Traders and Trade in Colonial Ovamboland, 1925-1990


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Taking the history of trade and of traders as its subject matter, this book offers the first economic history of northern Namibia during the twentieth century. It traces Namibia's way from a rural, largely self-relying society into a globalised economy of consumption. This transformation built on colonial economic activities, but it was crucially shaped by local traders, a new social elite emerging during the 1950s and 1960s. Becoming a trader was one of the few possibilities for black Namibians to gain monetary income at home. It was a pathway out of migrant labour, to new status in the local society and often to prosperity. Politically, most traders occupied a middle ground: content of their own social position, but intent on political emancipation from colonial rule. Economically, their energy and business acumen transformed northern Namibia into an increasingly urban consumer society. The development path they chose, however, depended too much on the colonial reserve economy to remain sustainable after 1990. Their legacy still shapes spatial and social structures in northern Namibia, but most traders' businesses have today closed down. By telling the history of the rise and decline of traders and trade in northern Namibia, this book is thus also a reflection on the conundrums of economic development under conditions of structural inequality.



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Published 14 August 2014
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EAN13 9783905758566
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Traders and Trade în Coonîa Ovamboand, 1925–1990
Gregor Dobler
Traders and Trade in Colonial Ovamboland, 19251990 Elite Formation and the Politics of Consumption under Indirect Rule and Apartheid
Baser Arîka Bîbîograpîen 2014
©2014 he autor ©2014 Te potograpers ©2014 Baser Arîka Bîbîograpîen
Baser Arîka Bîbîograpîen Namîbîa Resource Centre & Soutern Arîca îbrary Kosterberg 23 PO Box 2037 CH-4051 Base Swîtzerand www.baserarîka.c
A rîgts reserved
Cover poto: Davîd Seeama’s maîn store, Outapî. Probaby mîd-1970s, unknown potograper. Poto courtesy o Mrs. Jakobîna Seeama.
ïSBN 978-3-905758-40-5 ïSSN 2296-6986
1 e early years: from itinerant traders to monopoly stores
2 e monopoly stores, 1925–1952
3 e first locally owned stores, 1937–1955
4 From indirect rule to liberation war: Ovamboland 1948-1978
5 Traders in a modernizing society
6 Stores and spatial organization after 1950
7 Taking sides? Traders and politics during the liberation war
Archival sources
List of Illustrations
ïn eary 2004, ï dîd not know anytîng about traders în Nortern Namîbîa. ï, ten years ater, ï ave been abe to wrîte a book about tem, ît îs due to te peope wo ave sared teîr knowedge and experîence wît me, wo ave gîven me access to arcîva sources and wo ave wecomed me as a guest and a rîend. My irst tanks go to a my conver-satîon partners, partîcuary to Mattîas Hamukoto, Rose-Mary Kasuuu, Juîa Mbîda, Oswîn Mukuu, eonard Mukwîongo, George Namundjebo, Eîakîm Prîns Sîîmî, Ja-kobîna Seeama, Ras Seeama, Erastus Samena, Jaîrus Sîkae, ucîa Sîkwambî, Pasukenî Soombe and Andîmba Toîvo ya Toîvo. ïn many o tese conversatîons, Jo-sep Ndakaako was an exceent înterpreter, door-opener and co-researcer. Over te years, many peope în Namîbîa ospîtaby wecomed me în teîr omes and aowed me to sare a pîece o teîr îves. Among tem, ï am especîay grateu to Peter Caroîssen, Jutta and Eva Dober and Jon Grober, Nancy Robson, Erastus Samena and Pasukenî Soombe. Voker Wînteredt osted me as a guest researcer at te Unîversîty o Namîbîa. ïn te Natîona Arcîves o Namîbîa, Werner Hîebrect and te entîre team ave aways been extremey epu and wecomîng. Even more entusîastîc about my researc was Nancy Robson în Odîbo, wo as managed to gater and preserve a rea treasure trove o materîa în te ukenge Arcîves and as te deep oca knowedge and experî-ence to make sense o ît. he staf at te arcîves o te Vereînte Evangeîsce Mîssîon în Wupperta, te Bundesarcîv în Berîn, te Wîîam Cuen îbrary în Joannesburg and te Zentrabîbîotek Zürîc ave been very proessîona and epu, as we, wîe ît was a great peasure and prîvîege to dîscuss Namîbîan îstory sma and arge wît Pastor Peter Pauy at te arcîves o te Evangeîca uteran Curc în te Repubîc o Nambîa în Wîndoek. ï ave wrîtten most o te manuscrîpt wîe workîng as a ecturer at te Department o Socîa Antropoogy and a member o te Centre or Arîcan Studîes at Base Unîversî-ty. he atmospere o rîendy excange, te contînuous encouragement and constructîve engagement wît my work and te cooperatîon wît coeagues rom dîferent subjects and wît înterest în dîferent regîons greaty advanced my tînkîng about te temes o tîs book. he Swîss Natîona Scîence Foundatîon inanced a sîx-mont researc trîp în 2006 în te ramework o te researc project “Regaînîng Trust and Cîvî Securîty în Post-
Conlîct Socîetîes”. A unîversîty grant by te Unîversîty o Base gave me te opportunîty to inîs te manuscrîpt. Base turned out to be an îdea pace to wrîte about Namîbîa, not east because o te Base Arîca Bîbîograpîes (BAB) and te weat o resources and servîces tey provîde to researcers. ï am very grateu to te Scettweîn amîy or teîr generosîty and open-mîndedness în enabîng and promotîng researc on Soutern Arîca, and ï ave earned a ot rom te ongoîng excange wît Dag Henrîcsen, Gîorgîo Mîescer and everybody ese at BAB. Petra Kerckof as been an eIcîent, competent and patîent edîtor. Many coeagues provîded înput, encouragement or crîtîcîsm. Mîcae Boîg, Tî Förster, Robert Gordon, Dag Henrîcsen, Rîta Kesserîng and Eísîo Macamo read te entîre manuscrîpt; teîr comments gave me a res vîew on te materîa and greaty împroved te book. Gerd Spîtter and Tî Förster ave taugt me wat ï know about antropoogy and contînue to înspîre my engagement wît te dîscîpîne, and wît te word at arge. To a tese îndîvîduas and înstîtutîons, and to many more wo were ess dîrecty învoved în te wrîtîng o tîs book, but sared my work and îve over te ast years, ï am prooundy grateu.
hîs book îs a îstory o traders and tradîng stores în twentîet century nortern Namîb-îa. hroug te prîsm o trade, ît ofers a detaîed account o socîa and poîtîca cange în te regîon te coonîa autorîtîes caed Ovamboand. abour mîgratîon, coonîa rue în îts cangîng orms, oca socîa dîferentîatîon, urbanîsatîon and te strugge or îbera-tîon were a crucîay înked to te îstory o sops and teîr owners. My maîn ocus îes on te tîme between 1925, wen te irst stores were opened, and 1990, wen te ormer omeand Ovamboand became an întegra part o îndependent Namîbîa. Scoary wrîtîngs on Namîbîa’s ‘omeands’ rom 1948 to 1990 oten stress poîtî-ca stagnatîon and present te perîod’s îstory as a engty and weary pat to îberatîon. here are good reasons or suc an approac. abour mîgratîon, aparteîd poîcîes, te bruta occupatîona regîme and te war deepy afected Namîbîa’s socîety and stîled socîa creatîvîty. Hopes o îndependence and democracy were agaîn and agaîn dased by te contînuîng Sout Arîcan oppressîon. he omeand admînîstratîon ad îtte egîtîmacy to begîn wît and was soon undermîned by mîîtary rue, so tat îberatîon and te transî-tîon to democracy were eventuay negotîated and brougt about by externa actors. But te act tat no poîtîca revoutîon came about în te omeands soud not dîstract us rom anaysîng te socîa îstory o aparteîd’s omeands în teîr own rîgt. hey were muc more tan dîre waîtîng rooms to îndependence. Underneat te poîtî-ca stagnatîon and cose to te teatres o war, socîa and economîc deveopments took pace tat radîcay atered socîety. hey aîd te oundatîons on wîc post-aparteîd Namîbîan socîety was to be buît, and are, în dîferent ways, quîte as consequentîa as te country’s poîtîca îberatîon. Wîtout understandîng tese canges and teîr reatîon to te îstory o aparteîd and oppressîon, we wî aî to understand contemporary Namîb-îan socîety. Some suc canges îe at te center o tîs book. ïn wrîtîng ît, ï started wît an înter-est în te present rater tan te past. ïn 2004, ï came to Osîkango, a sma but bustîng trade boomtown on te border to Angoa, to do researc as a socîa antropoogîst. ï sougt to anayse te town’s înternatîona trade connectîons and teîr poîtîca împîca-tîons, and ï saw Osîkango as a pace în wîc goba canges afectîng Arîcan coun-trîes were more vîsîbe tan esewere. ï ave sînce wrîtten papers on trade, on Cînese 1 expatrîates, on poîtîca reguatîon în te new town and on cross-border dynamîcs. But
See Dober 2005, 2008b, 2008c, 2009a, 2009c or contemporary perspectîves on trade în te area.
as my researc progressed, a deeper and more regîona îstory aso caugt my attentîon. ï was struck by te number o rater decayîng ocay owned sops and supermarkets în te regîon’s towns and vîages. ïn every arger settement, ï saw barn-îke supermarkets buît by oca busînesspeope în te 1970s or 1980s. Amost a o tem stood near empty, wîe Sout Arîcan caîn stores, ruît woesaers operated by Cape Maay amîîes or new Cînese sops trîved next door. he od stores seemed mere reîcs o an earîer trade boom totay dîsconnected to te present one. ïntrîgued by tîs contrast o boom and bust, ï became înterested în te îstory o retaî stores în pre-îndependence Ovamboand. Very soon ï reaîzed ow împortant te stores ad been or te oca socîety, not ony rom an economîc poînt o vîew, but aso or te regîon’s socîa and poîtîca îe. ïn te course o my researc, ï came to ook at te omeand era no onger as a perîod o stagnatîon, but as ormatîve years o Namîbîa’s post-aparteîd socîety – ormatîve years, owever, wîc took pace under te very specîic and decîsîve condîtîons o te apart-eîd state and were eavîy înluenced by tem. My researc turned înto an attempt to descrîbe socîa and economîc dynamîcs în segregatîon and aparteîd-era Ovamboand, and to sow ow te înterpay between outsîde domînatîon and oca actors canged Namîbîan socîety. Aparteîd and te îberatîon strugge cast teîr sadow on every scene descrîbed în tîs account, but under teîr sadow, muc more appened tan te îme-îgt o natîonaîst îstory woud make us suppose. ï gîve a detaîed overvîew o tîs book and îts maîn teses în te ast part o tîs în-troductîon. Beore tat, ï set out îts teoretîca rame în a revîew o exîstîng îterature on tree o îts major temes – cîvî socîety, consumptîon and coonîa domînatîon –, provîde a sort overvîew on te regîon or readers unamîîar wît nortern Namîbîa and dîscuss some metodoogîca and termînoogîca poînts.
A short literature review
ïn 1938, ïsaac Scapera appeaed to îs coeagues to încude traders în teîr studîes o te contemporary reaîtîes o Arîcan socîetîes. “he tradîng store”, e wrote, “te abour re-cruîter and te agrîcutura demonstrator must be consîdered întegra parts o te modern economîc îe, te scoo as part o te routîne educatîona deveopment o te cîdren, and te Admînîstratîon as part o te exîstîng poîtîca system.” (Scapera 1938: 27) ïn te very year Scapera’s pea appeared în Maînowskî’s amous coectîon on met-ods or te study o cutura cange, Sîmon Gaoua rom Uukwauudî appîed or a î-cence to open te irst ocay-owned store în coonîa Ovamboand, a regîon în Nortern Namîbîa. He oowed te exampe o two arger wîte-owned sops estabîsed în 1925