Background and status
Herero is spoken by the Herero people in Namibia and Botswana. There are about 237,000 Herero speakers in both countries, 206,000 in Namibia and the rest in Botswana. In Namibia, they are mostly found in the central and eastern parts of the country. The Herero can be divided into several sub-groups the biggest of which includes the Tjimba and Ndamuranda groups who live Kaokoland, the Mahereo who are found around Okahandja and the Zeraua who are found in the area around Omaruru. A group called the Mbandero occupy an area in eastern Namibia, around the town of Gobabis, which was formerly known as Hereroland.
Until the colonial period the Herero prospered in the central grassland areas, where there was ample grazing for their cattle, but a succession of battles with the northward migrating Nama, and more severely the German colonial troops led to about 75% of the Herero population been exterminated. Estimates are that of the 80 000 Herero in Namibia in 1900 only about 16 000 remained by 1905. During this period large numbers of Herero fled to the safety of Botswana, but since independence some of these people have begun to return to Namibia.
The Herero speak a form of south western Bantu that is shared most closely by two other major groups, the Ovambo (or Ambo) and the Ovimbandu (or Umbandu), both of which are found in Angola, north of Namibia. The Herero Branch of south-western Bantu consists of four major groups of speakers: the Mbanderu, the Himba, the Tjimba, and the Herero proper.
Growth and usage
Herero is taught in Namibian schools both as a native tongue and as a secondary language, and is included as a principal material at the University of Namibia. It is also one of the six minority languages that are used by the Namibian State Radio (NBC).