Voices from the Kavango

Voices from the Kavango: A Study of the Contract Labour System in Namibia, 1925-1972.
Likuwa, Kletus
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Title: Voices from the Kavango
Subtitle: A Study of the Contract Labour System in Namibia, 1925-1972.
Author: Kletus Likuwa
Series: Basel Namibia Studies Series 22
Publisher: Basler Afrika Bibliographien
Basel, Switzerland 2020
ISBN 9783906927190 / ISBN 978-3-906927-19-0
Softcover, 17 x 24 cm, 232 pages, several b/w photographs

About: Voices from the Kavango

Voices from the Kavango derives from an observation and understanding that there has been silence about the experiences of Kavango contract labourers. It remained necessary to speak with former Kavango contract labourers to explore the way in which their life histories and voices contribute to our understanding of the contract labour system in Namibia. In particular, this book seeks to ask what light do they shed on migration and on new living and working experiences, their experiences with recruiting organizations and local recruiting agents, and the effect the contract labour system had on them.

Is it possible to view the migration of the Kavango workers as a progressive step, or does the paradigm of exploitation and suppression remain the dominant one? Oral interviews were carried out among the former contract labourers and their narratives were used empirically for information about their experiences and attention paid towards analysing these narratives for meaning. Archival sources further provided insight into the colonial views about contract labourers and the operation of the system itself. Voices from the Kavango points to the slow inclusion of the Kavango into the contract labour system.

It draws attention to the silencing of the Kavango in the contract labour system, partly due to the marginal numbers of participation from former Kavango land in comparison to the participating figures from former Ovamboland, but also due to the earlier method of counting the numbers of Kavango contract labourers under the 'Ovambo; label by colonial officials. Although contract labourers made their own decision whether to leave home to get recruited, they did so because of the compelling 'ruhepo', (poverty/hardship) which resulted from the stringent colonial laws.

Contents: Voices from the Kavango

Foreword by Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie

Historiographical review on the contract labour system
Archival sources
Oral interviews
Tracing the History of the Contract Labour System in the Kavango, 1885-1950s
Early intrusions by traders and hunters
The German colonial regime in Kavango
The South African presence in the Kavango
Labour recruitment by South African officials
The formation of the Northern Labour Organization (NLO) and its operations, 1925-1943
The formation of South West Africa Native Labour Association (SWANLA) and its operations
"They Used to Buy Us": Labour Migration from Kavango
Reasons for contract labour migration
Migration journeys, 1925-1972
Women in labour narratives
Living and Work Experiences
The contract labourers on farms
The South African mines and compounds
Namibian mines and compounds

Returning Home: Economic, Social Impact and Worker Mobilization
Mathias Ndumba Shikombero's life story
Economic and social impact
Mobilizing politically
General Conclusions and Lessons
Photographs of interviewees taken by Kletus Muhena Likuwa