German South West Africa (German: Deutsch-Südwestafrika, DSWA) was a colony of Germany from 1884 until 1915, when it was taken over by South Africa (as part of the British Empire) and administered as South West Africa, finally becoming Namibia in 1990. With an area of 835,100 km², it was easily one and a half times the size of the German Empire at the time.
In October, the newly-appointed Commissioner for West Africa, Gustav Nachtigal, arrived on the Möwe. In April 1885, the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft für Südwest-Afrika was founded, and soon bought the assets of Lüderitz's failing enterprises; Lüderitz subsequently drowned in 1886 while on an expedition to the Orange River. In May, Heinrich Ernst Göring was appointed Commissioner and established his administration at Otjimbingwe. A Kaiserliche Schutztruppe ("Imperial Security Troop") under Hauptmann Curt von François was stationed in German South-West Africa beginning in 1888, consisting of two officers, five non-commissioned officers, and 20 black soldiers.
The colony grew in 1890 through the acquisition of the Caprivi Strip in the northeast, which promised new trade routes. This territory was acquired through the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty between Britain and Germany.
German South-West Africa was the only German colony where Germans settled in large numbers. German settlers were drawn to the colony by economic possibilities in diamond and copper mining, and especially farming. In 1902, the colony had 200,000 inhabitants, though only 2,595 were German, 1,354 were Afrikaner, and 452 were British. By 1914, 9,000 more German settlers had arrived. There were probably around 80,000 Herero, 60,000 Ovambo, and 10,000 Nama, who were disparagingly referred to as Hottentots.
Through 1893 and 1894, the first "Hottentot Uprising" of the Nama and their legendary leader Hendrik Witbooi occurred. The following years saw many further local uprisings against German rule, the largest of which was the Herero Wars (or Herero Genocide) of 1904. Remote farms were attacked, and approximately 150 German settlers were killed. The Schutztruppe of only 766 troops and native auxiliary forces was, at first, no match for the Herero. The Herero went on the offensive, sometimes surrounding Okahandja and Windhoek, and destroying the railway bridge to Osona. Additional 14,000 troops, hastened from Germany under Lieutenant General Lothar von Trotha, crushed the rebellion in the Battle of Waterberg. Earlier von Trotha issued an ultimatum to the Herero people, denying them the right of being German subjects and ordering them to leave the country, or be killed. In order to escape, the Herero retreated into the waterless Omaheke region, a western arm of the Kalahari Desert, where many of them died of thirst. The German forces guarded every water source and were given orders to shoot any Herero, or adult male Herero they saw. Only a few Herero managed to escape into neighbouring British territories.
In the fall of 1904, the Nama entered the struggles against the colonial power under their leaders Hendrik Witbooi and Jakobus Morenga, the latter often referred to as "the black Napoleon". This uprising was finally quashed during 1907 – 1908 In total, between 25,000 and 100,000 Herero, more than 10,000 Nama and 1,749 Germans died in the conflict.
During World War I, South African troops opened hostilities with an assault on the Ramansdrift police station on 13 September 1914. German settlers were transported to prison camps near Pretoria and later in Pietermaritzburg. Because of the overwhelming superiority of the South African troops, the German Schutztruppe, along with groups of Afrikaner volunteers fighting in the Maritz Rebellion on the German side, offered opposition only as a delaying tactic. On 9 July 1915, Victor Franke, the last commander of the Schutztruppe, capitulated near Khorab.
After the war, the area came under the control of Britain, and then was made a South African League of Nations mandate. In 1990, the former colony became independent as Namibia, governed by the former liberation movement SWAPO.
A multitude of German names, buildings, and businesses still exist in the country, and about 30,000 descendants of the German settlers still live there.
The first issue for the colony consisted of overprints applied to German stamps in May 1897, reading "Deutsch- / Südwest Afrika" at an angle. On 15 November 1898, the overprint was changed to "Deutsch- / Südwestafrika," dropping the hyphen.
In 1900, the omnibus Yacht issue included stamps for South West Africa, printed on watermarked paper after 1906. The last of these was a 3 Mark value, printed in 1919, but was never put on sale in the colony.
Some values, such as the 3 and 5 Pfennig "Yachts," are readily available today, with prices of around US$1. The others range up to several hundred dollars. The high values of the watermarked Yachts saw very little usage before the colony was captured, and genuinely used stamps are up to 10 times more valuable; but many of the used stamps are known to have forged cancellations.