Accepted paper:

Ruptures and continuities of struggle: Trajectories, genealogies, and transnational connections of Namibian social movements

Author:

Heike Becker (University of the Western Cape)

Paper short abstract:

The paper revisits social and political developments in Namibia in the 1980s that led rise to remarkable alternative politics of the decolonisation struggle, which helped significantly to undermine South African rule over Namibia.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1980s, social and political developments in Windhoek and other towns of central and southern Namibia led rise to remarkable alternative politics of the decolonisation struggle, which helped significantly to undermine South African rule over Namibia. From 1983 onwards when residents protested against the price of electricity and formed street committees, a popular revolt against poor living conditions and the oppression under apartheid colonialism was staged by residents' associations, workers' and students' movements. They took up people's day-to-day concerns under the conditions of worsening poverty after the (partial) abolition of influx control laws led to accelerated urbanization, and an economic recession hit the economy towards the end of the 1970s. The popular movements together with the increasingly politicized stance of the mainstream churches filled the political vacuum left by the de-facto dissolution of SWAPO inside Namibia. The activism of students, workers, women and township resident associations became momentous in the internal anti-apartheid struggle, much to the irritation of SWAPO, which was suspicious of any efforts beyond its control. Namibian civil society proved not very robust after independence. This was owed, partly, to the history of tensions between SWAPO and the community organisations in the 1980s. In the light of a new generation of Namibian activists who have been forcefully asking penetrating questions and engaging in collective action over the past few years, the history of the popular urban revolt in the 1980s has become particularly significant again.

panel His03
Alternative histories of decolonisation in Southern Africa