150 years ago, a unique group of people braved the unknown - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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150 years ago, a unique group of people braved the unknown

Avatar of inke inke - 16. November 2018 - Discover Namibia

Drawing by B. Richter from the magazine "Kolonie und Heimat"; Berlin, 15 March 1908.

Christiaan Jacobi

The Basters, a group who evolved from relationships between Khoisan women and Trek-Boers, had already established settlements south of the Orange River in the early parts of the 19th century. This was before the British government in the Cape, designated the Orange River as the border of the Cape colony. Pella and de Tuin were the most notable of these. In 1863, the Rhenish Mission Society established a mission station in de Tuin, it was taken over by Missionary Heidmann in 1866. 

The Baster families stayed in the settlements for weeks and then left with their livestock in search of better grazing and water. These treks were conducted at great risk. The unknown laid before them. Constant attacks by local Khoisan tribes, and the search for better grazing and water, were a threat to their livelihoods. In the 1860’s, competition for good grazing grew to such an extent that the Basters had to trek further and further from their settlements for grazing, often up to the banks of the Orange River. 

New Land Tax law’s introduced by the Cape government, only weakened their situation. Their request to lease a piece of land, from the Cape government, for an annual fee of £200 was denied. 

In 1867, the constant raids of the Khoisan groups, the persistent draught and competition for grazing had become too much and on 24 February 1868, the decision to leave de Tuin was made. Most Basters did not want to leave the colony, so they set up other settlements closer to the Orange River. Good rains that year also made it possible for the Basters to still remain within the borders of the colony. 

The final decision to leave the colony was made a few months after leaving de Tuin. Scouts were sent further north, to be sure that this move would not worsen their situation. They had obtained permission from the groups north of the Orange River and were offered a temporary resting place in Berseba, from where a permanent settlement could be sought. 

In July 1868, Hermanus van Wyk, a church elder was nominated ‘’Kaptein’’. He was to lead the trek north, to their new home. 

They reached the Orange River on 16 November 1868, and it took them another 9 days to cross the river with all their wagons, goods and livestock. 

Two and a half days later they reached the Kinderzit watering hole, which is believed to be on the Kinderzitt Farm today. Their animals could drink sufficient water and the families could finally rest after the long trek through the desolate area. 

Missionary Heidmann, and Kaptein Hermanus van Wyk, rode on to Warmbad to negotiate their right to pass through the area with the local chief of the Bondelswarts, Abraham Christiaan and his Missionary Weber. 

After this was granted, the convoy kept moving north. In Warmbad, they only rested a few days during which they drafted their Constitution, with the idea of maintaining discipline during the trek. 

From Warmbad, they continued north. The constant search for better grazing, water and a place to call their own, led them to Keetmanshoop, which they reached in 1869. They were told by the Bondelswarts that they were allowed to stay at Chamis for two years. The grazing was sufficient and they remained in the area. 

In September 1870, Hermanus van Wyk travelled to Okahandja, for the peace negotiations between the Herero, Nama and Oorlam people. 

The Basters had requested to purchase the area of Rehoboth. The area originally belonged to the Bondelswarts, but had become unused and type of no-man’s land since the early 1860’s. Van Wyk asked the Chief of the Bondelswarts, Abraham Swartbooi, if he was willing to relinquish the area. Swartbooi agreed to the terms, and Jan Jonker Afrikaaner and Chief Kamaherero witnessed the deal and terms of transaction. 

In October/November 1870, the first families settled in Rehoboth. The area prospered, the surrounding tribes and communities largely left them at peace. The wars between the Herero and Nama people and their allies and the peace treaty of Okahandja had shifted the focus away from the new settlers. It lasted until 16 November 1882, when the Bondelswarts and the Oorlam-Afrikaaners had attacked Rehoboth. The Basters had successfully repelled the attack and in the process had cemented their claim to the area. 

In the next 60 years, Rehoboth had experienced major immigration, Baster families from the south and the Cape colony had come to settle in Rehoboth. 

Today, 150 years later, Rehoboth is still home to this unique cultural group of Namibia.

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