28 Mai 2007 | Windhoek

Pillaged, deserted, developed:Windhoek is shining

There were no people and Schinz hurried on to the north to leave "that eerie place" behind. In subsequent years the City Council honoured the Swiss botanist with a street name in Klein Windhoek. Like during the time of Schinz's transit, jackals, guinea fowl and even Kudu today still roam on the outskirts of Namibia's bustling modern capital city. While Schinz encountered no human soul at all, the City Council today does not know how many people to count but estimates the number of townfolk at 250000, which amounts to about twelve percent of the total population of Namibia. The annual budget of the city adds up to a tenth part of the national household of Namibia.

The deserted conditions encountered by Schinz was a recurrent circumstance, but always of short duration only, caused by raids and sorti+es between the Nama from the south and the Herero from the north. This made life difficult for the early missionaries who consequently preferred to settle among the strongholds of the Nama and the Herero, rather avoiding the contested territory located between these peoples. However, the strong fountains of the two valleys of Klein and Greater Windhoek, situated in the midst of arid mountainous bushveld in any case would always attract both travelers, traders, permanent cattle herders and small stock breeders. All traffic on the north-south-axis has to pass the valley of Windhoek anyway channeled by the Khomas Hochland in the west and the mountainous terrain to the east. Officer Curt von François in 1890 decided to transfer the colonial administration from the missionary outpost Otjimbingwe on the Swakop river to Windhoek which since then has never again changed its name and has continuously retained its status as capital. Previously the name of the locality had changed successively from Elberfeld to Barmen, also Concordiaville and even biblical Esek (fountain of strife) because of the Nama/Herero ethnic conflict. Indigenous names persist and continue to enrich sections of the city and commercial enterprises, e.g. /Ai-//gams (firewater) and Otjomuise (steaming/smoking place) derived from the former hot springs close to the present day municipal building.

Windhoek has not endured any physical destruction in its development and growth as capital. The change of regimes during the First World War from the German imperial administration to South African rule and the transition from the South Africans to Namibian independence caused destruction elsewhere in the country but left Windhoek unharmed.

However in the wake of progress developers have destroyed some valuable heritage. Yet to the discerning eye the layers of history are clearly visible, from the German colonial period via South African mandatory administration into almost two decades of national sovereignty.
Windhoek remains the pride of Namibia.

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