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South-West Africa

South-West Africa (Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrika; German: S dwestafrika) was the name that was used for the modern day Republic of Namibia during the earlier eras when the territory was controlled by the German Empire and later by South Africa.


German colony

As a German colony from 1884, it was known as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-S dwestafrika). Germany had a difficult time administering the territory, which, owing to the Germans' native policy, experienced many insurrections, especially those led by guerilla leader Jacob Morenga. The main port, Walvis Bay, and the Penguin islands had been annexed by Britain as part of the Cape Colony in 1878, and became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

As part of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890, a corridor of land taken from the northern border of Bechuanaland, extending as far as the Zambezi river, was added to the colony. It was named the Caprivi Strip (Caprivizipfel) after the German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi.[1]

During 1915, the region was taken from German control in the South-West Africa Campaign of the First World War. After the war, it was declared a League of Nations Mandate territory under the Treaty of Versailles, with the Union of South Africa responsible for the administration of South-West Africa, including Walvis Bay.

UN trust territory

The Mandate was supposed to become a United Nations Trust Territory when League of Nations Mandates were transferred to the United Nations following the Second World War. The Union of South Africa objected to South-West Africa coming under UN control and refused to allow the territory's transition to independence, regarding it as a fifth province (even though it was never formally incorporated into South Africa).[2]

International law

These South African actions gave rise to several rulings at the International Court of Justice, which in 1950 ruled that South Africa was not obliged to convert South-West Africa into a UN trust territory, but was still bound by the League of Nations Mandate with the United Nations General Assembly assuming the supervisory role. The ICJ also clarified that the General Assembly was empowered to receive petitions from the inhabitants of South-West Africa and to call for reports from the mandatory nation, South Africa.[3] The General Assembly constituted the Committee on South-West Africa to perform the supervisory functions.[4] In another advisory opinion issued in 1955, the Court further ruled that the General Assembly was not required to follow League of Nations voting procedures in determining questions concerning South-West Africa.[5] In 1956, the Court further ruled that the Committee had the power to grant hearings to petitioners from the mandated territory.[6] In 1960, Ethiopia and Liberia filed a case in the International Court of Justice against South Africa alleging that South Africa had not fulfilled its mandatory duties. This case did not succeed, with the Court ruling in 1966 that they were not the proper parties to bring the case.[7][8]

Mandate terminated

There was a protracted struggle between South Africa and forces fighting for independence, particularly after the formation of the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) in 1960.

In 1966, the General Assembly passed resolution 2145 (XXI) which declared the Mandate terminated and that the Republic of South Africa had no further right to administer South-West Africa. In 1971, acting on a request for an advisory opinion from the United Nations Security Council, the ICJ ruled that the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia was illegal and that South Africa was under an obligation to withdraw from Namibia immediately. It also ruled that all member states of the United Nations were under an obligation not to recognize as valid any act performed by South Africa on behalf of Namibia.[9]

South-West Africa became known internationally as Namibia when the UN General Assembly changed the territory's name by Resolution 2372 (XXII) of 12 June 1968.[10] SWAPO was recognized as representative of the Namibian people and gained UN observer status[11] when the territory of South West Africa was already removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The territory became the independent Republic of Namibia on 21 March 1990, although Walvis Bay became part of Namibia only in 1994.


The South African authorities established 10 bantustans in South-West Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s in accordance with the Odendaal Commission, three of which were granted self-rule.[12] These bantustans were replaced with separate ethnicity based governments in 1980.

Map of the black homelands in Namibia as of 1976
Map of the black homelands in Namibia as of 1976

The bantustans were:

See also


br:Mervent Afrika de:S dwestafrika es: frica del Sudoeste fr:Sud-Ouest africain id:Afrika Barat Daya nl:Zuidwest-Afrika pl:Afryka Po udniowo-Zachodnia pt:Sudoeste Africano sv:Sydv stafrika tr:G ney Bat Afrika uk: - vi:T y-Nam Phi zh:

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