An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview
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37. Protectorates and S.W. Africa

Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Swaziland are three British dependencies adjoining South Africa, generally known as High Commission Territories. Britain is pledged not to hand them over to South Africa without their people's consent. Their position is more delicate with South Africa now outside the Commonwealth (36), for geography and economics link them closely with it.

The arid Bechuanaland protectorate has a population of 350,000 -- less than 2 per square mile. The Bantu Tswana occupied the area in the 18th century, reducing the Bushmen to serfdom or pushing them into the Kalahari desert where few survive; Tswana sub- tribes then developed, notably the 100,000-strong (Bama-)Ngwato, the (Ba-)Tawana, (Ba-)Ngwaketse, (Ba-)Kwena, (Ba-)Rolong and (Ba-)Tlapin. In 1895 Rhodes (31) nearly acquired the area, but the chiefs appealed to Queen Victoria and obtained direct protection, though Rhodes got land for the railway to Rhodesia. In 1950 the young Bamangwato chief, Seretse Khama, married an Englishwoman; they were exiled by, and to, Britain after fierce South African protests, but returned in 1956. Another 400,000 Tswana live in the northern Cape and Transvaal.

Early in the 19th century Moshesh created the Sotho (Basuto) nation from tribes broken by Zulu and Matabele raids. Boer and British advances reduced his realm to the highlands south of the Caledon; in 1868 he obtained British protection. Over a million Sotho live in South Africa, and, of the 800,000 in Basutoland, 130,000 at a time make their living in South Africa, largely at the mines. This has helped political awakening; the Basutoland Congress party won elections held under the 1959 constitution.

Swaziland, which yields asbestos and wood products, has more whites (9,000 in a population of 270,000). Half its land was made over to whites by the paramount chief in the 1880s, though the (Ama-) Swazi tribe has bought some back. Iron ore has been found near the capital, Mbabane, and a railway to Lourenço Marques is projected. The British protectorate formally dates from 1906; earlier, the Transvaal republic (36) had administered Swaziland.

South-West Africa was mandated to South Africa by the League of Nations after 1918, having been a German colony since the 1880s. The Herero (Damara), almost wiped out when they rebelled against Germany in 1904-7, today number about 50,000 (another 11,000 live in Bechuanaland, where many fled during the rebellion). The (Ov-) Ambo are the biggest group in the thin total population of 600,000.

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