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.