In search of survival and dignity

Two traditional communities in southern Namibia under South African rule
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In search of survival and dignity

Autor: Reinhart Kößler
ISSA – Wissenschaftliche Reihe, Band 31
Informationsstelle Südliches Afrika
Bonn, 2006
Soft cover, 21x15 cm, 394 Seiten, several bw-photos

Publisher’s note:

While the anti-colonial struggles in Namibia a hundred years ago have received some attention in research and the general public, little is known about the situation of black Namibians under South African rule.

The present study examines the experience of two traditional Nama communities in Southern Namibia from the time of South African occupation up to the first years of independence.

The account maps out South African reserve and home-land policies and looks at the experiences and traditions of dealing with the colonial challenge by resistance or accommodation.

The author shows how the politics of identity and restitution intertwine with the exigencies of survival, the struggles over water, land, stock, labour and finance.

He traces the – as yet little-known – roots of the Namibian liberation movement in the South of the country and shows that the problems stemming from South African settler colonialism persist to this day.

The study critically reflects on current debates on ethnicity and the difficulties that arise in the attempt to fit traditional communities into the framework of the modern state, in southern Africa and beyond.



Traditional Communities and the Modern State in Southern Namibia and beyond:
Some Basic Considerations and Background
1. Groups, categories and boundaries
2. Spatial reorganisation in southern Namibia: The advent and impact of colonialism

Part I
From Reserve to Homeland: South African „Native Policy” in Southern Namibia
1. Initial steps in „native policy”: The quest for the mandate
2. The reserves: Concepts and lands
3. The contradictions of reserve institutions
4. A home or a haven for idlers? The controversial meaning of the reserves
5. Reserve finance
6. Self-defence and self-interpretation:
South African reserve policy before the international community and the concept of divided citizenship
7. Haggling over water, administrative delay: Local endeavour vs. centralist control
8. The ethnic shift: Towards the homeland strategy
9. The Namaland dispensation in action

Part II
Preserving the Land: The Slow Tragedy of Berseba
1. The limits of control: Collusion, cooperation and conflict
2. Trade and the changing weights of control
3. The extension of administrative control
4. 1938: The turning point
5. Colonial control enhanced
6. From gebied to reserve: The struggle for land and rights
7. Quest for the captaincy and the renewal of internal conflict
8. Intracommunal conflict and the Namaland dispensation
9. Since independence

Part III
Revindicatory Politics: The Witbooi in Southern Namibia after 1915
1. The background of revindicatory politics
2. The Witbooi return to Gibeon
3. A programme of restitution
4. Struggling for a place to live: The Witbooi group and the beginnings of reserve policy in Namibia
5. Communal aspirations and the confines of the reserve
6. The meaning of the captaincy
7. Resistance and the issue of local control
8. „A luta continua”: The continuing tradition of resistance


Archival Sources
1. National Archives of Namibia (NAN)
2. Cape Archives Depot (KAB)
3. Central Archives Depot, Pretoria (SAB)
4. Archiv der Vereinigten Evangelischen Mission/Rheinische Missionsgesellschaft, Wuppertal (VEM/RMG)

Published Sources and Secondary Literature