There is something particularly thought provoking about Presidential inauguration ceremonies in Namibia – perhaps this is because of its horrific modern history and perhaps because of this country’s past relationship with it.
I did have a very quick look at the Daily News report of the ceremony in Windhoek and noted that the point was made that this country provided a variety of welcomed assistance at the time of Namibia’s independence.
And doubtless, when needed, has continued to do so. That seems fairly routine. But that doesn’t give us much of an idea about the way the two countries interacted during the horror years that preceded Namibia’s independence in 1990.
That being when the one was the UN mandated territory of South West Africa administered, murderously by South Africa after the First World War, and the other, the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
For the latter, the years of the Protectorate were largely undramatic, the Dikgosi ruled, did what they could to engineer development but in general there was little change.
In contrast, South West Africa suffered first the agony of the decimation of the Herero by the Germans then, the horrors of rule by the racist government of South Africa and finally the campaign by SWAPO to boot it out.
Up and down the country, the Dikgosi here provided refuge for the Herero fleeing from the Germans - their descendants being found in many parts of the country. In the 1930s, Tshekedi Khama was in close contact with Chief Hosea Kutako and did everything in his power to disrupt South Africa’s attempt to annex South West Africa.
He also argued that a new railway line should be constructed to one or other of that country’s ports which would help to break the dependence on South Africa and make more possible the exploitation of this country’s undoubted mineral reserves – a run through 80 or so years ago of what is happening today.
Tshekedi also worked very closely with Rev. Michael Scott who in December 1955 addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of the ‘native inhabitants of South West Africa’ – who, of course, had no means of addressing it themselves.
Then came the war of liberation and the inevitable arrival of even more refugees from tormented SWA. With the coming of Independence, Seretse wasted no time.
In 1967 Z.K. Matthews, as Botswana’s first representative there, addressed the United Nations and on behalf of this country and its government, denounced South Africa in gloriously measured words, and called for the immediate independence of SWA.
I once possessed a tape recording of that speech. Having never forgotten it I tried to find a copy here but eventually concluded that not one was to be found! An aunt of Rebe Matthews eventually dug out for me from the UN’s Records and Archives.
It was because of the help obtained from the Matthews family that I was able, therefore, to include a shortened version of the speech in my Historical Anthology – the only record now available anywhere in this country. For those interested, the book and its companion volume, is on sale at Exclusive and Botswanacraft.