By: Lavinia Shawapala
The City of Windhoek is targeting job creation by transforming apartheid-era legacy of the Katutura and Khomasdal townships into hubs.
This comes as the City Council has approved the identification, nomination, and conservation of seven houses in Katutura and Khomasdal that are over fifty years old to be declared as heritage sites.
According to the municipality, they aim to create a cultural precinct by developing a trail around the townships.
“The houses, located in the Herero, Damara, Wambo, Donkerhoek, Gemengde and Khomasdal lokasies will be selected based on the significance of their first occupants and will be transformed to tell the stories of social, political and educational icons of the 1960s,” the City said.
The main goal of the project is to transform the apartheid-era legacy of the Katutura and Khomasdal townships into hubs offering employment creation opportunities, as well as experiences for people to immerse themselves in Namibian culture and art.
These houses will be utilised as historical icon museums, showcasing the people of a specific area, through cultural performances, traditional food, traditional chores, and arts and crafts. They will also be used as accommodation, providing homestay experiences for visitors to stay with local people, and as restaurants serving local cuisine.
Similar projects have been successfully accomplished in other Southern African cities, such as Johannesburg-Soweto, which nominated and preserved the late Nelson Mandela family home on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto, as a national museum.
“Regarding job creation, those houses need to be managed and taken care of by preserving their state. However, those are future thoughts when Council pronounces itself on the way forward of the project,” City spokesperson Harold Akwenye told The Villager.
The project, he said, is still at an embryonic stage and lots of deliberations are needed and, as such, the municipality does not as yet have a timeline.
Regarding the 50 year old houses, the City will engage with the house owners by offering them alternative housing. The City is in the process of building its own houses as well, therefore such houses will be offered, but proper stakeholders engagement will be conducted.
Asked on what the budget will be, Akwenye said, “Our low cost housing still has to get off the ground before costs are calculated.”
Labour analyst Herbert Jauch told The Villager there is a massive unemployment crisis especially affecting young people and women.
He further said that in order to see if this new employment hub in Katutura and Khomasdal will be effective “we need to look at exactly what is going to happen. Will the intervention stand to create the number of jobs and also decent jobs that people can make a living with or is that an initiative that’s not thought through in depth?” Jaunch stated.
He said if there are options and possibilities for young people they would take it on, but that it’s success depends on how the programme is designed, and if it offers young people a way out of unemployment to make a living.
“That young people will flock to it in big numbers, there’s no doubt. There is a need to have some concrete monuments and buildings like the township houses that were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s to keep alive what has happened and also in a way to say this must not happen again. That has an important function in keeping history alive and the kind of remembrance of what happened similar to what they did in Walvis Bay with keeping the migrant workers’ hostel standing so that future generations can feel what this early migrant had to endure.”
Jaunch further argued that it would be important to observe how jobs can be created for the young people on a sustainable basis and to make a decent living.
“There, we would have to look at the details. For example, will it be visitors from out of town that come here to learn more about the living conditions of the apartheid era and will the young people be the ones that take visitors as guides and then benefit from payment that this visitor makes?”