Resistance against South Africa

Call for independence grows louder

In the 1950s, the call for independence grew louder. Several organizations were founded, among them the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO), who first worked as a union for contract workers. One of the founders of this organization was Sam Nujoma who later became the first Namibian President after the independence. His employer, South African Railways, fired him because of his political activities. Nujoma organized strikes and demonstrations against the South African Apartheid laws.

In late 1959, the South African police committed a massacre: without warning they shot into a peaceful demonstration against the relocation of Blacks into townships. The demonstration was led by women. 13 people died, 52 were injured in the fight. This incident became the fertile ground for a growing wish for independence. Today, Namibians still commemorate this massacre on Women’s Day.

OPO changes its name to SWAPO

In 1960, OPO changed its name to SWAPO (South West African People’s Organization). Sam Nujoma who, together with some comrades-in-arms, had been forced into exile, was elected President of SWAPO. Alongside reaching independence, SWAPO’s goals were the abolition of Apartheid and the system of contract work. The hard reaction of the South African government revealed that independence could hardly be achieved by peaceful means. In the following years, hundreds of supporters left Namibia to prepare for armed fighting.

In 1964, the Odendaal-Plan was carried out in Namibia and according to the South African model, ten Homelands were set up. This caused the United Nations to withdraw the mandate of administration from South Africa and to request immediate withdrawal and transfer of control to the UN. South Africa ignored the United Nations’ request. SWAPO called on all Namibians to start the armed fight against suppression. Many SWAPO supporters were taken in or driven into exile.

August 26th 1966 went down in history as “Namibia Day”. Bloody fights between insurgents and police forces were reported near Omgulumubashe. The South African government proclaimed a state of emergency in the region. In response, SWAPO started the armed fight against South Africa. The scene of the first fights was mainly in Ovamboland. Freedom fighters targeted police patrols and government buildings. The attacks mainly occurred from withdrawal bases in neighbouring Angola.

UN Security Council calls on South Africa to withdraw from Namibia