When the South African regime in the mid to late fifties decided to move blacks from the then “Old Location” to Katutura, the move sparked discontent and led to the shootings in the area and summary relocation of all the black residents under duress.
Once, I listened to Founding President Sam Nujoma recounting the story of those tensions, when he was paying tribute to Oliver Tambo (OR), former president of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. OR passed on while SWAPO was holding its first congress in Namibia after independence and President Nujoma arrived on the floor, somewhat in pensive mood and shared with congress delegates the sad news. Nujoma recalled in synoptic fashion how OR was arrested and kept at the Windhoek Airport of the time, when he was dispatched by the ANC to defend the Old Location detainees in court. OR was never allowed to set foot in Windhoek and was summarily deported. Nujoma was among those who would be released and re-arrested on the steps of the prison building and in the end he had to plot his departure from Windhoek and from then South West Africa with the intervention of Hosea Kutako. The rest are details for another day.
Katutura is the mecca of black national political development and growth, but we all seem to have turned our back against this historic neighborhood, that continue to give birth to strings of new growth points as our national urbanisation continues to proliferate unabated in the face of economic challenges that are fast bedeviling our nation due to national economic impasse. Our children drop out of school in thousands for many reasons and walk the streets of many a village, a town and a city around this nation, on a forced march to nowhere. Neither the central government nor its subsidiaries the village, town and city governance structures seem to have an idea on how best to address these social challenges.
Windhoek is the capital city and it seems that it shall continue to receive all the regional off-springs and, seldom willingly, in attempts to fit them in the larger scheme of things, with no vision in sight. This is what gives birth to the economic, social and hygienic disintegration of the otherwise very impressive capital city of Namibia, judging from the glittering ivory towers that populate the central business development areas. Unfortunately for Katutura, most of its children who can afford a house anywhere else move out and we cannot blame them because Katutura is going.
I regularly take a morning walk through Katutura and my regular route is from my house in Soweto, Kolossense Street, past Jafet Helao’s street restaurant, get on Independence Avenue heading west to join Caesar Street and walk south to make a left onto Abraham Mashego Street at the dilapidated Council of Churches Headquarters and walk back to my house. These areas reflect a sad site. Papers lie all over the place, dogs secrete any place on the roads and side walk ways and for the first time I started understanding why pedestrians, especially ladies, walk on tarmac all the time, for fear of messing their feet on dog secretion. Dogs in Katutura run wild, despite municipal bylaws.
Katutura reminds me of my days as student at Columbia University in Harlem New York, many years back. At the time New York had about 400 000 homeless persons living on the streets with nowhere to go for home and nothing to eat. In the United States of America, at the time the richest country in the world. Every day I walked to my flat on 113th Street and Broadway, I prayed to God that nothing like that happens to Namibia. Today I look back in comparison and I say to myself: My God, what did you do to my prayers, because these parallels are frightening. During the mid-1980’s I served the nation through the framework of the Council of Churches as Director for Social Services. The people on the streets were nominal and I remember this gentleman who came to our office regularly for food assistance. My consolation was that, this would not happen in free Namibia. Last year in November I saw the same gentleman on the street. I spoke to him and he still lives in the “Chaff” that is what he called the river bed.
Our situation is like quick sand: the more you walk, the deeper you sink. During his reign as first Prime Minister, President Geingob organised a ground-breaking conference on integrity. During this conference there was a discussion on corruption and at its conclusion, the Prime Minister admitted that indeed there was corruption in Namibia, but, he said, at least it is not yet endemic. I do not want to ask his view on our corruption barometer today.
Back to Katutura. The trouble is that no one owns Katutura and everyone is in charge. If you tell children not to play football on the street filled with cars they ask you who you are. There is a perennial river running through parts of Katutura. It runs through the UN Plaza from the north, meanders around the Jetujama Centre of NAMCOL in Katutura and passes behind the CCN towards Goreangab Dam. The bad news is that, this river is filled with dark green waters that escape from the central ablution control systems and no one seems to be aware except the city’s municipal maintenance officers who themselves are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Five years back I confronted an official of the Municipality with these problems and after a hefty altercation the official said: “Man Bob, jy gee vir ons problem, hoekom trek jy nie uit Katutura nie…” (You give us enough problems, please leave Katutura). The official has meanwhile retired but Katutura’s problems persist.
Where does the solution lie: Not in my leaving Katutura, but perhaps in my continuing to live in Katutura.
2019-01-16 09:29:39 | 9 months ago