Oct 07, 2020

UNPO Mourns Death of Rehoboth Baster Leader John McNab

It is with sadness that the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) has learned of the death of the traditional leader of the Rehoboth Baster community, John McNab, who passed away on Saturday 3 October 2020. He was 82 years old and served as ‘Kaptein’ since 1999, when he succeeded Hans Diergaardt. 

McNab devoted his entire life to peacefully protect the rights of the Rehoboth Basters, which have been neglected since Namibia was granted independence in 1990. He was described by the community as an ‘extraordinary giant who showed leadership skills and great determination’.


The Baster family has lost a powerful member, who was committed to promote education, seek social equality and fight poverty. For over 21 years, he especially advocated for the recognition of the Afrikaans language in order to protect the mother tongue of the community for the future generations.

Although international treaties signed by Namibia, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), contain several articles that prohibit discrimination on the basis of language, the Basters are still not allowed to use Afrikaans in the official communications with the administration. Some Basters, especially the elders, are not fluent in English, therefore they can't communicate well with the authorities. English is Namibia’s official language, but only 2% of households use it as their main tongue.

All his work as a democratic community leader was done without being recognized by the Namibian government on the basis that the Rehoboth Basters do not have any land to claim ownership on. When Namibia become independent, the Basters self-Government was abolished and their traditional land and other properties were seized and claimed by the newly-formed SWAPO government, without receiving any compensation for their loss.

In 2003, the Captain’s Council decided to request the Namibian Government to recognize them as a Traditional Authority, but lack of communal land, which was confiscated, made the application unsuccessful. This lack of legal status has led to little to no political representation or protection, which generates serious challenges concerning the implementation and maintenance of economic, social and cultural rights.

The community affirms that McNab’s legacy will stand as an example of equality and justice and will follow John McNab’s recurring words: ‘we must not tire, we must not give up, and we must persist’.

The UNPO would like to express its sincere condolences to the Rehoboth Baster community on the recent passing of their traditional leader, John McNab, who defended the rights of those unrepresented peacefully and relentlessly. We extend our condolences to his family.