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FunTimes Magazine

Namibian Resistance: From German and South African Colonization to Independence

Mar 21, 2021 08:00AM ● By Oga Africa

Today in 1990, Namibia gained independence from South Africa. This Southwest African country experienced a tumultuous journey of two consecutive colonial occupations before gaining independence. In commemoration of their struggle, we are exploring Namibia’s courageous journey of resistance, from German colonization, to South African colonization, to independence. 

Indigenous tribes in Namibia, which include the Nama or Khoikhoi, Himba, Herero, and more, are brave warriors who refused to sit idly while people invaded their land. From 1884 to 1919, Namibia was colonized by Germany, who named the country German SouthWest Africa. During their occupation, Germans committed horrendous crimes against the Nama, Herero, and San people. From 1894 to 1904, indigenous groups revolted against German invasion, including the Khoekhoe and Herero tribes, which resulted in between 25,000 and 100,000 killings. The Herero and Khoikhoi tribes were often outnumbered, and therefore faced multiple defeats by the Germans. However, they kept fighting. 

(Herero women don their traditional wear)

This battle, which began when German colonizers took control of the indigenous people’s cattle and land, became known as the Nama and Herero genocide or the Forgotten Genocide. During this time, more than 75% of the Herero population and over 50% of the Nama population were wiped out. In addition to the killings, German troops took skulls of the slain to Germany for genetics research. It was not until 2018 that a portion of Namibian skulls was returned to the country. 

(A Himba woman)

In 1919, in the aftermath of the ending of the First World War, Namibia was given to South West Africa by the League of Nations. At the time, the White minority maintained political control of South Africa. During the South African colonization of Namibia, from 1920-1990, apartheid was extended to Namibia. This meant that it was impossible for Black Namibians to have political power in the country. Due to Namibia’s rich resources, which include vanadium, uranium, diamonds, lithium, and tungsten, South Africa did not want to release control of the country. It was not until the Namibian War of Independence, also known as the South African Border War, which lasted from 1966 to 1989, that Namibia gained independence. Guerilla groups in South Africa and Namibia rose up against apartheid regimes, including South African groups and Namibia’s guerilla group, the SouthWest African People’s Organization (SWAPO). By the end of the war, the country gained independence from South Africa and became known as Namibia.

(A Nama man teaches his language)

 In 2020, Namibian President Hage Geingob called for the country to work towards healing from its colonial past and racist policies, including apartheid. He states that it is time for a radical redistribution of wealth in the country. The imbalance is evident in the financial realities of the population: over 80% of the Black population of the country lives in poverty, compared to the wealthy White population, who make up less than 5% of the country.