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International Socialist Review, Spring 1965


Franz J.T. Lee

Apartheid in South West Africa


From International Socialist Review, Vol.26 No.2, Spring 1965, pp.47-48.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


South West Africa, being mostly plateau and desert in the north and east, with an area of 318,000 square miles – considerably larger than France – and a population officially estimated in 1960 of 572,000 (477,000 Africans, 22,000 Coloreds, 73,000 Europeans), is dominated by the “white” Republic of South Africa as a mandated territory and is incorporated as a “fifth province.”

Administratively South West Africa is divided into the “Police Zone” (the area conquered by the Germans) and the “Tribal Area” (Ovamboland and Okavangoland-Kaokeveld, in the north). The Africans are mainly Ovambos, Hereros, Namas, Bergdamaras and the remains of the Khoikhoin (derogatively called Hottentots) and Bathwa (so-called Bushmen) tribes. In the Police Zone, are 170,000 Africans, 23,000 Coloreds and 73,000 Europeans.

South West Africa was occupied by Germany in 1884 but at the conclusion of the First World War it was declared a mandated territory under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations: “[to promote and safeguard] to the utmost the material and moral well-being and the social progress of the inhabitants of the territory,” following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Article 2 of the Mandate of December 12, 1920, made South Africa responsible for the administration of the territory.

After the League of Nations was dissolved and the United Nations created, South Africa claimed that the Mandate was no longer valid, and that South Africa was entitled to annex the territory unilaterally – in spite of the rulings of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice against such a move. On November 4th, 1960, the Governments of Liberia and Ethiopia filed applications with the International Court of Justice against the Verwoerd regime for violating these decisions.

However, the Pretoria regime established military bases at Walvis Bay, at the Caprivi Strip on the border of South West Africa, and Northern Rhodesia, a secret air base at Swakopmund, a training camp in Windhoek, and another on the Ondangua Air Strip for emergency service and any foreign invasion.

Political Organization

The post-war history of political organization in South West Africa begins with tribal chiefs dominating the scene. Their activities varied from conferences with officials of the South African Government to petitions to the United Nations. The Hereros were the most vocal group and they demanded trusteeship status for South West Africa, return of their lands and better social and educational facilities. In 1959, the Ovamboland Peoples Organization (OPO) and the South West African National Union (SWANU) were formed, based on a general demand for unity and a national basis for popular mobilization. In December 1959, these organizations effectively organized a boycott of Government municipal beerhalls, movie houses, dancehalls and busses in Windhoek.

Typically, the fascist regime answered this strike with violence. On December 10th, 1959, South African police and soldiers were flown to Windhoek to smash the boycott. Twelve patriots were killed and over 50 others were seriously wounded.

The formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and the setting-up of the African Liberation Committee (Committee of Nine) did much to coax the leadership into unity, because they insisted upon granting financial or material assistance only to a “united front.” Hence, in November 1963, mainly due to the South African National Liberation Front under the direction of such leaders as Dr. Neville Alexander and Dr. Kenneth Abrahams, a united front, also known as the South West African National Liberation Front (SWANLIF), was formed. Its objective is the forging of a fighting alliance between OPO, SWANU, all other minor democratic and socialistic-oriented organizations of the people, constituting a broad anti-South African United Front.

The scales of mutual jealousy, opportunism, careerism, racialism, tribalism and bureaucracy – all consequences of the imperialist divide-and-rule policy, imposed by every administration from the German “scramble for Africa” on – are rapidly falling from the eyes of the various political groups. The merciless oppression of South Africa, backed chiefly by England, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Japan, has no respect for color, or differences between tribes, and has therefore driven the exploited people together for mutual protection. The dominant mood and overriding social motive is for unity against Verwoerd-ian fascism. The united front emerges as a unity from below.

The Odendaal Report

In March 1964, the Odendaal Commission, instructed to study the possibilities of forming 10 Bantustans and “developing” South West Africa economically, handed in their report. The non-white population protested against institution of these pseudo-independent African states, which would be under the jurisdiction of the central white South African government. The Bantustan plan – due to protest from within, from the African politically independent states and from the UN – was dropped, and Verwoerd continued to “develop” South West Africa economically, by-passing the “White Paper” in Parliament towards the end of April,1964.

When Verwoerd speaks, we hear the voice of Boer capital in South Africa. It is the laws governing the expansion of Boer capital in particular, and the movement of South African capital in general, which dictate the nature and direction of the Odendaal Report and White Paper recommendations. The Bantustans are by no means “pivotal” in the report, but its essence lies in its economic recommendations.

The Odendaal Report proposed that £78,000,000 [1] be spent in South West Africa over the first five years, as follows (in millions of pounds):

Hydro-electric power on Kunene River




New roads linking SWA and Angola


New arterial roads within SWA


Windhoek Airport


Land to be bought from white farmers for Bantustans


1. One pound sterling (£1) = $2.80.

The South African parliament has voted £55,000,000 for immediate use, of which £20,000,000 has already been set aside in the last budget. Every single cent will be used to build up the economic infrastructure of the country and not for the thousands of starving Africans, living far below the bread line.

Economic Boom

The driving force behind these nefarious schemes lies in the South African economic boom. Since 1961, after South Africa recovered from the flight of foreign capital due to the Sharpeville massacre and the first signs of colonial revolution in South Africa, and the masses abandoned all hope of solving racial equality peacefully, South Africa began to experience unprecedented conditions of prosperity. Over $3,900,000,000 of foreign capital are invested. Dividends continue to be the highest in Africa, if not the world; exports (excluding gold) have increased by 50 per cent; the 14,000 enterprises have an annual production of $5,200,000,000; American investments bring a 27 per cent profit per annum; and the investments of Western Europe total $787,000,000.

(millions of pounds sterling)





























West Germany










































Total Trade







% of total trade
that these coun-
tries represent







Table One shows South Africa’s trade with the major capitalist countries. The British and American capitalists hold a 25 per cent interest in the seven mining and financial corporations which together control the whole diamond and gold mining industry. The balance is shared by South African, French, Belgian and West German monopolists. Foreign capital absorbs 10 per cent of South Africa’s national income, or about £240,000,000 a year. Thus overseas investors, headed by Britain and the United States, have a stake in virtually every strategic sector of the South African economy.

Inflationary Pressure

But now, because of this boom, inflation has become a big danger in South Africa. There are huge amounts of available capital anu a shortage of skilled labor – because in most branches of industry the Africans are forbidden by law to do skilled labor. Building costs have spiralled by 25 per cent.

As the financial editor of one South African newspaper put it:

“South Africa is suffering from a surfeit of money. There is simply too much of the stuff and the economy cannot cope with it. An indication of the pressure of capital came when a big tire company invited applications for i, 2,100,000 worth of shares. The fantastic amount of L 83,000,000 was offered by hopeful investors whose money was seeking an outlet.”

Thus the “colony” of South West Africa provides an easy market for the export of capital without exposing this capital to the risk of taking a flight. Odendaal is a laxative for the South African economic constipation. Already, a minor speculative wave of buying in sea-diamond shares is taking place in South West African concerns. Very successfully, Verwoerd has planned his strategy to mislead his overseas opponents – particularly those in the UN – by his “Bantustan red herring.” He can just as viciously and mercilessly oppress and exploit the South West African nonwhites without Bantustans.

UN Role

Since May 1st, the UN Special Committee on Colonialism has resumed discussion on the “South West African Question.”

South Africa boycotts these hearings, considering the subject to be “sub judice.” However, in spite of all the negative aspects, the UN is a useful propaganda platform on which to expose the evils and violent schemes of the South African regime. Further, it serves to isolate South Africa internationally.

But these purposes are only valuable as a prelude to a full-scale assault by the South West African people themselves on the bastions of this regime, which claims to protect and preserve “the Christian, Western, European Civilization” at the foot of the Dark Continent. Without this direct mass action and the promotion of the struggle on the soil of South West Africa, all the fine resolutions by the “Special” committee are meaningless!

If the United Nations takes over South West Africa, will we – the Africans – also be as happy and prosperous as our comrades in the Congo have been since 1960???

On whose side is the World Court of Justice? It is worthwhile to recall that it was originally ordered that South Africa reply to the charges made against her by January 1964. However, South Africa has been granted two extensions of time, undoubtedly to give full play to the propaganda surrounding the Odendaal Report. Ethiopia and Liberia now have until November 1964 to answer South Africa’s reply. The Court itself may announce its verdict in early 1965. It may even drag the case out for the next five years. In any case, the revolutionary movement will launch an offensive against the regime long before then!!!

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