Although Walvis Bay was claimed by the British Cape Colony in 1795, it was not formally annexed by Britain until 1878 when it was realised that the Germans were eyeing the harbour. In 1910 Britain relinquished its hold on Walvis Bay, and it became part of the newly formed Union of South Africa.

After the end of WWI, South African was given the UN madate to administer all of German South West Africa as well as the Walvis Bay enclave. This stood until 1977, when South Africa unilaterally decided to return it to the Cape Province. The UN was not impressed by this unauthorised act, and insisted that the enclave be returned to the mandate immediately. In response, South Africa steadfastly refused to bow.

When Namibia achieved its independence in 1990, Namibians laid claim to Walvis Bay. Given the strategic value of the natural harbour, plus the salt works (which produced 40,000 tonnes annually – some 90% of South Africa’s salt), the offshore guano platforms and the rich fishery, gaining control over Walvis Bay became a matter of great importance for Namibia.

In 1992, after it had become apparent that white rule in South Africa was ending, the two countries agreed that South Africa would remove its border crossings, and that both countries would jointly administer the enclave. Finally, facing growing domestic troubles and its first democratic elections, South Africa gave in, and at midnight on 28 February 1994, the Namibian flag was raised over Walvis Bay for the first time.