Although Namibia’s black and mixed-race populations had experienced racial segregation and resettlement well before the apartheid era, it was the mass protests of 1959 at the forced removal of the capital’s “black” population to the township of Katutura – meaning “place where we will not stay” in Otjiherero – that were subsequently identified as the landmark rallying call for independence. By 1912, non-whites had been forced to live in two areas of the capital: Klein Windhoek and the Main Location (now called the Old Location), in present-day Hochland Park, to the south of the city – in areas that were further sub-divided according to ethnicity. When in 1959 the South African regime declared that all “blacks” had to move to a new township, 8km northwest of central Windhoek, and those who were considered to be of mixed race, who were dubbed “coloured”, had to move to one 5km away, there was a huge outcry. Residents of Katutura would have fewer rights, smaller plots and further to walk to reach the city centre. Protests followed, tensions escalated and matters came to a head when a march by a group of Herero women and subsequent boycott of municipal services resulted in clashes with police, in what is now known as the Old Location Uprising. It resulted in at least 11 dead and 44 injured, while several thousand residents fled from the city for fear of further state reprisals. The dead are buried in the Old Location Cemetery, off Hochland Road, which to this day is the focus for the annual national commemoration of Human Rights Day on December 10.

Though Katutura and Khomasdal have been reclassified as “suburbs”, and the apartheid-era stadium-like surveillance lights that deprived residents of a decent night’s sleep for many years have been torn down, many of their residents, in Katutura in particular, are still very poor. Black residents who can now afford to move out often prefer to live in Khomasdal, where there is a similar sense of community, rather than in the eastern suburbs, where houses hide behind high walls, barbed-wire fences and electronic gates.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Namibia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

Namibia has some of the world's most astonishing landscapes. It's home to the world's oldest desert, a long and undeveloped coastline and national parks that te…

31 May 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

Quiz: can you locate these national parks?

National parks are some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one…

02 Jul 2015 • Rebecca Hallett help Quiz
In pictures: traditional dress around the world

In pictures: traditional dress around the world

The Sari, India Ostensibly the simplest item of clothing possible – a single length of fabric, up to nine metres long – the sari is also one of the world…

02 Feb 2015 • Alice Park camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month