Rehoboth Baster Community

Martin Dentlinger's speech at the New World Summit

Published by Oct 02, 2014

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The following speech was delivered by Martin Dentlinger at the New World Summit on Friday 19 September 2014.

Honourable Director Of Ceremonies

Honourable Chair Person

Honourable Representatives Of Stateless States

Minority and Cultural Groups

Ladies and Gentlemen

I thank you for the invitation to the World Summit and for the opportunity to speak a few words at this important meeting on a topic so essential to all of us and indeed to the entire World which needs and seeks so desperately for peace and harmony.

My name is Martin Dentlinger and I represent the Rehoboth People at this meeting as Provisional Captain, a term used by us for a person who is acting on behalf and in the place of the Captain and in his place as leader of the people he serves on occasions when it is impossible for the Captain himself to be present due to various reasons.

The Rehoboth Baster Community is descendant of European African Settlers and the Indigenous Khoi people. Their origin dated back to 1652 during the time of Jan Van Riebeeck on the Southern point of Africa in the Cape Colony.

The political and social order at that time was of such an order that the new brown communities were not accepted in Khoi Communities because the brown colonies that came into being tended to follow the believes, language and culture of their white forbearers. This tendency was definitely the result of the influence of the missionaries on them. These missionaries gathered them and placed them where they could join and live together in communities.    

The missionaries built mission stations to house these brown colonies as communities at these stations where they were educated and taught various skills for survival. The satisfaction of sustainability, and basic needs brought however other consequences of its own namely that of real freedom. They grew tired of being restricted to specific areas and being discriminated against.

In 1868, 90 families decided to emigrate to a new country then known as South-West Africa. This country at that time was sparsely populated and then only by Indigenous Peoples. In 1870 they reached their destination, namely an abandoned mission station called Rehoboth. Rehoboth and surrounded territory belonged at that time to the Swartboois, a tribe which was at time known as Khoi. The Basters rented Rehoboth from the Swartboois for a nominal fee, and started to cultivate the land and started other forms of farming.

They drew up a constitution which later in history is known as the Paternal Laws. During 1875 they started negotiations with the Swartboois for the purchasing of the Rehoboth territory.  Eventually they bought the territory. As land was cheap at that time they paid the purchase price with animals and ox wagons. 

After the first elections under the Paternal Law the Basters divided in three groups. The reason being over the Captainship. Group One remained in Rehoboth. Group Two trekked northwards to Angola. Group Three went back to South Africa.

Group One became known as the Rehoboth Basters. They ruled themselves according to the Paternal Law. In this situation the Missionary F Heidman played a very important role as advisor. The Paternal Law was in place until the independence of Namibia although severely eroded by the Germans, South Africans and eventually by Independence dissolved by the Namibian Government.

LAND CLAIM: Rehoboth Baster Land

CLAIMANTS: Presenting the land claim on behalf of the natural descendants of the First Indigenous Peoples, The Rehoboth Baster Gemeente, commonly known as the Rehoboth Basters. The claimants are those descendants of KhoiKhoi and Europeans identifying themselves as Rehoboth Basters whose socio-political outlooks have been influenced by colonial expansion of West European powers in Southern Africa, their incessant struggles against that domination and their final struggle for survival in Rehoboth and to defend their land.


Rehoboth originally comprised an area roughly 300 km from east to west and 250 km north to south. This was its size in 1870. This is about thrice the size of Belgium. After successive German and South African occupation about 1/3rd of this area remains which is roughly about the size of Belgium.

This land is now in dispute as the incumbent regime claims ownership over it and denies the people of Rehoboth its self-determination right, that is, to continue administrating their land in terms of the existing property relations.

The history of property ownership in Rehoboth begun with the allocation of private farms to the founding families of the Rehoboth Baster Nation which settled in Rehoboth in 1870 by agreement with the Herero and Nama Nations. The Nation paid the levies raised on the land.  

The rest of the land including the land round the settlement Rehoboth was collectively owned with every male member of the Community entitled to a residential plot on coming to age at 18 years. Land was also allocated for temporary private use especially for farming purposes.

Thus the form of land ownership was both collective and individual private ownership.

Since 1870 the Rehoboth Baster Community administrated their land in accordance with the Paternal Laws, in terms of the said property relations to the benefit of the whole community. Whilst vast tracks of land were expropriated by first the German State and the South African Colonial Administration, the remaining land was administrated as described until 1990 when the Namibian State illegally claimed ownership of this land and sought to dispossess the Community in total. The expropriation of the Namibian Government included investment and development projects, other current assets and Sacred Monuments.

In its quest to alienate the Community’s right to the land, it relied upon the Bantustan legislation of 1976 in which the South African Government conferred self-rule status to Rehoboth with statutory provisions to transfer the ownership of property of the Community to the Bantustan Government.

This was illegal as no statute could displace the jurisdiction of the Paternal Laws nor could both individual and collective property rights be nullified by statutes of the mandated power amongst others against the very terms of reference as a protector.

What do the Rehoboth Basters claim and plead from the International Community?

Considering that the Rehoboth Basters were in no way a product of apartheid and had known self-government since 1870. The Basters were the only people not granted the status of communal land administrators or owners, despite having settled in Namibia prior to European colonization of the country and the Basters very strong, traditional link to the land. Of all the ethnic groups in Namibia, the Rehoboth Basters were the only group singled out in the constitution and the only group not granted communal land neither recognized as a traditional authority. Our plea to the International Community is to find ways and means under International Laws, International Indigenous Rights and Covenants to pressurize the Namibian Government to adhere to guarantees granted for its independence. Even if it takes placing conditions for International assistance by donor nations or for that matter taking the expropriation of land, assets and sacred monuments to International Court.