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Damara (Namibia)

Last modified: 2011-01-14 by bruce berry
Keywords: namibia | damara | bantustan |
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[proposed flag of Damara] image by Mark Sensen

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Explanation of Damaraland's flag

The proposed flag for Damaraland differs from those of Ovambo, Kavango and Caprivi in that it was designed by the South African Bureau of Heraldry. A request to design arms and a flag was made to the South African State Herald on 2 May 1979. With the request were rough designs and some background information on Damaraland, pointing out that it was essentially a stony semi-desert area with low rainfall. Furthermore, agriculture revolved mainly around cattle, goats and karakul sheep. It was also pointed out that the Damara consist of eight tribes. No mention was made of the 1864 flag and neither was the Bureau of Heraldry then aware that such a flag had existed. On the strength of the information received, the State Herald devised draft arms and a draft flag based on the shield of the arms. The official description of the flag was as follows:
Quarterly per Scandinavian cross, white and brown, the intersection surmounted by a pale raguly of eight, counterchanged, the projections opposite each other.
In essence a pale raguly was suggested in the shield of the arms to represent the Damara, with the eight projections representing each of the eight tribes. Although the colour brown is not often encountered in heraldry, in this case it was suggested to represent both the arid countryside and the Damara's links with nature.

In October 1979 the State Herald was informed that the draft designs had been accepted by the Damara Representative Authority. However, neither the arms nor the flag were taken into official use because of opposition from certain members in the Legislative Council. The arms were nevertheless incorporated in the Council's mace, while the flag was flown as a unifying symbol at Damara festivals, though not as an official flag.

The matter was overtaken by constitutional changes which occurred in South West Africa /Namibia on 31 May 1980. In terms of Proclamation AG.8, certain provisions of the South West Africa Constitution (1968) were repealed. This brought to an end the existing "homeland" administrative structures in the territory and integrated central government for the whole territory now fell directly under the Administrator-General. This proclamation also made provision for second-tier administrations to be created for the eleven ethnic groups (the [Rehoboth] Basters; the Bushmen; the Caprivians; the Coloureds; the Damaras; the Hereros; the Kavangos; the Namas; the Ovambos; the Tswanas; and the Whites).

These representative authorities largely succeeded the former "homeland" administrations. The white population now became in effect a "white tribe" with its own representative authority similar to the other ethnic groups. The arms and flags of the former "homelands" continued in use, while the administration for whites largely appropriated for itself the arms which had been registered for the Territory as a whole.
This situation prevailed until the implementation of United Nations Resolution 435 on 1 April 1989, prior to elections and the independence of Namibia on 21 March 1990.
Bruce Berry, 25 November 1998

History of Damaraland

In terms of the League of Nations' mandate for what was then South West Africa, responsibility for the well-being and development of the indigenous population was vested in the Administrator of South West Africa, who represented the Government of South Africa in the territory.  Initially tribal authorities had been created and these played an increasing role in the administration of their own affairs.  After 1948 the South African Government viewed the creation of self-governing states based on the boundaries of the major ethnic groups - both within South Africa and in the territory of South West Africa for which it was responsible in terms of the League of Nations mandate - as a means of fulfilling the political aspirations of the indigenous population. 

Legislation in the form of the Development of Self-Government for Native Nations in South West Africa Act was passed in 1968 which allowed for the creation of " or areas ... be reserved and set apart for the exclusive use and occupation by an native nation ...".  Over the next 10 years Legislative Councils were established in terms of the Act which also allowed for the creation of coats of arms and flags for these "homelands".  These coats of arms were for use on official correspondence, documents and publications in place of the South African or South West African arms while section 3 of each of the Flag Acts specified that the respective Homeland flag "shall be flown side by side with the National Flag of the Republic (of South Africa) at the buildings where the Legislative Council holds its sessions, at the principal administrative office and all main district offices of the Government of ... and at such places ... as the Government may determine".   Thus, as with the Homelands in South Africa, a dual flag arrangement would apply.

Homeland Symbols were designed for the Owambo (Arms and flag), Kavango (Arms and flag), Caprivi (Arms and flag), Damaraland (Arms and proposed flag), Administration for Tswanas (Arms only), and the Administration for Namas (Arms only).

Following the independence of Namibia in 1990, the ethnically based Homeland system was dismantled and these symbols are no longer used.
Bruce Berry, 25 Nov 1998