History of Katutura >>


A history of the apartheid system in the capital of Namibia​

In 1890, present day Windhoek was founded with the building of the fort (Old Fortress). After 1907 many people migrated from the country to the city. There was also a large influx of settlers arriving from Germany and South Africa. In 1912, during the German colonial time, the Windhoek Town Council established the Main Location (also called the Old Location) and a second location in Klein Windhoek as areas where blacks could live. In 1913 all blacks living in various parts of Windhoek were relocated to these new areas. In those days a law forbid marriage and sex between whites and blacks.


During World War I, Windhoek was occupied by South African troops and became a South African Mandate under the League of Nations. In the 1950′s the Windhoek municipality decided together with the South African administration to “whiten” the city and to build a new location for the blacks north-west of Windhoek similar to Soweto – an equivelant township in Johannesburg in South Africa. A settlement of housing estates with its own infrastructure was constructed.


In 1959 the segragation procedure continued but most Old Location residents refused to move to the new location, which they called Katutura – “the place where we do not want to settle”. In the night of December 10, 1959 a protest meeting held in the Old Location ended in a bloody confrontation with the police. During this confrontation, Rosa Mungunda, a resident demonstrator, set fire to the mayor’s car. In response the police shot and killed her as well as 12 other demonstrators. Immediately after the confrontation, between 3000 and 4000 people fled in fear of further trouble. This event is largely considered the genesis of SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation). Today, December 10th is celebrated as the “Day of human rights” and many people from Katutura come to the graveyard near the Old Location to honor the martyrs of their revolution.


The segregation procedure was officially completed with the closing of the Old Location on August 31, 1968. Eventually almost all black people moved to Katutura without further incident. Adjoining Katutura, towards the city centre, the local people with a slightly lighter complexion were settled in an area named Khomasdal, thus assuring only whites lived in Windhoek. In those days “coloured” had a higher status than the blacks.


The Katutura of 1968 consisted of about 4000 standardised rental houses without water and electricity organised into sections of five different ethnic groups. Each house had a living area of 45qm and a large letter on the door symbolising the tribe (D = Damara, H = Herero etc.). In addition to the rental houses there was a singles quarter of dormitory-type housing accommodating about 1000 people. Another singles quarter was a men only quarter where mostly Ovambo contract workers lived.


Following Namibia’s independence from the South African administration in 1990 the city experienced a wind of change. Long-term residents of Katutura were given the rights to buy their houses at a low price or recieved them for free. Beside an already existing market, shopping centres, children playgrounds, schools and courthouses were built. Sand streets were asphalted, power poles erected and canalisation completed.


In year 2006 approximately 150.000 people were living in Katutura, but the number is raising monthly by 600. More and more people from the countryside come to Windhoek in hope of finding a job and a better life. The city is facing an incredible growth of the township and innumerable tin-houses are spread along the outskirts of Katutura. The city tries to organise these squatter camps by registering each hut and supplying combined water-taps and toilets.


Today more than two thirds of Windhoek’s population live in Katutura, one of the citys most lively districts. Lately the residents call their settlement Matutura – “the place where we want to stay”.


Those who have not seen Katutura have not yet experienced the real Windhoek!