German South West Africa is put under South African administration

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Wednesday, 17 September 1919

After the completion of World War One's Treaty of Versailles, German South West Africa was declared a mandate of the new international peace-keeping body, the League of Nations, and put under South African administration.

As result of this development, German was displaced as the official language, which prompted 4000 Germans to leave the country. South Africa on the other hand encouraged Afrikaans speaking families to settle in the country, especially in the south.

Since the late 1940s the South West Africa (SWA) issue was debated year after year with increasing animosity at the United Nations (UN), successor to the League of Nations. On 18 July 1966, the judges in the International Court of Justice gave verdict in favour of South Africa in a case brought before them by Ethiopia and Liberia.

International pressure increased, and in October 1966 the General Assembly of the UN terminated the mandate and decided that South West Africa be placed under administration of the UN. South Africa rejected the resolution of the UN as unconstitutional and contrary to international law.

In 1971 a reconstituted International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion, supporting the view of the UN, and years of guerrilla fighting followed when South Africa refused to abide by the decision. The country gained independence in 1990 as Namibia.

• Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica, p. 570.

Last updated : 17-Sep-2015

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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