Timoteus Mashuna, MA


Timoteus Mashuna did a BA in History and English at the University of Namibia. During that time he was involved in the joint exhibition project Posters in Action which brought together students from Namibia and Basel. This experience led him to apply for a stipend of the Kantonale Stipendienkommission für Nachwuchskräfte aus Entwicklungsländern, which allowed him to do his MA in Basel. He is currently employed as a Senior Archivist at the National Archive in Namibia. This position requires him to document and describe colonial archival material from the 1970s to the 1990s. The topic of his MA-thesis, which focused on the political history of Namibia from the 1970s until the 1990s, encouraged the National Archives to call on him for the documentation and transcription of materials from that period.


The 1978 elections: South Africa's decolonisation plan for Namibia and its other implications

In my thesis I focused on the 1978 elections in Namibia. These elections came as a response to a decision of the International Court of Justice, which in 1971 ruled that South Africa's administration of Namibia was illegal and demanded that South Africa must withdraw from Namibian territory. South Africa defied this order and initiated a number of reforms in order to justify her presence vis-à-vis the international community and calm internal opposition. This ultimately led to Namibia’s first national elections in December 1978. However, some political groups in Namibia as well as the international community refused to accept the result of the elections. Hence, South Africa had to stay pre-occupied with this political process for ten years.

In the literature, this process is seen as a mere diplomatic manoeuvre that, on the one hand, enabled South Africa to survive the imposition of sanctions and, on the other hand, weakened the material base and core apparatus of post-colonial and apartheid Namibia. The mainstream view is that the whole political engineering that culminated in the 1978 elections created a moderate political force which upon independence limited the possibility of SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) to implement major reforms; for it prevented SWAPO from winning a two third majority during the 1989-1990 elections. As a result SWAPO could not draft the country’s constitution single-handed.

Whilst not refuting these arguments, the thesis argues that the political process of the 1970s enabled SWAPO to earn support from Ovambo and non-Ovambo groups. In other words, this process created two political forces, instead of one, which could almost equally contend for power during the 1989/1990 independence elections. Certainly this process substantially contributed to the re-organisation of Namibia’s socio-political organisations beyond their so-called ethnic enclaves and partially established features of a democracy prior to Namibia’s independence. Therefore, this thesis takes as its point of departure, that although the elections were stage managed, they had important consequences for the political landscape in Namibia.