nations General Assembly assuming the supervisory role. The ICJ also clarified that the General Assembly was empowered to receive petitions from the inhabitants of South West Africa and to call for reports from the mandatory nation, South Africa.[12] The General Assembly constituted the Committee on South West Africa to perform the supervisory functions.[13]

In another Advisory Opinion issued in 1955, the Court further ruled that the General Assembly was not required to follow League of Nations voting procedures in determining questions concerning South West Africa.[14] In 1956, the Court further ruled that the Committee had the power to grant hearings to petitioners from the mandated territory.[15] In 1960, Ethiopia and Liberia filed a case in the International Court of Justice against South Africa alleging that South Africa had not fulfilled its mandatory duties. This case did not succeed, with the Court ruling in 1966 that they were not the proper parties to bring the case.[16][17]

UN mandate terminated

There was a protracted struggle between South Africa and forces fighting for independence, particularly after the formation of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) in 1960.

In 1966, the General Assembly passed resolution 2145 (XXI) which declared the Mandate terminated and that the Republic of South Africa had no further right to administer South West Africa.[18] In 1971, acting on a request for an Advisory Opinion from the United Nations Security Council, the ICJ ruled that the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia was illegal and that South Africa was under an obligation to withdraw from Namibia immediately. It also ruled that all member states of the United Nations were under an obligation not to recognise as valid any act performed by South Africa on behalf of Namibia.[19]

South West Africa became known as Namibia by the UN when the General Assembly changed the territory's name by Resolution 2372 (XXII) of 12 June 1968.[20] SWAPO was recognised as representative of the Namibian people and gained UN observer status[21] when the territory of South West Africa was already removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In 1977, South Africa transferred control of Walvis Bay back to the Cape Province, thereby making it an exclave.[22]

The territory became the independent Republic of Namibia on 21 March 1990, although Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands remained under South African control until 1994.[23]


The South African authorities established 10 bantustans in South West Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s in accordance with the Odendaal Commission, three of which were granted self-rule.[24] These bantustans were replaced with separate ethnicity based governments in 1980.

Namibia homelands 78.jpeg
Map of the black reservations in South West Africa (present-day Namibia) as of 1978

Self-governing entities

Plan Odendaal
Allocation of land to bantustans according to the Odendaal Plan. Grey is Etosha National Park.
Bantustan Capital Years Most represented tribe
 East Caprivi Katima Mulilo 1972–1989 Lozi
 Hereroland Okakarara 1970–1989 Herero
 Ovamboland Ondangua 1973–1989 Ovambo
 Kavangoland Rundu 1973–1989 Kavango

Non-self-governing entities

Bantustan Capital[25] Years Most represented tribe
 Bushmanland Tsumkwe 1989 San
 Damaraland Welwitschia 1980–1989 Damara
 Namaland Keetmanshoop 1980–1989 Nama
 Kaokoland Ohopoho 1970–1989 Himba
 Rehoboth Rehoboth 1979–1989 Baster
 Tswanaland Aminuis 1979–1989 Tswana

See also


  1. ^ "The End of Apartheid". Archive: Information released online prior to January 20, 2009. United States Department of State. 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009. South Africa had illegally occupied neighboring Namibia at the end of World War II, and since the mid-1970s, Pretoria had used it as a base to fight the communist party in Angola.
  2. ^ Succession of States and Namibian territories Archived 2016-03-09 at the Wayback Machine, Y. Makonnen in Recueil Des Cours, 1986: Collected Courses of the Hague Academy of International Law, Academie de Droit International de la Haye, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987, page 213
  3. ^ Debates of Parliament Archived 2017-02-02 at the Wayback Machine, Hansard, Volume 9, Issues 19-21, Government Printer, 1993, page 10179
  4. ^ Caprivi Strip | Namibia Archived 2010-09-30 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2012-12-18.
  5. ^ Ieuan Griffiths,Walvis Bay: exclave no more Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine. Geography, Vol. 79, No. 4 (October 1994), page 354
  6. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2001). Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria. Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. p. 223. ISBN 1560729678. Archived from the original on 2018-07-18. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  7. ^ John Dugard, The South West Africa/Namibia Dispute: Documents and Scholarly Writings on the Controversy Between South Africa and the United Nations, University of California Press, 1973, page 124 Archived 2018-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Official Documents of the 4th Session of the United Nations General Assembly], United Nations, 1949, page 11
  9. ^ Newell M. Stultz, Afrikaner Politics in South Africa, 1934-1948, University of California Press, 1974, page 161 Archived 2018-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Vivienne Jabri, Mediating Conflict: Decision-making and Western Intervention in Namibia], Manchester University Press, 1990, page 46 Archived 2018-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Turok, Ben (1990). Witness from the frontline: aggression and resistance in Southern Africa. Institute for African Alternatives. p. 86. ISBN 187042512X. Archived from the original on 2018-07-18. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  12. ^ "International Status of South West Africa – Advisory Opinion". Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  13. ^ "Index-United Nations Organisations and Resolutions". Archived from the original on 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2006-07-15.
  14. ^ "Voting Procedure on Questions Relating to Reports and Petitions Concerning the Territory of South West Africa – Advisory Opinion". Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  15. ^ "Admissibility of Hearings of Petitioners by the Committee on South West Africa – Advisory Opinion". Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. ^ "South West Africa Cases (Preliminary Objections) Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa". Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  17. ^ "South West Africa Cases (Second Phase) Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa". Archived from the original on October 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  18. ^ UN General Assembly, res n° 2154 (XXI), 17 November 1966. Available at Archived 2016-01-24 at the Wayback Machine [recovered october 1, 2015]
  19. ^ "Cour internationale de Justice | International Court of Justice". Archived from the original on 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  20. ^ Legal Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ UNGA Resolution A/RES/31/152 Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine Observer status for the South West Africa People's Organisation
  22. ^ The Green and the dry wood: The Roman Catholic Church (Vicariate of Windhoek) and the Namibian socio-political situation, 1971-1981, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 1983, page 6 Archived 2018-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Treaty between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Republic of Namibia with respect to Walvis Bay and the off-shore Islands, 28 February 1994" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 July 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  24. ^ Cahoon, Ben. "Namibian Homelands". Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  25. ^ "South-West Africa, Proposed Homelands. in: The Bantustan Proposals for South-West Africa, p 179" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-06-26. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
63 Mechanised Battalion Group

63 Mechanised Battalion Group was a unit of the South African Infantry Corps; although it was classed as mechanized infantry, it was a combined arms force consisting of infantry, armour and artillery. Together with 61 Mechanised Battalion Group and 62 Mechanised Battalion Group, these units made up 60 Brigade encompassing battlegroup principles.


A Bantustan (also known as Bantu homeland, black homeland, black state or simply homeland; Afrikaans: Bantoestan) was a territory set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid. Ten Bantustans were established in South Africa, and ten in neighbouring South West Africa (then under South African administration), for the purpose of concentrating the members of designated ethnic groups, thus making each of those territories ethnically homogeneous as the basis for creating "autonomous" nation states for South Africa's different black ethnic groups.

The term was first used in the late 1940s and was coined from Bantu (meaning "people" in some of the Bantu languages) and -stan (a suffix meaning "land" in the Persian language and some Persian-influenced languages of western, central, and southern Asia). It was regarded as a disparaging term by some critics of the apartheid-era government's "homelands" (from Afrikaans tuisland). The word "bantustan", today, is often used in a pejorative sense when describing a region that lacks any real legitimacy, consists of several unconnected enclaves, or emerges from national or international gerrymandering.

Four of the South African Bantustans—Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei (the so-called "TBVC States")—were declared independent, but this was not recognised outside South Africa. Other South African Bantustans (like KwaZulu, Lebowa, and QwaQwa) received partial autonomy but were never granted independence. In South West Africa, Ovamboland, Kavangoland, and East Caprivi were granted self-determination. The Bantustans were abolished with the end of apartheid and re-joined South Africa proper in 1994.


Damaraland was a name given to the north-central part of what later became Namibia, inhabited by the Damaras. It was bounded roughly by Ovamboland in the north, the Namib Desert in the west, the Kalahari Desert in the east, and Windhoek in the south.

In the 1970s the name Damaraland was revived for a bantustan in South West Africa (present-day Namibia), intended by the apartheid government to be a self-governing homeland for the Damara people. A centrally administered local government was created in 1980. The bantustan Damaraland was situated on the western edge of the territory that had been known as Damaraland in the 19th century.

Damaraland, like other homelands in South West Africa, was abolished in May 1989 at the start of the transition to independence.

The name Damaraland predates South African control of Namibia, and was described as "the central portion of German South West Africa" in the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

Etosha Commando

Etosha Commando was a light infantry regiment of the South West Africa Territorial Force. It formed part of the Area Force Units as well as the Territorial Reserve.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) is a Lutheran denomination based in Namibia. It has a total membership of over 772,398, mainly in Northern Namibia. Formerly known as the Evangelical Lutheran Ovambo-Kavango Church, it played a significant role in opposition to Apartheid in Namibia and was part of the Namibian independence struggle.Other Lutheran churches in Namibia are the southern based Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia and the German-speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (GELK).

The current presiding bishop is Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala.

German South West Africa

German South West Africa (German: Deutsch-Südwestafrika) was a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1919. With an area of 835,100 km², it was one and a half times the size of the mainland German Empire in Europe at the time. The colony had a population of around 2,600 Germans.

In 1915, during World War I, German South West Africa was invaded by the Western Allies in the form of South African and British forces. After the war its administration was taken over by the Union of South Africa (part of the British Empire) and the territory was administered as South West Africa under a League of Nations mandate. It became independent as Namibia in 1990.

History of Namibia

The history of Namibia has passed through several distinct stages from being colonised in the late nineteenth century to Namibia's independence on 21 March 1990.

From 1884, Namibia was a German colony: German South West Africa. After the First World War, the League of Nations mandated South Africa to administer the territory. Following World War II, the League of Nations was dissolved in April 1946 and its successor, the United Nations, instituted a Trusteeship system to bring all of the former German colonies in Africa under UN control. South Africa objected arguing that a majority of the territory's people were content with South African rule.

Legal argument ensued over the course of the next twenty years until, in October 1966, the UN General Assembly decided to end the mandate, declaring that South Africa had no further right to administer the territory, and that henceforth South West Africa was to come under the direct responsibility of the UN (Resolution 2145 XXI of 27 October 1966).

Keetmanshoop Commando

Keetmanshoop Commando was a light infantry regiment of the South West Africa Territorial Force. It formed part of the Area Force Units as well as the Territorial Reserve.


Ovamboland (also: Owamboland) is a region of Namibia. It is generally defined as the northernmost segment of the country which straddles the border between Namibia and Angola. Ovamboland is the most densely populated region in Namibia.The term originally referred to the parts of northern Namibia inhabited by the Ovambo ethnic group, namely the area controlled by the traditional Ovambo kingdoms in pre-colonial and early colonial times, such as Ondonga, Ongandjera, and Oukwanyama. Its endonym is Ovambo ~ Owambo.

Postage stamps and postal history of German South West Africa

German South West Africa was a German colony in Africa, established in 1884 with the protection of the area around Lüderitz and abandoned during World War I, when the area was taken over by the British.

The postal history of the colony started on 7 July 1888 at Otjimbingwe, when the regular postal service began using German postage stamps and postmarks reading OTYIMBINGUE. The service continued in this fashion for a number of years, eventually expanding to additional post offices in Windhoek (1891) and Swakopmund (1895).


The South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), (pronunciation: ), (German: Südwestafrikanische Volksorganisation, SWAVO; Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrikaanse Volks Organisasie, SWAVO) and officially known as SWAPO Party of Namibia, is a political party and former independence movement in Namibia. It has been the governing party in Namibia since the country achieved independence in 1990. The party continues to be dominated in number and influence by the Ovambo ethnic group.

In the general election held in November 2014, the party won 86.73% of the popular vote and 77 out of the 104 seats in the National Assembly as well as 40 out of the 42 seats in the National Council. As of November 2017, Namibian President Hage Geingob has been the president of SWAPO.

South African Border War

The South African Border War, also known as the Namibian War of Independence, and sometimes denoted in South Africa as the Angolan Bush War, was a largely asymmetric conflict that occurred in Namibia (then South West Africa), Zambia, and Angola from 26 August 1966 to 21 March 1990. It was fought between the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), an armed wing of the South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO). The South African Border War resulted in some of the largest battles on the African continent since World War II and was closely intertwined with the Angolan Civil War.

Following several decades of unsuccessful petitioning through the United Nations and the International Court of Justice for Namibian independence, SWAPO formed the PLAN in 1962 with material assistance from the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and sympathetic African states such as Tanzania, Ghana, and Algeria. Fighting broke out between PLAN and the South African authorities in August 1966. Between 1975 and 1988 the SADF staged massive conventional raids into Angola and Zambia to eliminate PLAN's forward operating bases. It also deployed specialist counter-insurgency units such as Koevoet and 32 Battalion trained to carry out external reconnaissance and track guerrilla movements.South African tactics became increasingly aggressive as the conflict progressed. The SADF's incursions produced Angolan casualties and occasionally resulted in severe collateral damage to economic installations regarded as vital to the Angolan economy. Ostensibly to stop these raids, but also to disrupt the growing alliance between the SADF and the National Union for the Total Independence for Angola (UNITA), which the former was arming with captured PLAN equipment, the Soviet Union backed the People's Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) through a large contingent of military advisers and up to four billion dollars' worth of modern defence technology in the 1980s. Beginning in 1984, regular Angolan units under Soviet command were confident enough to confront the SADF. Their positions were also bolstered by thousands of Cuban troops. The state of war between South Africa and Angola briefly ended with the short-lived Lusaka Accords, but resumed in August 1985 as both PLAN and UNITA took advantage of the ceasefire to intensify their own guerrilla activity, leading to a renewed phase of FAPLA combat operations culminating in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The South African Border War was virtually ended by the Tripartite Accord, mediated by the United States, which committed to a withdrawal of Cuban and South African military personnel from Angola and South West Africa, respectively. PLAN launched its final guerrilla campaign in late March 1989. South West Africa received formal independence as the Republic of Namibia a year later, on 21 March 1990.Despite being largely fought in neighbouring states, the South African Border War had a phenomenal cultural and political impact on South African society. The country's apartheid government devoted considerable effort towards presenting the war as part of a containment programme against regional Soviet expansionism and used it to stoke public anti-communist sentiment. It remains an integral theme in contemporary South African literature at large and Afrikaans-language works in particular, having given rise to a unique genre known as grensliteratuur (directly translated "border literature").

South West Africa Command

South West Africa Command was a command of the South African Army.

South West Africa Territorial Force

The South West Africa Territorial Force (SWATF) was an auxiliary arm of the South African Defence Force (SADF) and comprised the armed forces of South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1977 to 1989. It emerged as a product of South Africa's political control of the territory which was granted to the former as a League of Nations mandate following World War I.

South West Africa campaign

The South West Africa Campaign was the conquest and occupation of German South West Africa (Namibia) by forces from the Union of South Africa acting on behalf of the British Imperial Government at the beginning of the First World War.

South West African Class Hc

The South West African Class Hc 0-6-0T of 1907 was a narrow gauge steam locomotive from the German South West Africa era.

In 1907, the German Administration in German South West Africa acquired three Class Hc tank locomotives with a 0-6-0 wheel arrangement for lease to the Otavi Mining and Railway Company. Two more entered service in 1910 and 1911, and a sixth was acquired new by the South African Railways in 1923.

The Namibian

The Namibian is the largest daily newspaper in Namibia. It is published in English and Oshiwambo.

Union of South Africa

The Union of South Africa (Dutch: Unie van Zuid-Afrika, Afrikaans: Unie van Suid-Afrika pronunciation ) is the historical predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal, and the Orange River Colony. It included the territories that were formerly a part of the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.

Following the First World War, the Union of South Africa was granted the administration of South West Africa (now known as Namibia) as a League of Nations mandate. It became treated in most respects as another province of the Union, but it never was formally annexed.

Like Canada and Australia, the Union of South Africa was a self-governing autonomous dominion of the British Empire. Its independence from the United Kingdom was confirmed in the Balfour Declaration 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931. It was governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with the Crown being represented by a governor-general. The Union came to an end with the enactment of the constitution of 1961, by which it became a republic and temporarily left the Commonwealth.


Windhoek, (pronunciation:ˈvəntɦuk), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) above sea level, almost exactly at the country's geographical centre. The population of Windhoek in 2011 was 325,858, growing continually due to an influx from all over Namibia.

The city developed at the site of a permanent hot spring known to the indigenous pastoral communities. It developed rapidly after Jonker Afrikaner, Captain of the Orlam, settled here in 1840 and built a stone church for his community. In the decades following, multiple wars and armed hostilities resulted in the neglect and destruction of the new settlement. Windhoek was founded a second time in 1890 by Imperial German Army Major Curt von François, when the territory was colonised by the German Empire.

Windhoek is the social, economic, political, and cultural centre of the country. Nearly every Namibian national enterprise, governmental body, educational and cultural institution is headquartered there.

Provinces of South Africa
Non-independent homelands
Independent homelands1
Dependent territories
Mandates of the League of Nations (1919–46)
Class A
Class B
Class C

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