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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for San Bushmen in Namibia

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Date(s) Item
1883 - 1884 South West Africa (later Namibia) was colonized by Germany. It is annexed as a protectorate in 1884.
1904 - 1907 German wars against the Herero people resulted in the killing of 75% of their population.
Jul 1915 South African forces invaded South West Africa and annexed it.
May 1919 South West Africa was allocated to South Africa by the Allied and Associated Powers.
1925 Limited autonomy for South West Africa was granted by the South African parliament.
1936 Last permit to "hunt" San (Bushmen) in Namibia was issued by the government of South Africa.
Dec 1946 U.N. General Assembly Resolution 65(I) rejected South Africa's proposal to incorporate South West Africa into South Africa, but requested South Africa to conclude a trusteeship agreement for the territory. South Africa rejected this.
1957 The Ovamboland Peoples Congress, the forerunner of SWAPO (South West Africa Peoples Organization), is formed in Cape Town.
1960 SWAPO is formed. The government began to remove Ju'hoan San from their land and forcibly truck them to a single administrative center called Tsumkwe. They were given a school, clinic, church and jail. Tsumkwe became a rural slum and Bushmen turned to heavy drinking with the establishment of a government-subsidized liquor store.
May 1964 The South African government's Odendall Commission recommended the establishment of "homelands" in South West Africa and proposed a five-year economic and social plan for the territory.
1966 SWAPO's militant wing began an armed independence struggle against South Africa. In October, the U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 2145(XXI) revoking South Africa's mandate over South West Africa.
1968 - 1969 South Africa established "homelands" in South West Africa, including "Bushmanland" in the Northeast. The U.N. renamed the country Namibia in 1968.
Mar 1969 The U.N. Security Council recognized the General Assembly's revocation of South Africa's mandate by adopting resolution number 264 of 1969.
1970 Bushmanland was established as a "homeland" for the San. It contains about 12,000 square miles of land. Soon after its establishment, the Kaudom game reserve in northern Bushman land was expropriated from the Ju'hoan people.
Jun 1971 The International Court of Justice ruled that South Africa's continued presence in Namibia is illegal. South Africa rejected this opinion.
1974 The Portuguese empire in Southern Africa collapsed allowing SWAPO to re-base in Angola and guerrilla attacks intensify. In December, the U.N. Security Council called for compliance by South Africa with previous U.N. resolutions and the 1971 ICJ ruling.
Jan 1976 The U.N. Security Council adopted 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.
1977 DTA (Democratic Turnhalle Alliance), a coalition of ethnic groups, was founded.
1977 - 1979 Five Western countries got talks started and South Africa agreed in principle to Namibian independence. The U.N. adopted resolution 435 providing for internationally supervised elections. Ten days later, more than 600 Namibian exiles in Angola were killed by South African troops.
1982 San leaders applied officially for the establishment of a representative for their population. They met with members of the government, but no specific answer was given to their request.
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 began, SWAPO invaded from Angola. South African forces attacked and killed several hundred guerrillas.
Jun 1989 San recently defeated a government plan to make most of their territory into a game park. The San have no political control over Bushmanland, and none of the 10 alliances of political parties competing in the upcoming elections has put forward a policy of any kind on the San.
Nov 1989 SWAPO won 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. The San in Bushmanland supported the DTA in the elections. Elections were declared free and fair by independent U.N. observers.
Feb 1990 The president-elect of Namibia, Sam Nujoma accused South Africa of ulterior motives in resettling San in South Africa. He suggested the South African military was aiming to train the San to carry out subversive activities in Namibia.
Mar 21, 1990 Namibia achieved independence from South Africa. At independence, 60% of Namibia is white-owned or commercial land; 15% is set aside for nature conservation; 25% is black-owned. Blacks make up 80% of the population and the San have no access to their land.
May 3, 1990 The Namibian government claims that South Africa did not pay San as promised and they are now in need of government assistance. About 500 San soldiers and their families followed South African soldiers into South African after the war because they feared reprisals from SWAPO. Three hundred San soldiers and their dependents remained in Namibia in Omega in the Caprivi Strip. They were reportedly near starvation.
Nov 1990 The Namibian government was expected to begin the resettlement of about 2000 San in the Caprivi Strip. They are family members of San who served in South Africa's military during the war.
Jun 21, 1992 San representatives gathered in the Namibian capital of Windhoek to hold a conference bringing their plight to the attention of the government and the world.
1993 The first meeting of Southern Africa's indigenous San took place. The Namibian government endorsed the San's right to land and to traditional land use.
Mar 6, 1993 The San band of the South African army (Battalion 31) was disbanded.
Apr 14, 1994 Human rights workers spoke out on behalf of the San in Namibia stating that the majority are paid starvation wages as farm laborers; the San are unable to attain professional positions higher than social worker; many San are being preserved "almost as tourist attractions."
Jun 11, 1994 A decision by the Namibian cabinet to accept the return of former counter insurgents paved the way for 500 Bushmen in South Africa to return to Namibia.
Oct 1994 By this time, the Bushmanland area has shrunk from 12,000 square miles to 3,500 square miles and 2000 Ju'hoan people live there. To sustain a stable population as hunter gatherers, the San need 14.5 square miles per person. The Nyae Nyae development foundation established by John Marshall and Claire Ritchie is faltering. The San demanded the resignation of its director and external aid donors froze their donations at reports of grandiose projects and chaos in Bushmanland.
Dec 14, 1995 Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights accused the government of ignoring the exploitation and destruction of the culture of 5000 San. They asserted that San perform slave labor, and in some cases are paid with food rather than money. Namibia’s Minister of Health and Social Services rejected the charges. (Reuters World Service (RWS))
Jan 1997 San were arrested in Etosha National Game Park as they were protesting the refusal of the government to return their anscestral lands. They prevented tourists from entering the park. The 20,000 strong Hai//om effort to restore their lands have been ongoing since 1993. (ANS (Africa News Service), 6/19/1997)
May 1997 The powerful chief of a neighboring Bantu-speaking tribe in the West Caprivi claim that 4000 Kxoe San who live inside the Game Reserve there are still his vassals and the land they occupy his. The government seems to be supporting his claim. At the center of the dispute is a small tourist campsite built by the Kxoe on the Okavango River’s Pop Falls. It was constructed with the help of Western donors and local development agencies and raises money for the Kxoe community. Mbukushu chief Erwin Mbambo condemned the camp because his permission for the venture was not sought. In May 1997, the government announced the camp would have to close because the prison ministry needed the land. The Prison Ministry’s Fran Kapofi said the government considered the land in question to be under Mbambo’s authority and that the Kxoe are his subordinates. The Kxoe claimed the government supported Mbambo because he was a former SWAPO member with close ties to the government leaders, and feel they are being punished because of they were on the opposite side of SWAPO during the independence struggle. The government has ignored the illegal encroachment of Mbukushu peaSants onto the Reserve over the past two years. (Christian Science Monitor, 11/27/1997; The Independent, 1/3/1998)
Jun 19, 1997 Charges were dropped against 62 Sai//om San who had protested at the Etosha National Game Park in January. (ANS)
Jul 1997 The government gave the Kxoe San six months to vacate their two community tourism camps. The Move is linked to the government’s favoritism of the Mubukushu tribe over the San. The government claimed it had decided to deproclaim the district a conservation area. The Xu San community were migrating to Angola from their ancestral lands in West Caprivi after encroachment by the Mbukushu. The Xu are accused of stealing Mbukushu cattle. They are also employed by the Mbukushu for manual labor and were ill-treated and sometimes went unpaid for their labor. Poverty and lack of government and NGO support, in addition to encroachment on their lands, forced the Xu to leave their stronghold at Mushangara. Elders do not receive government pensions because most do not have birth certificates or other ID. A registration team from the Ministry of Home Affairs sent to register the Xu said they failed in their task because they ran out of forms. They have not returned. (ANS, 7/23/1997)
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 The Kxoe, backed by the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, a regional body, and the non-profit Legal Advice Center of Windhoek, took advantage of a new law on tribally held land to register Kipi Goerge as a chief in his own right. If his claim were granted, the government would have to grant the Kxoe title to their traditional lands. If the government refuses the grant, the Kxoe said they will sue. (Christian Science Monitor, 11/27/1997; The Independent, 1/3/1998)
Apr 6, 1998 The government completed a list of traditional chiefs to be recognized under the Traditional Authorities Act. The Ministry of Regional, Local Government and Housing did not say how many traditional leaders were recognized or turned down. (ANS)
Jul 7, 1998 Close to 240,000, including 20,000 San, are in heed of resettlement according to the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement, and Rehabilitation (ANS)
Sep 1998 The SWAPO Omaheke Regional Youth Forum has accused the government of favoritism and nepotism in distributing government lands. It said the Lands Ministry should give priority to the marginalized San, unemployed youth, women and other farmers who applied for resettlement in 1992 rather than to rich farmers. (ANS, 9/21/1998)
Nov 1998 A series of government security sweeps targeting secessionist rebels in the Caprivi Strip has resulted in the flight of hundreds of San to Botswana. Observers said more than 1000 San may have fled out of fear. Two human rights organizations are investigating allegations by the Kxoe that members of their community were killed during the sweeps, and that they were threatened and abused by the Namibian Defence Forces. More than 400 Caprivi secessionists have also fled to Botswana. The Kxoe were being housed in a military camp and at Dukwe Refugee Camp. The Kxoe were not working in collusion with the rebels The Kxoe have been at odds with the Namibian government over the past few years, particularly in relation to their land and chieftancy rights. They have not been granted traditional authority status, their chief has not been recognized, and their bid to create employment through a tourism conservation program ran afoul of the government. (ANS, 11/17/1998)
Apr 1999 Botswana has so far granted political asylum to 1116 of more than 2400 Namibians who fled in the wake of secessionist troubles in Caprivi. The Namibian government denied that they had persecuted the residents of Caprivi in their search for secessionists. Most who fled to Botswana, including the San, did so out of fear of being caught up in security sweeps in the region. Voluntary repatriation is promoted by the Botswana government, but so far only five Namibians have returned.(ANS, 4/7/1999)
May 19, 1999 President Nelson Mandela of South Africa handed over land title to a group of Namibian San who had once fought against the ANC in Angola. (ANS)
Jul 1999 The National Society for Human Rights said civil and political rights were deteriorating in Namibia. It cited ethnic discrimination and lack of tolerance for dissenting views. Government officials were accused of discriminating against the San who face poverty, illiteracy and disease. (ANS, 7/21/1999)


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Information current as of January 10, 2007