People of Namibia: Basters, Caprivi, Coloureds

People of Namibia: Basters

The 72,000-strong Rehoboth Basters are the descendants of a group of Khoi-European mixed-race settlers who arrived in Namibia in 1869. After negotiations with the Herero and the Swartbooi Namas, the Basters bought and settled land in the Rehoboth area, where the majority earned a living through livestock farming.  During the apartheid era, the Basters managed to hold on to their land, enabling the community to retain a strong sense of its own identity; at independence a section of the Basters even called for the creation of a separate Baster homeland. The traditional leadership under former Kaptein or leader Hans Diergaardt was engaged in a series of court cases against the government concerning the rights to administer communal land in and around the town of Rehoboth. The matter was finally settled in 1996 with a Supreme Court ruling in favour of the government.  Recurrent drought over recent years has forced many Basters off the land to seek employment in Rehoboth and Windhoek. Today, despite the isolationism of some, the majority of Basters have entered the mainstream of Namibian society working in a wide range of trades and professions.

People of Namibia: Caprivi

Stretching from the Kavango Region in the west to the Zambezi in the east, the narrow strip of land that constitutes the Caprivi Region is home to the Subia and Fwe tribes, the latter including a number of Yeyi, Totela and Lozi communities. An estimated 92,000 people in all live in this well-watered, subtropical region which forms part of the northern Kalahari basin.  Historically the area has been dominated by the Lozi tribe from Zambia and the Kololo from South Africa. The more recent intervention of Europeans followed the agreement between Britain and Germany in 1890 which gave colonial authority over the land to the Germans, who only arrived, however in 1909.

The Lozi first conquered the area in the late 17th and early 18th century only to be ousted following the migration of southern Sotho tribes from South Africa in the wake of the Zulu wars in Natal. The existing Lozi customs were adapted to suit Sotho institutions in a so-called Kololo Empire - until a Lozi revolt in 1864 restored their control over the area.

During the consecutive periods of Lozi and Kololo rule, Lozi was established as the lingua franca of the area and subsequently as medium of instruction in schools. Both Lozi and Kololo empires promoted patrilineal institutions making the patrilineal extended family the basic social unit.

Both Fwe and Subia practise a mixed economy including hunting, gathering, fishing, hoe-farming and pastoralism, with agriculture forming the backbone of the traditional economy. There are few urban centres apart from the regional capital Katima Mulilo and job opportunities outside subsistence farming are few and far between. Inevitably this is leading to many young people moving away from the land to look for work in urban areas in other parts of the country.

In recent years the population of the Caprivi has been hit very hard by the spread of HIV and AIDS and there is considerable concern over how this will affect the community as a whole.

People of Namibia: Coloureds

Around 50,000 people in Namibia today regard themselves as 'Coloureds'. These people were originally of mixed European and African descent, but the vast majority today are born from Coloured parents. The apartheid reality of Coloured townships, Coloured schools and Coloured churches means that there is a strong sense of shared community and culture.

Afrikaans-speaking and urban-dwelling, the Coloured community is predominately Christian and western oriented.  Most Coloureds live in the central and southern areas.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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