Cricket in Namibia
Südwestafrika, later Namibia, became a German colony in 1884. It did not include the Walvis Bay enclave, which had been annexed by Great Britain in 1878 and was incorporated into Cape Colony in 1884. Similarly, the Penguin Islands had been annexed by Great Britain in 1867 and transferred to Cape Colony in 1873. Cricket was introduced to Walvis Bay in the nineteenth century and is known to have been played at Windhoek in 1909. When the Union of South Africa was created in 1910, Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands were included in the new Cape Province. During the First World War, South Africa overran the German colony and established martial law.
Cricket is known to have been played in 1915 at the Okanjande prisoner of war camp, south west of Otjiwarongo, between South African soldiers and local settlers. After the war, the League of Nations granted a mandate to South Africa to administer South West Africa, as it was then called, and civilian rule was restored in 1921. Walvis Bay and the islands were added to the mandate the following year. For a long time after the First World War, cricket remained an ad hoc pastime only with no real organisation until the South West Africa Cricket Union (SWACU) was founded in 1930. In the 1920s, there were three clubs in Windhoek and one in Walvis Bay but the level of competition amounted to little more than friendly matches. The game could only provide a social and recreational activity for the South African civil servants who were responsible for administering South West Africa, and the engineers who were developing its road and railway network.
After the Second World War, South Africa's prime minister General Jan Smuts appealed to the new United Nations Organisation for South West Africa to be granted provincial status within South Africa. His request was refused. After the National Party gained power in 1948, they extended apartheid into South West Africa and refused to co-operate with the United Nations. In the 1950s, cricket followed the railway lines, as in England a century earlier, and new clubs were opened at Otjiwarongo and the mining town of Tsumeb. In 1954, a representative South West African team was formed for the first time to play a game against Liesbeek Park, a Cape Town club team, in Windhoek. Four years later, a South West Africa XI went to Port Elizabeth and played against local teams there.
In 1962, the Rhodesian Country Districts team was unable to take part in the annual South African Country Cricket Association (SACCA) festival and SWACU offered to provide a team to stand in. This became a perennial engagement until 1989. The other teams in the tournament were from the main South African provinces and exposure to that level of competition served to improve playing standards in South West Africa. In all, they played in 130 SACCA matches and won 31 with 48 defeats, 50 draws and one tie. They were most successful between 1970 and 1973.
The spread of South African military establishments throughout South West Africa and the improved transport infrastructure was a key factor in the growth of cricket through the country. Although it was ostensibly a "whites only sport", as in South Africa, it interested the non-whites who began to take it up at local level and it became popular among black children. In 1973, the South African tacitly acknowledged the international boycott placed on their national sports teams and decided to relax their policy on mixed-race team sports. As a result, the first black players emerged at club level and, in 1978, Mervyn Phillips became the first non-white player to represent South West Africa when he played in the SACCA festival. More black and Asian players came from the troops of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group (UNTAG) in the late 1980s.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, the South African forces committed many human rights violations and apartheid was resisted by activists seeking independence. The South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) was created to head the fight for independence and gained recognition by the UN in 1973. Guerrilla warfare and popular uprisings continued into the 1980s until, in 1988, the South African government accepted a UN proposal to allow Namibian independence with effect from Wednesday, 21 March 1990.
In June 1989, SWACU severed its connections with South Africa and terminated its membership of SACCA. SWACU was superseded by the new Namibia Cricket Board which is now known as Cricket Namibia. The NCB set its sights on associate membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and moved quickly to organise international matches and invest in the game at school and youth level. In November 1989, Namibia's national team went to Botswana and played two international matches in Gaborone. In those early days, the board had little money and organisation of the trip to Botswana was undertaken by one of the players, Richard Nineham, who was a registered pilot and flew the team to Gaborone in a chartered aircraft. In March 1990, as the country celebrated its independence, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club arrived to play four matches in Windhoek against the national team. In April, the Netherlands visited to play five international matches. At this time, with Nambia still not a member of the ICC, none of their games had first-class or List A status. Five of the 1990 matches were played at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek. One of the Netherlands matches was played in Oranjemund. The other three games were played in Windhoek: one at the United Ground, one at the Wanderers Cricket Ground and the other at an indeterminate venue.
In August 1990, Namibia toured Zimbabwe to play four matches though none were against Zimbabwe's national team, which was granted full ICC membership two years later. In March 1991, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) visited Windhoek to play four matches against Namibia. They were followed in September of that year by an Oxford University team who played three games in Windhoek. Relations with South Africa were restored in November 1992 when Namibia went there on a short tour which included a match against Griqualand West at the De Beers Diamond Oval in Kimberley. Griquas won by nine wickets but Namibia in this game were borderline first-class status.
It was in 1992 that Namibia achieved their primary goal of admission to the ICC with associate membership.
- International Cricket Council: Cricket Namibia. ICC.
- Morgan, Roy: Encyclopaedia of World Cricket. SportsBooks Ltd (2007).
- Namibia gains independence. South African History Online (2011).