Bibliographic data

Ranby, Peter: Go for History, Grade 9. Windhoek: Macmillan Education Namibia, 2012, 58–59.

"South African military rule in Namibia: 1915 - 1919"

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4.2 South African military rule in Namibia: 1915 - 1919

In 1914, a war broke out in Europe which affected countries in Africa. The war was later referred to as the First World War. In this war, Britain, France and Russia went to war against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Namibia was a German colony and thus joined the war on the side of Germany. South Africa had been a British colony and therefore joined the war on the side of Britain. This meant that Namibia was at war with South Africa.

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[Oval infobox] Black people mad up the majority of the people in South Africa. But they had no political pow er. South Africa was ruled by a whites-only government. All the laws benefited whites and oppressed black South Africans.

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[Black-and-white photograph of soldiers armed with rifles who are walking along train tracks in a flat landscape. One can see an explosion directly behind them and some of the soldiers are turning their heads towards it. A mountain range can be made out in the distance.]

[Caption] German soldiers blew up part of the railway line between Lüderitz and Aus to prevent South African soldiers from using it.

South African troops invaded Namibia ans took over Swakopmund from the Germans. After about a year of fighting, the German troops were defeated in Namibia by the South African troops and were forced to surrender. As many as 15 000 German soldiers were imprisoned at camps near Aus.

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German rule in Namibia came to an end in 1915. For the rest of the First World War, Namibia was governed by the South African army on behalf of Britain.

The First World War came to an end in 1918, when Germany and its allies were finally defeated. The leaders of all the countries involved in the war had to sign peace treaties or agreements. In Germany, a new government came to power at the end of the war. As Germany had been defeated, this government had to sign a peace treaty without having any say regarding its terms.

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[Black-and-white photograph of four men. Three of them are sitting at a table on which there is a large cloth or cover and a bottle. The two men on the left side are wearing cowboy hats, the man on the right is sitting with his back facing the observer and is wearing a uniform hat. He is looking towards a man who is standing and wearing a cowboy hat.]

[Caption] Source:

On 9 July 1915, the German Governor of Namibia, Dr Seitz, surrendered to the head of the South African forces, General Louis Botha, and signed a peace treaty at Khorab.

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This treaty, called the Treaty of Versailles, was signed in Paris, France on 28 June 1919. One of its clauses said that Germany was to give up all its colonies.

An international organisation, the League of Nations, was set up after the war to maintain world peace. One of its tasks was to supervise Germany's former colonies. The job of administering these colonies was given to the countries that had helped to defeat Germany in the war. South Africa had defeated the Germans in Namibia for the British, so the League of Nations gave South Africa the task of administering Namibia. This was called a League of Nations Mandate. The Mandate outlined specific conditions under which Namibia was to be administered by South Africa.

The conditions of South Africa's mandate to rule Namibia

What was expected from South Africa in Namibia under the Mandate?

  • To prevent war from breaking out again.
  • To improve the economy and living standards of everyone living in Namibia.
  • Not to dominate or exploit
  • To make sure that slavery was not practised.
  • To prepare the country for independence.
  • To give a report to the League of Nations every year.

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[Oval infobox] The League of Nations Mandate said that South Africa should: ‘Promote the material and mora well-being and the social progress of the inhabitants’. What do you think this meant?

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