Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Namibia : Basters

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Namibia : Basters, 2008, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Basters, a mixed-race Afrikaans-speaking community, are descendants of groups that migrated in the nineteenth century from the Cape in South Africa to settle at Rehoboth, south of Windhoek. Though far less marginalized than some other groups, many Basters have a strong sense of minority identity.

Historical context

Groups of mixed-race South Africans migrated from the Cape to settle at Rehoboth, south of Windhoek, in 1868, where they displaced Nama people and rapidly established their own institutions Even under German and South African colonial rule, Basters maintained broad autonomy.

It was therefore perhaps not surprising that at Namibian independence in 1990, Basters were wary of losing autonomy over their communal lands, and the Baster leadership even briefly declared independence. Among other grievances, some Basters disagreed with the Namibian government's allowance of women's suffrage. Baster leaders sought through the courts to maintain their autonomy, and in 1993 a court ruled in their favour., But in 1995, the government won an appeal, setting the stage for further appeal. In 1996 the Namibian Supreme Court upheld the ruling in favour of the government, and the following year the Baster leadership, beset by legal bills, announced its acquiescence to the finding and its cooperation with the SWAPO government in Windhoek.

Current issues

After its defeat in court and the passing of an outspoken generation of leaders, much of the Baster community shows indifference to the autonomy issue, and its new leadership has sought conciliation with the Namibian government.

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