Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (xiii, 238 pages) : color illustrations, color map.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Iris Berger

Committee Members

Susan Gauss, Meredith McKittrick


African History, Colonialism, Corporal Punishment, Crime, Namibia, Punishment, Flagellation, Corporal punishment, Political crimes and offenses, Torture

Subject Categories

African History


This dissertation charts the history of corporal punishment in Ovamboland, the north-central region of present-day Namibia. Long used as a method for disciplining cattle thieves, rapists, and men who had impregnated women outside of wedlock, the region's institution of public flogging sparked a scandal in 1973, when the epokolo, the five-foot long thorned branch of the Makalani palm tree, was deployed on members of SWAPO, the leading liberation movement in the territory then known as South West Africa. In the wake of that scandal, and in a rare rebuke of the traditional authorities who had long collaborated with the South African colonial state, in 1975 the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein, South Africa reprimanded the kings and headmen of the region for targeting political activists, a decision that would ultimately lead to the end of judicial corporal punishment in Namibia after it achieved its independence in 1990.