History of Old Location and Katutura

Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, was at one stage first occupied by Germany and than by South Africa. Throughout the years of being a German protectorate, many Namibians lost their lives in fight against the colonisers. Samuel Maharero, the chief of Hereros, declared war on the Germans in 1904:
In my capacity as Supreme Chief of the Herero I hereby decree and resolve that none of my people lay their hands upon the English, the Bastards, the Berg Damara, the Nama and the Boers. We shall not lay violent hands on any of these. I have made a solemn pledge not to make this known to anyone, including the missionaries. (Drechsler H., "Let us die fighting", Berlin: 1966; 143.).

The Germans won all wars with the loss of only 1 626 men (
Hintrager O., "Südwestafrika in der deutschen Zeit", München: 1955; 73. Bley H., "South West Africa under German rule 1884-1914", London: 1971.). The losses of and consequences for the black people, on the other hand, devastating. Bley estimates that about 50 000 or 75%-80% of the Herero population perished, while about 7 000 or 35% of the Nama population died. The Damara, who were often caught in the middle, may have lost as many as 17 000 people (Bley H., "South West Africa under German rule 1884-1914", London: 1971; 150-151).

Jakob Marengo, Simon Kooper and Mandume Ndemufayo who became king of the Kwanyama in 1911as a teenager and died in 1917 were other freedom fighters. Hendrik Witbooi's image is printed on country's currency in recognition of his historical importance to Namibian people.

Windhoek in the language of the Namas and Damaras, means Aie//gams (hot springs) and in the language of the Herero Otjomuise (place of steam). Unlike always historically presumed, Windhoek was not founded by Curt von Francois, as many people would like to think and the monument suggests. Windhoek was in habitat first by the Damaras then by the Hereros, then by the Namas who came to Windhoek about 1840 under the leadership of Jonker Afrikaner, the son of the great Jan Jonker Afrikaner, who came from South Africa and because of their knowledge of how to use the gun and their possession of horses, ruled parts of modern Namibia for many years.

In 1842, about 2000 people were living in the Windhoek area under Oorlam leader Jonker Afrikaner (Lau: 1987; 33).

This was however, at a time were Namibia was not yet a German colony. The only Europeans living at that time in Namibia were missionaries, traders, travellers and game hunters. Jonker Afrikaner named the place Winterhoek, because it allegedly reminded him of his home in the Cape Colony.
Jonker Afrikaner chose Windhoek for a settlement so that he could be near the large Herero cattle herds, which he regularly raided (Kotze: 1990; 3).

Jonker Afrikaner left the Windhoek area in 1852, but the area remained occupied by Herero and Damara who planted maize and other crops near the hot springs (Pendleton: 1994; 10)

Jonker and his followers stayed in Windhoek from 1840 until 1880, when settlement was destroyed after war between the Hereros and Namas broke out. The 19th century was a time where Namas and Hereros fought over the hegemony of central Namibia. Windhoek was destroyed by the Herero, after the war of 1880 and after the remaining Namas and the missionary J.G. Schröder had fled.
In 1885, after Germany had now declared Namibia a protectorate, on the 21 October did Reichskommissar Göring and Maharero, who resided at Okahandja and who was the Paramount Chief of the Herero sign a so-called protection treaty. Some years later however the protection treaty was annulled and Göring had to flee back to Walvis Bay because he did not have any troops to protect him. German military presence was almost non-existent at that time. After that incident, German Chancellor Bismark decided to sent a 21-man contingent to Namibia under the command of Curt von Francois. They landed at Walfish Bay in 1889.

Curt von Francois and his troops arrived, at that time, at the unoccupied Windhoek on October the 18th 1890. Windhoek was an ideal place situated in the center of the country, directly between the Namas and the Herero and it provided a source of hot and cold water. This was the new capital to be for the new  colony, with a Municipality, a post office and the Alte Feste (Old Fort). The first traders came in 1891-93 to Windhoek, soon followed by the first settlers.

In 1894, Windhoek had 85 white civilians (including five women), about 500 members of the Schutztruppe, and 300-400 blacks, which were mostly Damara (Mossolow: 1965; 139).

The town was never really threatened during the 1904-08 Nama and Herero uprisings, although trade was interrupted for a short while.
During the First World War, Windhoek was occupied on 12 May 1915 by the South African Union troops under the command of general Louis Botha. The Municipality was closed down on the 31 December 1918 and was replaced by a military magistrate and an advisory council. The town was hit by depressions at the end of the 1920 and than again in the year 1929.

Windhoek was again affected heavily by the Second World War and life was affected socially, economically and culturally. However the town soon recuperated after the war and things quickly got back to being normal.  This is however only a part of Windhoek's history. The towns history would not be complete without mentioning the Old Location, the Klein Windhoek Location, the shooting in 1959, which than led to the final removal of the people in September 1968.
In 1912, the Windhoek Town Council established the Main Location where blacks could live, west of town, (The place where the Old Location was situated has now been developed into middle to upper class residential suburb, known as Hochland Park), and a location in Klein Windhoek, a suburb east of the center of town.  In 1913, blacks living in various parts of the Windhoek area were moved to these new locations.
In 1932, the Main Location was reorganized, straight streets were laid out, and the Ethnic group section formally established. The Damara, Nama and Owambo referred to their sections by the municipal administrative designations such as Damara Two or Owambo One. The Herero had already adopted the practice of dividing their section of the Main Location into smaller subdivisions of their own, naming them either after a place or an important person. One of these divisions was called Otjikatjamuaha, the place of Chief Tjamuaha's people, while another was called Otjimaruru, the place of the people from Omaruru.
Control of the locations was the responsibility of the municipality, but efforts were made to involve residents in the administration of the locations. An Advisory Board, consisting of twelve non-white members under the chairmanship of the white location superintendent, was established in the Main Location in 1927. Half the members of the Board were elected by the residents, while the remaining members were appointed by the location superintendent; elections were held when a vacancy occurred.

The most frequently discussed topics at Board meetings were health, sanitation, education and the operation of the Board (Wagner: 1951; 115). A subject that was periodically discussed was heavy drinking, illegal brewing and illegal selling of alcoholic beverages.
In 1947, the municipality decided to increase the number of migrant Owambo contract Workers (Owambo men on a work contract for a specified period of time) in Windhoek and built a 'compound' for them. This location was called the Pokkiesdraai Contract Owambo Compound. By 1955, there were as many contract Owambo workers as residents Owambo, who now numbered more than 1 700 people.
During the 1950s the Windhoek municipality, in consultation with the South West Africa Administration and the South African government, decided to build a new location North-West of Windhoek and to move all location residents there. Most Main Location residents opposed the planned closure of the Main Location and refused to consider moving to the proposed new location. Opposition to the move reached a climax in December 1959.
A group of Herero women made a protest march to the Administrator's residence on 3 December. Five days later saw an effective boycott against municipally operated facilities such as buses, the beer hall and the cinema. On the night of 10 December, a protest meeting held in the Main Location developed into a confrontation with the police. The police shot and killed 11 people and some 44 required medical attention (Goldblatt: 1971; 262, Hall: 1961; 3). Immediately after the confrontation, between 3 000 and 4 000 people fled the location and refused to return because they were afraid of further trouble.

The Old Location was officially closed on 31 August 1968. Eventually all people in the Old Location, with the exception of about 300 people who decided to go to their reserves (communal areas), moved to the new location without further incident. The people named the new location, Katutura, which if literally translated, means: we do not have a permanent habitat.
In 1961 the residents of the Klein Windhoek location were also moved to Katutura, and in 1963 Pokkiesdraai was closed and Owambo contract workers were moved to Katutura. A modern shopping complex now occupies the place where the Compound for migrant workers was erected.

As a result of the closing down of the Old Location many activities came to an end.  Activities such as the Bunga Club, which was a burial, mutual aid and social club. The African Improvement Society' which was established for educational and social improvement purposes, the non-white Railway Staff Association which might have been a forerunner of a railway workers trade union, the 'Hakahana Turf Club',   which sponsored popular horse races, a Boy Scout troop, the tribal court' and the brass bands which each ethnic group used to have, were other activities which seized to exist with the closing of the locations (Wagner: 1951; 125-131, 273, 275).
An account of life in the Old Location by John Ya-Otto, a former resident of the location:
It was easy to be mistaken about the Old Location. Vast crowded, the shantytown wrapped itself around the scrubby hills of Windhoek's northern fringe, on the opposite side of the city from the white suburbs. Everyone knew one another and strangers did not remain so for long. You knew the streets, unmarked and unnamed, only after you have lived in the Old Location for a long time.  In spite of the hardship, there was a strange contentment with Old Location life; in the midst of so much noise, serenity. In the mornings women sang as they did the laundry by the water post and children played in the puddles left after the night's rain. Later came the noise of clattering plates and cutlery and of conversations as shadows moved back and forth behind the kerosene lamp in each doorway. Then, as the mist crept along the hillsides, the shadows became fewer; the lamps were brought inside, and quiet settled over the maze of dark shanties. This was the Old Location, as I became to know it.
Councillors Alfred Mungunda and Joshua Kamberipa called the township Katutura, which means, "We do not have a permanent habitation". This name derives from the fact that since the whites came to our land, Katutura is the fifth location we have had to live in Windhoek.
Life in Katutura under apartheid:  
The Katutura of 1968 consisted of about 4 000 rental houses organized into five ethnic group section. People were required to live in Katutura in their 'own' ethnic group section. In addition to the rental houses there was a 'single quarter' area of dormitory-type housing estimated to accommodate about 1 000 people, and a walled 'compound' located at the entrance to Katutura where Owambo men on migrating labour were fed and housed. Apartheid in South West Africa was enforced more rigidly than in South Africa. Apartheid created heavy constraints on interaction between members of different racial groups. Law forbade marriage and sexual intercourse between whites and 'non-whites'.  Separate entrances and service facilities for members of different 'racial' groups were found at most government, administration and municipal offices as well as at many privately owned businesses. Apartheid in South West Africa defined geographical, economic and social boundaries between people.

In 1968, the Windhoek urban area was composed of three separate townships, each set aside for the exclusive use of one of the three racial groups: Katutura for blacks, Khomasdal for coloureds, and Windhoek for whites (Pendleton: 1994; 12-16, 18-19, 22-23).

Kotze C., "A Social History of Windhoek", Ph.D., Pretoria: University of South Africa; 1990
Pendleton C. W., "Katutura A Place Where We Stay", Windhoek: 1994.
Mossolow N., "This Was Old Windhoek", Windhoek: 1965.
Wagner G., "Ethnographic Survey of South West Africa", unpublished manuscript found in the Offices of the Department of Bantu Administration and Development, Ethnological Section, Windhoek. A copy  of this manuscript has been placed in the National Archives by the author; 1951.
Goldblatt I., "History of  South West Africa", Cape Town; 1991.
Hall .C, "Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Occurrences in the Windhoek Location on the Night of the 10th and 11th December, 1959, and into the Direct Causes which Led (sic!) to those Occurrences", Windhoek; 1961.
"Battlefront Namibia by John Ya-Otto"

Related:   Windhoek   Windhoek city tours   Katutura Face to Face tours

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