Namibia and it’s German legacy

In Colonial terms, the Germans ruled Namibia for a very short period of time. Their rule lasted from 1884 until 1915. Along with all other German colonies in Africa, Namibia was also taken from Germany after the World War 1. But compared to other former German colonies, we can find a lot of German influence in Namibia even today. Namibia is also having one of the largest ethnic German communities in the African continent (ironically many of them are descendants of those who immigrated to Namibia after the German rule was over). Allgemeine Zeitung, the only German newspaper operating out of Africa is located in Namibia. Although the African Namibians are not that excited about the history during the German colonial days (because of obvious reasons), many Germans and non-Germans continue to be nostalgic about that period.

During the German colonial period, human rights abuses were committed against the native Herero and Namaqua people (1904-1908 period). Many of the tribesmen still want those events to be classified as genocide. The German Federal Republic has apologized to the tribesmen for the harsh treatment meted out to them. Surprisingly, unlike South Africa, Namibia hasn’t reported any major attacks against the ethnic Germans who are living in Namibia. The state run Namibian Broadcasting Corporation frequently operates German language programs, and there are many German schools in places like Swakopmund. Even during 1984, there were a total of 1,423 large scale and small scale farms operated by ethnic Germans in Namibia. Currently the number of farms is experiencing a slight decline because of emigration and indigenization, but still the Germans represent one of the backbones of the Namibian farming community.

The absolute number of ethnic Germans show a constant  decline since the 1960s. The 1960 census reported 16,533 Germans out of a total White population of 73,464. In 1970, it declined to 15,858 and 89,389 respectively. The 1981 census reported a total of 12,741 Germans out of a white population of 76,430. Most of the decline was a result of the continuous emigration of young ethnic Germans to Europe and Australia. The natural growth of the population was not big enough to offset the migratory decrease. The 2001 census of Namibia showed that only 1.1% of all households in Namibia used German as a home language (this includes a few non-whites as well). Right now the community is in no danger of disappearing altogether from the Namibian cultural scene. But if the disturbances which are happening in white-owned farms in South Africa spreads to Namibia, then this unique community might be lost for ever. A lot depends on the attitude of the Namibian government (currently SWAPO is the ruling party). If the government refrains from forcibly acquiring white owned farms and  making Black Economic Empowerment (BEE, as known in South Africa) mandatory, then the German community in Namibia will continue to flourish, bringing a lot of economic advantages for ordinary indigenous Namibians as well.

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