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South-West Africa (Afrikaans: Suidwes-Afrika; German: Südwestafrika) was the name of what is today the Republic of Namibiamarker.

German colony

As a German colony from 1884 it was known as German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). Germany had a difficult time administering the territory, which, owing to the Germans' brutal native policy, experienced many insurrections, especially those led by guerilla leader Jacob Morenga. The main port, Walvis Baymarker, and the Penguin islandsmarker had been annexed by Britainmarker as part of the Cape Colony in 1878, and became part of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

During 1915 the region was taken from German control in the South-West Africa Campaign of World War I. After the war it was declared a League of Nations Mandate territory under the Treaty of Versailles, with South Africa responsible for the administration of South-West Africa, including Walvis Bay.

UN trust territory

The Mandate was supposed to become a United Nations Trust Territory when League of Nations Mandates were transferred to the United Nations following World War II. The Union of South Africa objected to South-West Africa coming under UN control and refused to allow the territory's transition to independence, regarding it as a fifth province (even though it was never actually incorporated into South Africa).

International law

These South African actions gave rise to several rulings at the International Court of Justicemarker, which in 1950 ruled that South Africa was not obliged to convert South-West Africa into a UN trust territory, but was still bound by the League of Nations Mandate with the United Nations General Assembly assuming the supervisory role. The ICJ also clarified that the General Assembly was empowered to receive petitions from the inhabitants of South-West Africa and to call for reports from the mandatory nation, South Africa. The General Assembly constituted the Committee on South-West Africa to perform the supervisory functions. In another advisory opinion issued in 1955, the Court further ruled that the General Assembly was not required to follow League of Nations voting procedures in determining questions concerning South-West Africa. In 1956, the Court further ruled that the Committee had the power to grant hearings to petitioners from the mandated territory. In 1960, Ethiopiamarker and Liberiamarker filed a case in the International Court of Justicemarker against South Africa alleging that South Africa had not fulfilled its mandatory duties. This case did not succeed, with the Court ruling in 1966 that they were not the proper parties to bring the case.

Mandate terminated

In 1966, the General Assembly passed resolution 2145 (XXI) which declared the Mandate terminated and that South Africa had no further right to administer South-West Africa. In 1971, acting on a request for advisory opinion from the United Nations Security Council, the ICJ ruled that the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia was illegal and that South Africa was under an obligation to withdraw from Namibia immediately. It also ruled that all member states of the United Nations were under an obligation to recognize the invalidity of any act performed by South Africa on behalf of Namibia.

South-West Africa became known internationally as Namibia when the UN General Assembly changed the territory's name by Resolution 2372 (XXII) of 12 June 1968.

There was a protracted struggle between South Africa and forces fighting for independence, particularly after the formation of the South-West Africa People's Organisation in 1960.

The territory became the independent Republic of Namibiamarker on 21 March 1990, with Walvis Baymarker only becoming part of Namibia in 1994.


The South African authorities established 10 bantustans in Namibia in the late 1960s and early 70s three of which were granted self-rule . These bantustans were replaced with separate ethnicity based governments in 1980.

The bantustans were:

See also


  1. International Status of South-West Africa - Advisory Opinion
  2. List of United Nations Organisations and Resolutions concerning Namibia
  3. Voting Procedure on Questions Relating to Reports and Petitions Concerning the Territory of South-West Africa - Advisory Opinion
  4. Admissibility of Hearings of Petitioners by the Committee on South-West Africa - Advisory Opinion
  5. South-West Africa Cases (Preliminary Objections) Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa
  6. South-West Africa Cases (Second Phase) Ethiopia v. South Africa and Liberia v. South Africa
  7. Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South-West Africa) Notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276(1970) - Advisory Opinion
  8. Legal Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs
  9. World Statesman

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