The Birth, Destruction, and Rebuilding of a Community

The scattered community of Riemvasmaak never gave up hope. But the battle for its remote and desolate homeland on the outskirts of the Kalahari Desert has unfolded over more than a century:

1870s: People of Herero, Damara, and Nama origin first appeared in the area.

1920s: Land set aside for black occupation. Damara group under King Dawid asked Roman Catholic Church to establish a mission.

1934: Status as a native reserve confirmed. Xhosas add to the ethnic mix.

1966: Augrabies Falls National Park is created.

1973-74: People of Riemvasmaak are forcibly removed under government's ``black spot removal program.''

1976: Augrabies Falls National Park is extended to include 4,270 hectares (10,550 acres) of Riemvasmaak.

1981: South African Defence Force (SADF) takes over most of Riemvasmaak as a testing site.

1988: SADF and National Parks Board reach agreement that land used by SADF be declared a national park.

1992: People of Riemvasmaak form a committee to lobby for the return of their land.

1993: Claim goes before the Advisory Commission on Land Allocation, a body set up by the government to hear land claims by dispossed communities.

February, 1994: Land is restored, except 20,000 hectares, (49,400 acres) which remain in SADF hands.

May, 1994: SADF relinquishes remaining land, and 200 Riemvasmakers, returning to their land for the first time in 20 years, hold celebration at the Roman Catholic mission.

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