History and political development
Namibia’s varied geographical features have played a significant role in the history of the Namibian people. In pre-colonial times a relatively stable water supply and the well-wooded terrain in the north-eastern regions of the country encouraged cattle farming and agricultural practices by the Owambo people and tribes along the Okavango River.
Among the earliest inhabitants of the central and southern areas were the San/Bushmen, who were hunter-gatherers; the Damara, about whom little is known other than that they were hunters and to a lesser extent pastoralists; and the Nama, who were nomadic cattle farmers.
According to Herodotus, the first sailors to circumnavigate the continent of Africa were Phoenicians. In 1486 the Portuguese navigator Diego Cão planted a stone cross or padrão at Cape Cross, about 130 km north of Swakopmund. A second cross was planted in 1488 by Bartolomeu Dias at Dias Point in the bay of Angra Pequena (Little Bay), the Lüderitz of today.
Travelling overland from South Africa, Jacobus Coetsé was the first white man to reach Namibia, the land across the Garieb (Orange) River, referred to then as Transgarieb. The Swedish adventurer and explorer, Charles John Andersson, was the first person to refer to today’s Namibia as South West Africa, as he called it in his travel journals. The first missionaries established mission stations at Warmbad and Blydeverwacht in 1805.
Namibia was proclaimed a German protectorate by Bismarck in 1884. The conquest of German South West Africa by South African forces during World War I resulted in its subsequent administration by South Africa under a 1920 League of Nations mandate. A protracted war between the occupying South African forces and the Swapo (South West Africa People’s Organisation) liberation movement started in 1966.
In 1989 the implementation of United Nations Resolution 435 for free and fair elections resulted in Swapo coming to power. On 21 March 1990, following 106 years of foreign rule, Namibia achieved independence and Sam Nujoma was sworn in as the country’s first president. He stepped down in 2005 after serving three terms and was succeeded by Hifikepunye Pohamba. Namibia’s la-test national and presidential elections took place in November 2009, and regional and local elections in 2010. The Swapo Party retained the majority and its presidential candidate, Hifikepunye Pohamba, will be President of Namibia until 2014.
Namibia is ruled by a Multiparty Parliament and has a democratic constitution that is highly regarded by the international community. The president is voted in directly by the electorate for a five-year term and is supported by the Prime Minister, currently the Right Honourable Nahas Angula, and Cabinet. Parliament is comprised of two houses; one is elected directly and the other indirectly by the country’s regions. The Government’s policy of national reconciliation and unity embraces the concepts of tolerance, respect for differing political views, and racial and ethnic harmony. The Constitution provides for the division- of power between the executive, legislature- and judiciary.
In Namibia’s lower chamber of parliament, the National Assembly, the following nine parties are represented: Swapo (54, plus 6 non-voting members), Rally for Democracy and Progress (8), Congress of Democrats (1), Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (2), United Democratic Front (2), National Unity Democratic Organisation (2), Republican Party (1), All People’s Party (1), South West Africa National Union (1).