William Coates Palgrave (1833-1897) was involved in South West Africa (Namibia) for a period of 25 years. As Special Commissioner to Hereroland and Namaland he undertook five missions in the name of the Cape government to that country. This volume, containing the official journals, the minutes and reports written during the missions, gives a view of a country on the eve of colonization.

Walfish Bay

Cornelis van Wyk, Jacob Mauton and Paul Diergard, Members of the Raad, and about 25 other Bastards, and the following Europeans: The Revd Heidman, Dr Hahn, and Messrs Gunning, Jordan, Hansen, Bouwet, Lutz, Knab, and Phillips.

The Special Commissioner addressed the meeting at some length on the unhappy feeling between the parties that had lately prevailed, and pointed out how easily it might have been avoided, if the primary principles which should govern such a community as that living here, had not been entirely lost sight of.

Complimented the Bastards on the straightforward and honest manner in which they had come forward, and expressed their regret for their share in the past, which, however, he thought after all was only a very small share. Other people were to be blamed as much, if not more than them, and had great pleasure in seeing the pains they were at to adopt a course, which would prevent any collision for the future.

After which some regulations, affecting the questions of “Masters and Servants”, and claiming of cattle which had been lost, stolen, or had strayed, and had subsequently been acquired by traders in a bona fide manner, were discussed, and agreed upon.

In the afternoon Abraham Swaartbooy called upon the Special Com­missioner and informed him that he had come over from Gurumanas for the purpose of assisting and settling the squabbles and rows between the Bastard Community and white residents on the place, which, he stated, had given him great concern, and which he was very anxious should be set at rest.

Special Commissioner thanked him for his kind intentions and feelings which did him honor.

After some beating about the bush and prevarication, it transpired that Abraham wished to see Special Commissioner about grants of land that the white people wanted to get from him, and after some time mentioned Haybittel’s name, and spoke of the visit he had received from Haybittel, with Dr Hahn as interpreter, on Saturday night last at Gurumanas; and further that the white people wished him to give them places and waters where they could establish their cattle posts during the period they traded in the country.

Special Commissioner asked of Abraham whether he understood what the white people really wanted, for if he did not he would tell him.

Abraham replying that he did not understand and would be glad and thankful to be told.

Special Commissioner then informed him that the white people did not want “loan places”, but that if he gave or sold them any grants or pieces of ground, they would hold and consider it their property, with right and title o with it as they please, sell, give away, or dispose of in any way they pleased, and that if Abraham alienated any portion of Rehoboth, and the veldt belonging to it, and remained at Bokberg, such alienation would be taken into consideration, when the grounds about Bokberg were appor­tioned.

Special Commissioner had no objection to Abraham doing as he pleased, but scarcely considered this the proper time to think of making grants of land, or in any way alienating ground, and advised him to let matters remain in status quo.

Abraham thought it would be the best to let matters remain as they are, and thanking the Special Commissioner for his advice, promised not to do anything for the next 6 months, as he had previously said he would.

In the afternoon Special Commissioner received visit from Dr Hahn, and was informed that he was anxious to purchase a tract of ground (pre­viously mentioned, vide 9th inst.) which was outside of the boundary line, described by the Damaras as being the southern boundary of their country.

Special Commissioner had no objection to anything Abraham Swaart­booy might choose to do.


October 11th Wednesday

At Rehoboth.


October 12th Thursday

At Rehoboth. Preparations made for an expedition to Hatsemas, in charge of Mr Christie, with one waggon, with the object of having photographic views taken.


October 13th Friday

At Rehoboth. Mr Christie started at sunrise this morning for Mr Lutz’s Cattle post, with a span of “store” oxen, en route to Hatsemas; from whence the Government oxen would be inspanned.

The following is Mr Christie’s account of his trip.

Friday morning. Started at sunrise with one waggon, almost empty, having in it 1 bell tent, men’s bedding, and such photographic materials as were necessary for taking views, illustrative of the country passed through, and its scenery.

Trekked <to> Lutz’ Post, distance 12 miles. E.N.E. to E. from Rehoboth

For 5 or 6 miles from Rehoboth the country is quite bare, the grass


Edited and introduced by E.L.P. Stals
Professor Ernst Stals is the Director of Research at the Windhoek College of Education. He has been working in the field of Namibian history since 1959 and has produced several publications on aspects like cattle farming, contact between the White and Ovambo communities, and government policy and practice towards the indigenous population during the German period.