Contestations over Caprivi identities : from pre colonial times to the present

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study investigated the hypothesis that Caprivi identities exist; and that they have always been contested. These identities defined as a sense of not belonging to greater South West Africa exist in two forms: i) as a spatial or geographical entity usually divided into East and West in history for administrative purposes; and, ii) as a people, such as Subia, Mafwe, Mayeyi, Mbukushu, Barakwena, Totela, Mbalangwe, and Lozi, collectively referred to as ‘Caprivians’. Through utilizing primary sources such as oral interviews and archival material as well as secondary sources, the study endeavored to establish how Caprivi identities were constructed; what the nature of its contestations are; and how ‘Caprivians’ responded to its construction. It was established that Caprivi identities were the result of administrative neglect in state formation that constructed isolation on the basis of difference – that ‘Caprivians’ are different from other groups in South West Africa, and that Caprivi was geographically remote from Windhoek and hence difficult to administer as part of South West Africa. Resultantly, only a primitive form of indirect rule existed in the area for most part of its colonial history resulting in constant change of colonial masters. Though it was pushed more to neighboring territories administratively, it was not made an integral part of such territories but made to stand separate as a geographical entity.

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