Southern Africa's earliest inhabitants were the San, a nomadic people
organised in extended family groups who could adapt to even the severest
terrain. San communities later came under pressure from Khoi-Khoi groups.
The Khoi-Khoi were a tribal people who raised livestock rather than hunted,
and who were among the first pottery makers in the archaeological record
books. They came from the south, gradually displacing the San, and remained
in control of Namibia until around 1500 AD. Descendants of the Khoi-Khoi
and San people still live in the country, but few have retained their
original lifestyles. Between 2300 and 2400 years ago, the first Bantus
appeared on the plateaus of south-central Namibia. Their arrival marked
the first tribal structures in southern African societies. Other tribes
either retreated to the desert or the swamps of the Okavango Delta or
were enslaved into Bantu society.
Because Namibia has one of the world's most barren and inhospitable coastlines,
it was largely ignored by European explorers. The first European visitors
were Portuguese mariners seeking a way to the Indies in the late 15th
century, but they confined their activities in Namibia to erecting stone
crosses at certain points along the coast as navigational guides. It wasn't
until the last minute scramble for colonies towards the end of the 19th
century that Namibia was annexed by Germany, except for the enclave of
Walvis Bay, which was taken in 1878 by the British for the Cape Colony.
In 1904, the Herero people, who were Bantu-speaking cattle herders, launched
a rebellion, but it was brutally put down. Meanwhile, in the south, diamonds
had been discovered east of Lüderitz by a South African labourer.
In the blink of an eye, the German authorities branded the entire area
between Lüderitz and the Orange River a sperrgebiet, or 'forbidden
area'. German rule came to an end during WWI when German forces surrendered
to a South African expeditionary army fighting for the Allies.
At the end of WWI, South Africa was given a mandate to rule the territory
(then known as West South Africa) by the League of Nations. The mandate
was renewed by the United Nations following WWII but the organisation
refused to sanction the outright annexation of the country by South Africa.
Undeterred, the South African government tightened its grip on the territory
and, in 1949, granted parliamentary representation to the white population.
The bulk of Namibia's viable farmland was parcelled into 6000 farms owned
by white settlers, while black workers and their families were confined
by law to 'reserves'.
Forced labour had been the lot of most Namibians since the German annexation,
and was one of the main factors which led to mass demonstrations and the
development of nationalism in the late 1950s. Around this time, a number
of political parties were formed and strikes organised. By 1960 most of
these parties had merged to form the South West Africa People's Organisation
(SWAPO), which took the heated issue of South African occupation to the
International Court of Justice.
The court's outcome was inconclusive but in 1966 the UN General Assembly
voted to terminate South Africa's mandate and set up a Council for South
West Africa to administer the territory. SWAPO adopted guerrilla tactics
at the same time, but the organisation's failure to establish an internal
government in Namibia made it easy for South Africa to assert control.
South Africa refused to negotiate on a UN-supervised programme for Namibian
independence unless an estimated 19,000 Cuban troops were removed from
neighbouring Angola. In response, SWAPO intensified its guerrilla activities,
severely restricting movement in the north of the country.
The Namibian population grew tired of the war and the economy suffered
badly. By 1985, South Africa was also feeling the pinch and was distracted
by internal problems of its own. A UN-sponsored deal ensured Cuban troops
left Angola if South African troops exited Namibia. UN-monitored elections
were held in November 1989 and SWAPO won a clear majority of the votes.
A constitution was adopted in February 1990 and independence granted the
following month under the presidency of SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma. Nujoma
was re-elected in 1994 and embarked on a reconstruction programme for
the country based on the retention of a mixed economy and partnership
with the private sector. Nujoma tied Namibia's currency to the South African
rand in March 1998.
*The above information was obtained from
www.lonelyplanet.com and Youth International
wants to acknowlege all due credit to the source of the information.