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Republic of South West Africa
Republik Südwestafrika
Republiek van Suidwes-Afrika

Timeline: 1983: Doomsday
Flag Coat of Arms
Flag Coat of Arms
Location of South West Africa
Motto
Viribus Unitis
Anthem "Das Südwesterlied"
Capital
(and largest city)
Walvis Bay
Other cities Langstrand, Swakopmund, Henties Bay, Usakos
Language
  official
 
German, Afrikaans
  others English, Khoekhoe, Ovambo
Religion
  main
 
Christianity (Protestantism and Catholicism)
  others Traditional faiths and unaffiliated
Ethnic Groups
  main
 
White, Coloured
  others Ovambo, Herero, Lozi
Demonym Southwest Africans
Government Unitary dominant-party parliamentary republic
  Legislature Volkstag
Chancellor Raimar von Hase
Area 84,720 km²
Population 105,000 
Independence from South Africa
  declared February 4th, 1988
Currency Union rand (R)
Organizations African Economic Community

The Republic of South West Africa is a state located between Namibia and the Atlantic Ocean. It is centered on the former South African city of Walvis Bay and controls a portion of the coast to the north and south. Although it has abolished, under pressure, its explicit racial laws, the republic is still dominated by its White population.

History[]

Pre-Doomsday[]

The dry lands of Namibia were inhabited since early times by Bushmen, Damara and Namaqua, and since about the 14th century AD by immigrating Bantu who came with the Bantu expansion.

On 16 November 1882 German merchant Adolf Lüderitz requested the empire's protection for a station that he planned to build. Südwestafrika became a German Imperial protectorate in 1884. German settlers were drawn to the colony by economic possibilities in diamond mining, copper mining, and farming. At its peak, the colony had 200,000 inhabitants. Through 1893 and 1894, the first local uprising occurred from the native Hereros. Remote farms were attacked, and approximately 150 German settlers were killed. After a series of wars, the Herero were drawn into the arid desert, where many died of thirst. The Germans ultimately exterminated as much as 80% of the Herero population in one of the worst genocides in the history of colonial Africa. Survivors were subject to a policy of dispossession, deportation, forced labor, and racial segregation and discrimination.

South African forces invaded and occupied the colony during World War I. In 1920, the League of Nations mandated the country to South Africa, which imposed its laws and, from 1948, its apartheid policy. With South Africa refusing to put the territory on any path toward self-government, the UN declared the occupation illegal in 1966. In 1973 it recognized the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) as the official representative of the Namibian people. The territory itself remained under South African rule, a province of the country in all but name. SWAPO continued to fight against South African troops, operating largely across the border in Angola and Zambia.

Collapse[]

Both South and Southwest Africa were spared the physical effects of Doomsday. However, the events intensified the stresses already being exerted on the South African state and society, and ultimately the country would be torn apart. With unrest turning to revolt and revolution in the provinces of Transvaal and Natal, South Africa was forced to withdraw from the northern border with Angola. SWAPO swept in, issuing a formal declaration of independence in 1984 and controlling most of the country north of Windhoek by the end of 1985.

As Namibian forces closed in on the capital, some of the White residents fled either for South Africa or toward the coast, which was seen as more defensible. Around 4,000 people, largely ethnic Germans, relocated to the abandoned resort town of Langstand. The refugee settlmenent struggled, with starvation and attendant diseases killing many in the first year.

Still, the SADF forces, fighting desperately, held out in Windhoek for three more years. By that point, there was no South Africa to go back to. The government had fled from Transvaal to Cape Town, and the apartheid regime of the National Party was forced to share power with the Coloured-dominated Volkskongres. Cape Town sent word to the forces still struggling in Windhoek that they could send no more support. This news provoked a panic. White residents of the city fled to Walvis Bay, and many continued on to the northern Cape or to Cape Town. SWAPO took the city not long after.

Independence[]

For several confused months, the military officers now in charge of the perimeter around Walvis Bay tried to reestablish ties to the Cape Town government. But the new administration of Peter Marais was uninterested in trying to hold or reconquer any land in South West Africa. Before long he formally renounced the territory, declaring the dissolution of the Republic of South Africa itself and the creation of the Republic of the Cape.

On February 4th, 1988, military and civil leaders in Walvis Bay reluctantly and belatedly declared the creation of a new Republic of South West Africa. Faint hope still existed that somehow this republic could restore White rule throughout the country. But on a practical level it had to put all its energy into digging in to prevent being overrun by Namibian forces. The highlands and desert offered natural defenses. The main settlements were Walvis Bay, the refugee community of Langstand, and Swakopmund, another coastal town with a German-speaking majority.

The Southwest War[]

Namibia waited two years before mounting another offensive in 1990. The initial attack was somewhat successful, but the South West Africans had built up their defenses, and Namibia itself was unprepared to wage a protracted campaign. South West Africa also began to wage a guerrilla campaign behind Namibian lines, using tactics that SWAPO itself had once used against South Africa. Fighting continued off and on for five years, with intense flare-ups throughout 1993 and at the end of 1994. The campaign was brutal, and both capitals faced sabotage directed against their military and civilian infrastructure. Large stretches of both Windhoek and Walvis Bay were reduced to rubble. The governments had to withdraw respectively to Omuthiya and Langstrand (and later Swakopmund), where they would stay for years after the war ended.

Both South West Africa and Namibia were cut off from their main sources of support: SWA from South Africa, and SWAPO from its network of supportive governments around Africa and the Soviet bloc. As the war dragged on, both sides used up their resources and had to resort to more and more primitive methods of fighting. The "war of sticks and stones" that Einstein is said to have predicted seemed to be at hand. By 1995, with over 8,000 people dead, and more than 20,000 displaced throughout the country, the two factions were utterly unable to keep fighting. The battle for supremacy having worn itself out, they were ready to agree to a peaceful coexistence. SWA and Namibia signed a peace treaty and established a permanent border. South West Africa was confirmed in its possession of most of Erongo region, while the remainder of the land would be reserved for Namibia. Much of the southern part of the country was not under SWAPO's effective control and would long remain a no-man's-land.

Another condition of the peace was that South West Africa abolish the apartheid system so that Black citizens could freely live, work, and move around within the country. This was granted, though the Black population by now was much reduced in SWA's territory, and the republic would soon be passing legislation to keep it that way. In addition, the two republics had to agree to a relatively liberal scheme for trade. Economically, they needed one another.

Growth[]

The next several years would be harsh for both sides, as the thousands of homeless citizens, many of whom were starving, would be forced to rebuild from the ground up. An increase in rainfall allowed for more food production in marginal areas, helping the surviving citizens meet their needs to feed themselves. South West Africa was able to extend its reach to a few other points along the coast to the north. This land, the desolate Skeleton Coast, is one of the harshest environments on Earth but has valuable minerals that could be traded to neighboring nations. Its natural resources have helped it to construct better infrastructure, such as roads and new housing.

In 1996, with the war over, the military-led provisional government that had led the country since its foundation finally stepped down after SWA held its first elections. The Independence Party formed and easily won control of the republic's first civil government.

Disputes over the terms of trade and diamond mining in the vacant Sperrgebiet led to a Second Southwest War in 2000. Namibia attacked Walvis Bay hoping to finally liberate the entire country. But it quickly became clear that the outcome was going to be the same. Namibia's superior numbers were balanced out by SWA's entrenched defenses. The second war ended with a cease-fire after just a few months. Botswana mediated peace talks that made only a few adjustments to the status quo before the fighting. SWA got some coastal land, including the tiny offshore Penguin Islands, which like Walvis Bay had been part of Cape Province before South Africa's collapse; but Namibia got all of the Sperrgebiet itself. The treaty recognized the deep interdependence of the two nations. Namibia needed the port, while South West Africa needed Namibian labor and resources. Namibian citizens working in SWA won increased protections for their civil rights and stricter limits on local taxes levied on them. The SWA obtained the right to mine some sectors of the Sperrgebiet.

The republic helped to found the New Union of South Africa in 2004, which was a great boost to its economy. SWA strongly backed the beginning of a unified currency for the New Union, which became a reality in 2012. This has enabled more development of the country's mineral wealth. Old mines in various areas were restarted and began to produce desirable goods for other nations. Meanwhile the NUSA allies held out economic aid to pressure SWA to reform its political system and grant political representation to Black citizens. A reform ended formal White rule in 2009, though SWA still did not guarantee full legal equality of the races.

In 2014, the NUSA was dissolved and South West Africa joined the African Economic Community almost immediately. This new organization was more committed to liberalized race relations than the NUSA had been, and now its member states pushed for South West Africa to enact the principle of one person, one vote and replace the system it had set up in 2009. That law, meant to appease New Union allies, had created a system of proportional representation by race, with Parliamentary seat allocations designed to over-represent Whites and under-represent Blacks. SWA finally abolished this in 2020. Now the country's residency laws are the only legal roadblock to racial equality in the country, though numerous economic and social obstacles remain.

Demographics[]

Race is still the dominant preoccupation in South West Africa's political and social life. Explicit laws of segregation and discrimination have been abolished under pressure from the republic's neighbors and trading parners; but a number of policies are still in place to uphold White dominance. Chief among these is South West Africa's strict and often byzantine process for obtaining permanent residency. It was enacted upon the end of apartheid just after the Southwest War, a time when the Black population was at a very low ebb. It was intended to limit the power of future Black immigrants. The laws have produced the desired effect: while many Black Namibians have come to the republic to meet its demand for labor, most are officially labelled as "temporary" residents. By contrast, White immigrants can typically find loopholes, such as property ownership, something much easier for Whites to achieve, and which can speed along the legal process of residency and citizenship.

Language policy is another tool of White rule. The White population is divided about evenly between Afrikaners and Germans. Afrikaans and German are recognized as SWA's two national languages. The republic strongly promotes them over English, the preferred second language of Black Namibians. German culture in particular is held up as the distinctive heritage of the country.

A substantial Cape Coloured population also lives in Walvis Bay due to the city's historical connection to the Cape. In general they have been enlisted as allies of the ruling Whites.

Economy[]

The economy of South West Africa is based around fishing, mining, shipping, and the government sector. Langstrand's beach has become a vacation spot drawing beachgoers from other parts of southern Africa.

Subsistence agriculture is the primary source of income for the rural, inland areas. Many have begun to move inland to farm near the rivers. To help support the republic's farmers, the nation has begun to give grants to develop farmland and provide agricultural tools at cheap prices. This is helping to not only increase crop yields, but help the farmers live a better life in general.

Many of Namibia's imports and exports move through Walvis Bay, and while SWA is forbidden by treaty to extract any tax from this trade, the traffic is an important source of jobs.

The illegal sale of diamonds, or the "Blood diamond" trade, exists as a major problem for South West Africa, along with the opium trade. More serious problems include lack of agricultural space and a shortage of labor.

Government[]

The republic's government is based on South Africa's constitution of 1983, which was approved but never implemented. Its most unusual feature is that Parliament's choice to lead the government also becomes the head of state; there is no ceremonial HoS like in most parliamentary countries. This position in South Africa would have been called the State President; the South West Africans instead chose the title of Chancellor as a way to underscore cultural ties to Germany. Parliament has one chamber.

The big-tent Independence Party has held power almost without interruption since the first elections. It stands for the status quo in South West Africa, generally speaking. Most opposition parties advocate annexation to Namibia. This gives SWA politics an existential urgency: once the number of Black voters reaches a certain number, the country is likely to legislate itself out of existence. This fear strengthens the support of White and Coloured voters for Independence, ensuring the party's continued dominance - for now.

International Relations[]

SWA's most important relationship is of course with Namibia. The two nations have had a very uneasy peace since 2000. They depend on one another economically. The free-trade agreements between them are seen as the alternative to endless war.

South West Africa had been a member of the New Union of South Africa, an economic and geopolitical alliance throughout the former nation of southern Africa. The New Union helped the republic to increase its trading capacity and production. The New Union also represented it in the League of Nations. Since its dissolution, SWA has not sought League membership in its own right. Having come to depend on the free-trade zone for investment, labor, and markets, SWA promptly petitioned to join the African Economic Community.

South West Africa has pursued ties based on language and cultural affinity with the nations of Germany, especially North Germany, the state most connected to the rest of the world. The republic has expressed an interest in joining potential future pan-German organizations, though whether it would be welcome is an open question.

National symbols[]

Coat of arms of South West Africa
DD1983 SWA Flag Civil

The coat of arms was designed by the South African Bureau of Heraldry and used for SWA from 1963 to 1980. The republic revived it, and it served as the basis for other symbols. The full heraldic achievement being somewhat elaborate, the republic created a Small Arms consisting of just the central motif, a pick crossed with a hammer above three diamonds. This shield was then placed on the flag.

Officially, the flag takes its colors from the coat of arms, but not coincidentally it also replicates the flag of the German Empire - a parallel to South Africa appropriating the former Dutch tricolor. Its colors have also been claimed in recent years to stand for the Black, White, and Coloured races.

The German anthem Südwesterlied also dates to the early period of South African rule.

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