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Chronology for Basters in Namibia

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Basters in Namibia, 2004, available at: [accessed 24 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jan 1, 1872 The Basters flee Cape province in South Africa to escape discrimination. Rehoboth, 50 mi. south of Namibia's present capital of Windhoek, is established as a republic with its own laws and flag on land once owned by the Nama.
1883 - 1884 South West Africa (later Namibia) is colonized by Germany.
Jan 1, 1884 It is annexed as a protectorate.
Jan 1, 1885 The Baster community in Rehoboth signs an agreement for autonomy with the German authorities.
1904 - 1907 German wars against the Herero people result in the killing of 75% of their population.
Jul 1915 South African forces invade South West Africa and annex it.
May 1919 South West Africa is allocated to South Africa by the Allied and Associated Powers.
Jan 1, 1923 The Basters sign a self-rule accord with South Africa.
Jan 1, 1925 Limited autonomy for South West Africa is granted by the South African parliament.
Dec 1946 U.N. General Assembly Resolution 65(I) rejects South Africa's proposal to incorporate South West Africa into South Africa, but requests South Africa to conclude a trusteeship agreement for the territory. South Africa rejects this.
Jan 1, 1957 The Ovamboland Peoples Congress, the forerunner of SWAPO (South West Africa Peoples Organization), is formed in Cape Town.
Jan 1, 1960 SWAPO is formed.
May 1964 The South African government's Odendall Commission recommends the establishment of "homelands" in South West Africa and proposes a five-year economic and social plan for the territory.
1966 SWAPO's militant wing begins an armed independence struggle against South Africa. In October, the U.N. General Assembly adopts resolution 2145(XXI) revoking South Africa's mandate over South West Africa.
1968 - 1969 South Africa establishes "homelands" in South West Africa. This policy of limited autonomy suits the Basters. The U.N. renames the country Namibia in 1968.
Mar 1969 The U.N. Security Council recognizes the General Assembly's revocation of South Africa's mandate by adopting resolution number 264 of 1969.
Jun 1971 The International Court of Justice rules that South Africa's continued presence in Namibia is illegal. South Africa rejects this opinion.
1974 The Portuguese empire in Southern Africa collapses allowing SWAPO to re-base in Angola and guerrilla attacks intensify. In December, the U.N. Security Council calls for compliance by South Africa with previous U.N. resolutions and the 1971 ICJ ruling.
Jan 1976 The U.N. Security Council adopts resolution 385 of 1976 calling for South Africa to transfer power to the Namibian people and to allow free and fair elections under U.N. supervision. South Africa gives the Basters some self-governing rights.
1977 DTA (Democratic Turnhalle Alliance), a coalition of ethnic groups, is founded.
1977 - 1979 Five Western countries get talks started and South Africa agrees in principle to Namibian independence. The U.N. adopts resolution 435 providing for internationally supervised elections. Ten days later, more than 600 Namibian exiles in Angola are killed by South African troops.
1988 Talks between Angola, Cuba, South Africa and supervised by the U.S. set a timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola and Namibian independence.
Apr 1, 1989 As the U.N. independence plan begins, SWAPO invades from Angola. South African forces attack and kill several hundred guerrillas.
Nov 1989 SWAPO wins 41 of 72 seats in the constituent assembly but does not secure the two-thirds majority necessary to form a new constitution without consulting other parties. Voters in the Rehoboth region gave more support to SWAPO (17.6%) and DTA (49%) combined than to the Baster leader Hans Diergaardt, FCN (Federal Convention of Namibia) leader who advocates autonomy (29%). Elections are declared free and fair by independent U.N. observers.
Mar 21, 1990 Namibia achieves independence from South Africa. Prior to independence, the South African government had ordered Diergaardt to vacate administrative buildings he had been occupying in Rehoboth.
Mar 23, 1990 Hans Diergaardt holds a press conference with members of a white neo-nazi organization from South Africa. Both are opposed to black rule in their respective countries. Diergaardt says the Baster community does not acknowledge Namibia's new constitution. On 19 March, Diergaardt declares Rehoboth autonomous and says the Basters will return to the rule of their forefatherly law of 1872. He will hold a referendum to decide on independence for the region.
Apr 9, 1990 A rally at Rehoboth against the unilateral declaration of autonomy by Diergaardt takes place. The rally is supported by SWAPO, DTA and NNF (Namibian National Front). The Prime Minister reiterates that Namibia is a single, united nation and declares Deirgaardt's actions unconstitutional and totally unacceptable.
May 1990 In a referendum in Rehoboth promoted by Diergaardt, 84.1% of the registered voters voted in favor of retaining control of their land.
Sep 27, 1990 Diergaardt leaves the administrative buildings in Rehoboth. He had lived in government buildings since South Africa granted Rehoboth second tier status and was occupying the buildings with his armed supporters in defiance of a Supreme Court order to vacate the premises issued before independence in March.
Nov 1990 President Sam Nujoma visits the Baster community and reassures residents that they have nothing to fear from the government. In recent months, some Basters had been demanding regional autonomy.
Jun 28 - Jul 6, 1991 National Conference on Land Reform held. Recommendations include a ban on foreigners owning as opposed to leasing land, expropriation of under-utilized land, measures to end exploitation of black farm workers by commercial farmers, and limits on absentee landlords. Sixty percent of all land in Namibia is commercial land owned by mostly white farmers; 15% is government-owned nature reserves; 25% is communal land most of which is in the north where 70% of the population depends for their livelihoods on subsistence farming.
Jul 20, 1991 Prime Minister Hage Geingob warned whites that the "slightest hint of racism" would invoke the harshest punishment after an incident at a Outjo hotel in which the Deputy Minister of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism and his driver were refused admission for racial reasons.
Apr 1992 The government decides to expropriate all farms owned by absentee landlords without offering compensation. The ruling party is also recommending that all white farms be reduced to a certain size and under-utilized land be given to people who can use it.
1993 Members of the Baster community alleged the government had unconstitutionally appropriated communal land at independence. They take their claims to court.
Jul 1993 Hundreds of white farmers protested against proposed increases in cattle taxes by marching to the state house in Windhoek, disrupting traffic along the way. President Sam Nujoma accepted their petition and thanked them for their concern.
Oct 1994 A controversial Land Reform Bill is passed in parliament. The Namibian Agricultural Union (NAU), a mostly white organization, says the legislation is unconstitutional and will lead to socio-economic chaos, record unemployment and reduced earnings. Under the legislation, the government would be able to purchase any land on the market first and at any price determined by the Minister of Land. Resettlement, and Rehabilitation in disregard of the market-related price another buyer is willing to pay. The bill gives the government the right to force farmers to give up land, but only if they are not fully utilizing it or have extensive numbers of farms.
Dec 1994 Parliamentary election results give SWAPO over 70% of the total seats. The Federal Convention of Namibia which supports a federal system for Namibia, failed to take a single seat in the general election. The application by the Baster community for the government to return its traditional land in Rehoboth area is still being considered by the courts at year's end.
May 2, 1995 DTA co-founder Dirk Mudge stepped down as chairman, a position he has held since its origin in 1977. He was the first white politician in power to advocate a black majority government.
Jun 1995 The High Court denied an application by the Baster community to force the government to return its traditional land in the Rehoboth area. The Court ruled that the community=s traditional lands reverted to the central government upon independence. The Basters then appleaed the decision to the Supreme Court. (U.S. State Department=s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995, March 1996).
May 1996 The Supreme Court of Namibia agreed with the High Court=s decision on the ownership of Baster lands, dismissing the group=s final appeal. (U.S. State Department=s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1996, February 1997)
Aug 12, 1997 The National Society for Human Rights accused the government of discrimination against some ethnic groups, including Basters and various San groups. The organization highlighted the case of the Kxoe in West Caprivi who the government wants to evict from their community-based tourism sites in favor of the neighboring Mbukosho tribe because its traditional leadership supports SWAPO while the Kxoe does not (African News Service (ANS)).
Oct 1997 A new group contesting this year=s local authority elections is the Rehoboth Rate Payers= Association, which is more of a resident=s association than political party. (ANS, 10/28/1997)
Feb 13, 1998 Baster leader Hans Diergaart died. The community decided to drop their long-standing legal battle over land and embrace the policy of national unity and reconciliation (ANS).
Apr 1998 The government anointed 31 traditional chiefs, but denied recognition to others, including Kxoe Chief Kippie George. The Baster community did not apply for traditional authority status. (ANS, 4/9/1998)
Aug 1998 Upcoming elections for a new Baster leader have been controversial. Some feel no new leader is needed because of the existence of local councils. Others support SWAPO. (The Independence, 8/2/1998) Female candidates have been ruled out of the pending election of new leaders. The 1872 constitution of the community does not provide for female leaders, though it does not explicitly exclude them. (ANS, 8/12/1998)
Jan 12, 1999 The Basters elected a new chief, John McNab. With 25% of the population voting, McNAb won with 41% of the vote. (ANS). He said that the government should allow the Baster community to administer itself (ANS, 1/22/1999)

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