Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.
Namibia (The African name for South West African) is a country just over three times the size of New Zealand with a population of 852,000, (of whom 99 000 are whites — speaking Afrikaans German and English.) It is mostly desert or semi desert but rich in minerals; cattle and karakul sheep graze on the Central Highlands, and many fish are caught off the coast.
South West Africa was colonised by the Germans in 1884, and occupied by South Africa in 1915. The League of Nations awarded SWA as a mandate to South Africa at the same time as New Zealand received the mandate for the former German Samoa, and Australia the mandate for the former German New Guinea, (1920). South Africa abused this trust by introducing Apartheid into the territory and making it a fifth province of the Union, denying the people their right to freedom and self determination.
In 1966 (resolution 2145 — XXI) the UN General Assembly withdrew the mandate from South Africa, but South Africa ignored the decision when it was backed up by the opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1971.
South Africa's continued illegal occupation of Namibia is only possible because of support from the multinational corporations who exploit the people and resources of Namibia for their own profit, backed up by the three Western powers on the Security Council — USA Britain and France. These corporations make use of the contract labour system whereby Namibian men are forced to leave their "homelands" to seek work, but they may not choose their job, or their wage, nor may they form a trade union or go on strike. Even worse, they are not allowed their wives or children with them for the 12-18 months they are away from home. One of the corporations in Namibia is the Rio Tinto Zinc Corporation which also has a holding in Comalco, and one of whose directors is also a director of the ANZ Bank. Another is the giant Anglo-American Corporation which markets most of the world's gem diamonds, through its subsidiary, the De Beers Consolidated Mining Company. These corporations are based in the USA, Canada, Britain, France, West Germany, Japan and South Africa.
A quarter of the population of Namibia were killed resisting the German occupation. The people continued to resist their removal to the "homelands" created for them by white South Africa, and in 1960 the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) was set up to become the best known of the liberation movements in Namibia today. It forms part of the Namibiar National Convention — a coalition of five opposition groups resisting the South African occupation of their country, and demanding an independent unitary state instead of the continued division of Nami bia on an ethnic basis where the whites have 60% of the best land. SWAPO organised armed struggle in 1966, and has the support of the Organisation of African Unity, the UN and the World Council of Churches. As a result of their resistance member's of both SWAPO and NNC have been harassed and persecuted, detained tortured and killed. SWAPO leader, Hermann ja Toivo, a schoolteacher, is serving a 20 year prison sentence on Robben Island with 34 other SWAPO members. Church leaders who have called for liberation have received similar treatment, but continue to witness against injustice and racial tyranny. The majority of Namibians belong to the Lutheran church (350,000 members), the Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Methodists. Three Anglican Bishops have been expelled from Namibia since 1968, and over 100 clergy and mission workers from Europe and elsewhere.
What You Can Do
- Read more about the situation in Namibia, and keep a scrapbook of news from there. Then tell others about it.
- Borrow the Namibia slide set from CORSO (address below) and show it at your church, school, trade union, college, etc. There is a commentary with the fifty slides.
- Support Operation Namibia, the boat sailing from England to Namibia with a cargo of books on board which have been requested by the Namibia National Convention, but most of which are banned under white South African legislation passed in Pretoria. The skipper of the Golden Harvest is Roy Purvis from Waihi who used to be with the Fri on its peace Odyssey in the Pacific ocean. Other crew members are from Australia the USA and West Europe. The voyage is expected to take about four months to reach Walvis Bay where they will confront the South African authorities.
- Get your church leaders to send messages of support to Namibian churches who have asked for solidarity so that their struggle for liberation does not pass unnoticed by the rest of the world. Addresses are available from CORSO.
- Support the work of Amnesty International which continues to press for the release of prisoners in Namibia and all over the world. Also the programmes of Hart and Care which have focussed on New Zealand's links with South Africa, and which seek to end tacit Government support for the apartheid regime, despite what they say in the UN.
- Continue to fight racism and economic exploitation in your own situation, because if we understand these problems here, then we can begin to understand the situation in Namibia and Southern Africa: and if we can change the system, then the exploitation of Namibia and the rest of the world by the multinational corporations will cease, and human dignity and justice will stand above the desire for the maximinsation of profit.
- Join the CORSO Namibia group in Christchurch or start on in your own area.