Rehoboth Baster Community

Speech John McNab to UNPO 2-2-2007

Published by Feb 04, 2007

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Honourable Chairperson Distinguished Members of the Presidency of the UNPO. Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is John McNab, Captain of the Rehoboth Basters, a nation that comes through many trials and tribulations. Together with my colleagues Mrs. Vera Tune and Mr. Aldan Cloete we represent the Baster People in Namibia.

Our responsibilities are enormous and entail the economic and cultural survival of the Basters as a nation. It entails the restitution of our Paternal Laws and traditional authority. It entails the restitution of our alienated lands and right to self-determination.

Being ill-equipped for such a task we hope by obtaining membership of such an august organization as UNPO we can improve our position by drawing on your expertise, knowledge, help and guidance and so bring back the dignity of our people of which they were once so proud.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please allow me to give you a synopsis on the history of the Baster People. The Rehoboth Basters are the decendants of European Colonists and the Indigenous Khoi-People of Southern Africa. As a consequence of the social and political structures of the times they were not acceptable in white communities. Their Khoi forbearers also kept aloof of them probably for the reason that they had adopted the culture and language of their white forefathers. Missionaries gather the various clans in and around mission stations where they gave them some education and training in the virtues of Christianity.

The derogative attitude, abuse and discrimination from the colonists against them however continued and so eventually they decided to emigrate to South West Africa. A few years after they reached their destination they succeeded in buying a large piece of land from the Swartboois with the consent of all the Central and Southern Chieftains of the country.

They developed their own political system which was in use for more than one hundred and thirty years and which guaranteed to them the right to self-determination throughout the colonial periods and was recognized by the German Empire and the Government of the Union of South Africa.

For elucidation of this aspect we wish to submit an extract from a paper by Dr. K.F.R. Budack, a well-known and respected ethnologist of Namibia on the continuous existence of self-government within the Rehoboth Community."

During the German Colonial period a Treaty of Protection and Friendship was concluded between the German Kaiser and the Rehoboth Basters in which his Excellency the German Kaiser recognized the rights and freedom the Basters had acquired for themselves.

Though the German Colonial Administration made many inroads on the freedom of the Basters and infringed on their lands they kept their rights to exercise their self-determination.

The Government of the Union of South Africa in 1915 superseded the German Colonial Government. Right from the beginning of the South African Military Administration they tried to deny the Basters the right to self-determination. General Botha however was adamant that the Basters should keep their rights as exercised under German Administration.

During 1920 South West Africa (Namibia) was granted civil administration. Alienation of land through proclamation and chicanery of law were rife at the time. It is estimated that during periods of German and South African rule 2/3 of our original Basterland had been alienated and today are mostly in private white possession.

During 1923 an international treaty was entered into between the South West African Administration representing the Government of the Union of South Africa, representing the British Empire on the one hand and Captain Cornelius Van Wyk and his council on the other representing the Rehoboth Basters.

This treaty was concluded for the Basters to benefit from section 22 of the Treaty of Versailles 1919. South Africa as mandatory power however never developed the Basters as required by section 22. (The Sacred Trust of Civilization). Instead South Africa started to colonize the country.

International pressure against South Africa in years to come become so great that they yielded to certain demands. One of such prerequisites was the right to self-determination for the Baster People.

On 2nd July 1979 the Basters received Self-Government based on their Paternal Laws by means of an Act of South African Parliament Act 56 of 1976. From 1979 to 1989 Rehoboth developed, grew and prosper on all levels. When the Swapo Government came into being the situation was reversed.

All land that the members of the Baster Community possess was alienated. These assets were registered in the name of the Captain and Council for and on behalf of Rehoboth Baster Community and included building properties, breeding stock and cash. All our sources of income were effectively cut off by this action of Government. No compensation was paid as the Namibian Constitution stipulates in such cases. No other traditional authority suffered such experience.

Rehoboth was further divided in two parts and these parts were added to two larger constituencies namely Khomas and Hardap regions. The delimitation will thus effectively prohibit the Basters from gaining their own representative in Parliament. Our application to be registered as an Traditional Authority was denied seemingly on account of the absence of traditional land.

Rehoboth Traditional Land was confiscated and transferred to the Government of Namibia on the strength of paragraph 1 of schedule 5 of the Constitution of Namibia.

It is our humble submission that this course of action was unfair and unjust. All four paragraphs of schedule 5 should be read together. Paragraph 3 upholds the existing rights, charge, obligation and trust of every Namibian on his or her property. By omitting paragraph 3 in this transfer of land the Basters are excluded from the provisions of the Constitution on property rights. Schedule 5 would than also not be in harmony with the rest of the constitution in section 16.

It is our sincere conviction that by taking this path of action the Namibian government had not only contravened the Namibian constitution but also breach the principles for the independence of Namibia.

Our pleas to the president to investigate the Baster situation and rectify the matter has been in vain and now we have exhausted all domestic remedies.

I now leave this issue in your able hands and pray that your adjudication will be a positive one for us.

I thank you sincerely.