Namibia: Mission Working Group Indigenous Populations / Communities, 2005


The African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities (Working Group) undertook a mission to the Republic of Namibia from 26 July – 5 August 2005. The delegation of the Working Group comprised Commissioner Andrew Ranganayi Chigovera, Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/ Communities; and Dr. Naomi Kipuri. The Mission was supported by Mr. Robert Eno, Legal Officer of the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Objectives of the Mission

The general aim of the mission was to execute the mandate of the Working Group and of the African Commission. The specific objectives of the mission were inter alia, to:

  • Gather information on the situation of indigenous populations in Namibia;
  • Engage the Government of the Republic of Namibia in dialogue on the situation of indigenous populations in particular and its relationship with the African Commission as a whole;
  • Engage civil society regarding its role in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous populations in Namibia; and
  • Visit and discuss with indigenous communities to understand the problems, if any, affecting the effective enjoyment of their human rights.



  1. The African Commission appreciates the effort being made by the government to provide free education to the San as education is the catalyst to development. The poverty, marginalization and low life expectancy of the San can only be addressed if they are informed through education. However, the government should provide the San with sufficient educational support to enable them to make in formed decisions about their development and the development of their future generations. It is not sufficient to provide them with free education up to grade 10 and then abandon them. The government should make further sacrifices and provide the San with free education at least up to grade 12 level. The government should ensure that the policy of free education for San learners is respected and implemented.
  2. Those San learners who fail grade 10 examinations should be supported by the government to repeat and those who drop out of school should be encouraged to return or be  provided with vocational training that is relevant to the economic development of the country. Vocational training should also be introduced for grade 10 drop--outs and others unable to proceed to grade 11 in order to avoid wasting human resources.
  3. The government should provide mother tongue education for all San pupils up to grade 3 and train San teachers to teach them. Grade 10 drop-outs could be trained as mother tongue instructors in their communities.
  4. Complaints about discrimination and stereotypical utterances against San learners should be thoroughly investigated and punished. The government should criminalize discrimination in all forms but in particular based on race or ethnicity in accordance with Article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.


The government should provide agricultural training to those San members who wish to engage in either crop or cattle farming, or both. In Mkata, the residents  complained about members of some other ethnic community refusing to plough for them, rendering them helpless. They should all be trained in farming techniques and provided with the necessary farming tools and equipment.

Land rights

The San should be provided with communal land they can call their own. Access to land and land security for the San population is the most critical element that should be addressed by the Namibian government. Land security would greatly facilitate efforts on the part of the government, NGOs, and the communities themselves aimed at addressing their critical health issues, educational and political marginalisation, and numerous social problems. The protection and expansion of land rights is one of the most fundamental interventions that can be made on behalf of the San in Namibia to secure their sustainable livelihood.

Traditional Leadership and Political Representation

The traditional leadership of the San should be recognized by the government. Insisting that a particular ethnic group such as the Khwe San in Western Caprivi be ruled by another ethnic group, the Mbukushu, is a recipe for disorder and, eventually, conflict. Government should legislate affirmative action measures to increase the representation of San and other indigenous communities in governance structures such as Parliament, the National Council and local government structures. A quota system could be adopted to give indigenous communities a certain percentage of representation in these structures.


The government should establish health centers nearer to San communities or ensure that mobile health centers visit these communities on a regular basis.


The government should encourage the development of incomegenerating activities in and around San communities and give priority to the employment of San members to fill vacancies. The government should ensure that labour laws are enforced so that proper working conditions are ensured for the San.


  1. San communities should be encouraged to grow crops for their subsistence. Those living in parks should be provided with safe places where their crops will not be destroyed by animals and, in the event the crops are destroyed, they should be entitled to compensation from the government.
  2. Food aid and drought relief should be monitored on a regular basis and local officials should be given adequate means to enable them to deliver food aid to the  communities. The delegation was surprised to learn that tonnes of maize had been left to rot in a warehouse in Katima Molilo in Caprivi region while San residents in the region had been going for months without food.
  3. The San community should also be issued with Special Game Licenses to enable them to hunt for specific animals that can supplement their nutrition or income. In particular, the government should consider establishing a conservancy for the Khwe of Western and Eastern Caprivi, where the people already live side-by-side with wildlife.


The government should ensure that acts of racial discrimination are dealt with in accordance with internationally recognized instruments such as the African Charter, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The government
should also establish sensitisation programmes for civil servants on issues relating to anti-discrimination, particularly with regard to the San and other indigenous peoples.

Recognition of Indigenous Peoples

The government should ratify ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. The government should further include recognition and protection of indigenous peoples in its constitution and in national policies that affect the lives of the San and other indigenous peoples in Namibia. Where necessary, affirmative action should be considered.

Submission of Reports

The Commission acknowledges that the Republic of Namibia has submitted its initial Report to the African Commission in conformity with Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, the African Commission wishes to note that the Republic of Namibia has overdue reports to submit to it and urges the government to expedite the submission of these reports and to include in them the various issues on indigenous populations in the country and measures taken or being taken to implement these recommendations.

To the NGOs 

NGOs should continue and intensify their support to promote the welfare of indigenous communities in the country. NGOs should also work closely with government and other institutions to enhance the welfare of indigenous communities in the country.

To the International Community

The international community, in particular donors, should support San projects, especially the conservancies, and support the Namibian government to provide adequate services to San communities.