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REHOBOTH BASTERS NAMIBIA. In the old Dutch Cape Colony it became common for the offspring of a racial mixture to marry another person of racial mixture. This 'new race' of light brown skinned ...

 

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The Rehoboth Basters a History

   

The Beginnings of a New Society: In the old Dutch Cape Colony it became common for the offspring of a racial mixture to marry another person of racial mixture. This 'new race' of light brown skinned  people was often referred to as being  'coloured' or 'bastards'. The new coloured race found themselves with an identity crisis. They were neither black nor white, but their culture was developing alongside that of the white and they naturally leaned in that direction as they viewed it to be the path to advancement. They adopted the names of the Dutch settlers along with the religion and language. Those who were not employed by white settlers soon began to develop their own small societies and moved out from the confines of the enclave of the Dutch Cape colony.

 

The Early Migrations North: The ongoing years saw much of this new-found society migrating northwards, away from the white dominated Cape and by the middle of the nineteenth century it was estimated that some 5,000 of them had settled in the north-western Cape. Meanwhile, the British had taken control of the Cape Colony and were encouraging settlement of the land. Immigrants from Britain were being shipped in and many had been encouraged by the promise of land and were in turn making a steady movement northwards from the Cape. The impending conflict of interests regarding the ownership of what was now deemed to be 'Crown Land' was viewed sternly by the British authorities, and they were quick to declare the Baster land settlements to be unauthorized. The conflict of interests was not favourable for the Basters as a whole. It was during this time that a group of about ninety Baster families who had formed a community at a place they named De Tuin (the Garden) in the Bushmanland area of the north western Cape elected to avoid confrontation with the British authorities and move northwards, once again.

The Great Baster Trek: It was on 4 November 1868 that the trekkers began their journey to a new land and hopefully a more promising future. On 16 November they crossed the Transgariep ( Orange River ) into what as known as Great Namaqualand, being what is today the south of Namibia.

 

 

The Flag of The

Rehoboth Basters

The Treck

The Trek

Baster Militia

Baster Militia

 

   

Hermanus van Wyk

Hermanus van Wyk

They trundled their way to the hot springs at Warmbad, near to present Day Karasburg. Here, free from prejudice they settled for a short while and, following Biblical  principals, formulated a constitution as to how they should operate as a society. They named the agreement the Constitution of Nisbeth Bath (referred to today as being the Vaderlike Vette of the Patriarchal Laws). In 1869 and in accordance with the constitution they elected a Legislative Council (Volksraad) and a leader who was given the title Kaptein. The first man to be entrusted with the Kapteincy was Hermanus van Wyk. The Baster Trekkers, now more organised as a group pushed further northwards, crossing the Karas Mountains where they settled temporarily at a place 30km north of Berseba (near to Brukkaros).

 

The Quest For Land: The Basters were searching for land that they could rightfully call their own and their movements took them further northwards to a place about 80km south of Windhoek called Rehoboth.

 

Rehoboth: The people of the Red Nation of Hoachanas, the Swartbooi tribe lived in this area. A Rhenish mission station was established there in 1845 and Dr. Carl Hugo Hahn, the missionary named the place Rehoboth using an extract from Biblical scripture Genesis 26:22  "And he removed from thence and digged another well; and for that they strove not; and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land". The Basters numbered under 500 people at this time and they rented the land for the price of 1 horse per year. They claim to have made a later purchase of the area known as the Rehoboth from the Swartbooi Chief for the price of 100 horses and 5 wagons.

 

The First World War: The Basters had learned their lesson from their previous experience with their German masters and now refused to ally themselves and fight for the German cause. They rightly viewed the conflict as being a 'White Man's War'. The Germans did not respect the neutrality of the Basters and declared war on them in March 1915. The Basters abandoned the settlement at Rehoboth and fled about 80 km westwards to the hilly and better defensible lands known as Sam Kubis. It was here that they waged a guerrilla style defence from the hills against their German foe. They held their lines until 8 May 1915 when the Germans had to make a tactical retreat owing to South African Union Forces taking command of the area.

 

The League of Nations Mandate: Entrusted South Africa to govern the former German colony. In 1923 the Basters entered into lengthy discussions with the South Africans and demanded that Rehoboth be granted the status of independence. This was refuted by the South Africans and in 1928 they appointed a white South African magistrate as the Kaptein of the Baster Volksraad, plus re-arranging the council to a number of 3 members elected by the South African government and having 3 Baster members. Thus ending the Baster's dream of independence.

 

The Odendaal Commission: In 1962 the South African government appointed F.H. Odendaal to chair a commission of investigation into the native affairs of South West Africa. In compliance with the apartheid policies of the government of racial and tribal separation the commission recommended that the Basters at Rehoboth be given 'homeland status'. For the first time since 1933 it appeared that the Basters might at long last have some form of legally recognized autonomy and political interests were 'resurrected'. In 1976 the Act no 56 was passed by the South African government which granted the legal right to self-governance for the Rehoboth Gebiet, which in effect then became in effect an independent state within the borders on Namibia as a whole. However, it was not until 1979 the elections were held to appoint a Baster to Kaptein the Volksraad. Hans Diergaard was inducted in 1979 and the Basters of Rehoboth were under the administration of the Rehoboth Government until 21 March 1990 when Namibia gained its independence from South Africa. Rehoboth and its people are Namibian citizens and therefore fall under the Central Government of Namibia.

 

What's In A Name: The meaning of words is determined by the people who make frequent use of them. For example: the modern world has quite recently taken the word for the colour green to mean ecology aware or ecology friendly.

 

Dictionaries list the word bastard as being, "one born out of wedlock; unauthorized; illegitimate etc." In certain western countries the word bastard is sometimes used as an insult; whereas In Australia the word is often used as a friendly adjective during conversations between men.

 

In the Namibian culture and daily used vocabulary the term Bastard or Baster has no association at all with 'illegitimacy'. It refers solely to a member and descendent of that brave and proud group of nineteenth century trekkers who migrated northwards across the river in search of a better life and seeking recognition as being equals to any other human being. Here, in modern day free and independent Namibia the Basters' rights to that equality are firmly entrenched in the Namibian Constitution. The dream of Hermanus van Wyk and the early Baster Pioneers has been realized.

 

Acknowledgements and further reading:  M8. Orange Attention  Rehoboth     Orange Attention  Windhoek

 

 
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